Rickets is a disease that occurs when a dog is not getting sufficient levels of calcium or vitamin D. It often is caused by diets that are high in meat, though there are additional causes of canine rickets such as pregnancy or lactation. Commercial diets have improved over the years and the rate of calcium deficiencies in canines has decreased significantly.
Skeletal abnormalities are common in dogs who have developed or are developing rickets. These abnormalities may be visible to the owner, though that may not always be the case. For example, the owner may notice crooked legs but he may not notice thickened joints. Additional skeletal abnormalities due to calcium deficiency include spinal curvature and problems with the ribs. Unfortunately, if the condition is not identified and treated, then many of the skeletal abnormalities---such as spinal curvature or crooked legs---are often permanent.
Dogs with rickets suffer from a plethora of bone issues. This includes broken bones, bones that are brittle, thin and easily fractured. Rickets can also cause softened bones which also leads to skeletal issues such as bowed legs.
Puppies and Growth
Puppies who are deficient in calcium will suffer from growth issues. This can include stunted growth or the above-mentioned skeletal abnormalities.
Calcium deficiencies can also lead to loose teeth, malformation of the teeth or tooth loss.
Muscles and Tendons
Canine rickets not only affects the bones but also the overall health of the muscles and tendons. Dogs suffering from inadequate levels of calcium can have weakened muscles and tendons, which is often how spine curvature occurs. Weakened abdominal muscles can also lead to bloating in the affected dog.
Osteopathy occurs in younger dogs when calcium deficiency is coupled with excessive levels of phosphorus. This causes demineralisation of the bones as the body attempts to make up for lowered calcium levels in the blood. Symptoms of osteopathy include pain, loss of appetite and changes in behaviour--a dog may become more aggressive. Dogs may also suffer from lameness of the limbs or crooked limbs.
Dogs with low levels of calcium may have abnormal urine, which can even be an unusual shade of green. However, this can also be indicative of other issues coupled with rickets, such as intestinal diseases or liver failure.
Upon examination, some veterinarians may note that dogs with calcium deficiencies have decreased blood pressure and heart rate. Hypocalcaemia may also be identified. Hypocalcaemia is the term for low levels of calcium present in the blood.