Are Calcium Supplements for Dogs Necessary?

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  • Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.

Pet parents, you probably take a multivitamin every day that likely includes calcium to maintain bone strength, as well as support heart, muscle, and nerve function. But what about vitamin and mineral supplements for your dog? Do calcium supplements for dogs make sense, on top of your dog’s regular food? Read on to learn more—and, as always, be sure to check with your veterinarian before introducing any new supplements to your dog’s diet.

Do You Need Calcium Supplements for Dogs?

Your dog needs vitamins and organic compounds for balanced nutrition and normal growth. Calcium is an important part of your dog’s diet and contributes to their growth, healthy bone and teeth maintenance, proper muscle building and function, a strong heart, and healthy nervous system.
Dogs (like other animals and people) cannot produce vitamins and minerals naturally, so they have to consume foods that provide them. In the case of calcium, the highest content can be found in ground bone, eggs, fish and chicken, dairy—such as yogurt and cheese—legumes, and veggies like broccoli, sweet potatoes, and spinach.

According to Dr. Gary Richter, award-winning vet and member of Rover’s Dog People Panel, “All dogs are of the species Canis familiaris and as such have very similar nutritional needs.” Commercial dog food is specifically formulated to meet those needs. If your dog’s food is labeled “complete and balanced,” it contains all the vitamins and minerals your dog requires.

So, generally speaking, a well-balanced diet that includes a good-quality dog food is going to cover your dog’s calcium needs. But there are some exceptions, which we’ll explore next.

When to Give Your Dog Calcium Supplements

If a commercial dog food is formulated to provide your dog with their calcium requirements, why would you need to give them a supplement?

Dogs with specific health and wellness concerns may benefit from calcium supplements. Symptoms of calcium deficiency, also known as hypocalcemia, include loss of appetite, weakness, muscle twitching, and seizures. Though rare, rickets is another disease that can point to deficiencies in calcium. Calcium deficiency can also be a sign of an underlying problem like kidney failure or an inflamed pancreas. It’s also important to observe dogs that are brand new moms, especially small breeds, for eclampsia, which is a drastic drop in calcium due to nursing. A veterinarian can help you determine if a calcium supplement is the right course of treatment (the addition of a calcium supplement for pregnant or nursing dogs is dependent on several factors and may or may not be recommended).

Another consideration is whether your dog consumes a homemade, whole food diet (highly recommended by Richter). If so, you may not have access to the specific vitamins and minerals your pet needs. That’s where supplements, such as calcium, for dogs can also come in handy.

“It is a good idea to consult with a veterinarian regarding any questions about nutrition,” Richter notes. This is especially important when feeding your dog a homemade diet. Your vet may even refer you to a veterinary nutritionist to determine the best course of vitamins for your dog.

How to Choose Calcium Supplements for Dogs

As noted, you should always talk to your veterinarian about what, if any, supplements your pet needs. In general, be aware that ingredients in some herbal supplements can interact with medication. Keep careful tabs on your dog’s calcium dosage, as too much calcium can have an adverse effect on your dog’s health. Too much calcium in the bloodstream, called hypercalcemia, can lead to appetite loss and weakness, as well as stones in the kidneys or bladder. It’s also important to monitor calcium intake in large breed puppies. Though puppies need more calcium than adults to aid their growth and development, excessive calcium in young dogs can lead to issues with skeletal growth, resulting in hip dysplasia.

Richter has some general guidelines on choosing supplements for dogs:

  • Look for brands that have commissioned clinical studies of their products.
  • Read labels carefully to ensure quality and safety.
  • Look for a lot number on the product. This is a sign that the company uses quality control checks.
  • Choose brands with confirmed expertise.
  • Be wary of claims that sound too good to be true. Vitamin supplements are just that—supplements. They are not cure-alls or medications.
  • Do not give human supplements to dogs, as they may contain ingredients that are harmful to dogs.
  • In general, the best options will be available through your veterinarian.

The bottom line about calcium supplements for dogs: Talk to your vet first before introducing any nutritional supplement into your pet’s diet.

Calcium Supplements for Dogs

To address a health condition, see your veterinarian for prescription calcium supplements that can help. The over-the-counter supplements below contain calcium but are primarily for prevention and maintenance.

Animal Essentials Seaweed calcium dog supplement

Harvested off the coast of Iceland, this seaweed powder supplement is naturally calcified and contains not only calcium but other important minerals, such as magnesium, which help bones absorb calcium. Each batch is lab-tested for safety.

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NaturVet calcium-phosphorus for dogs

Made in the USA for dogs over the age of 12 weeks, this powder supplement is also compliant with the National Animal Supplement Council‘s guidelines. This product combines vitamin D with its calcium and phosphorous minerals to help them properly absorb.

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bag of Upco bone meal

Just like it sounds! Made from porcine bone meal, this bag of supplement powder is naturally rich in calcium and phosphorous and can be fed to cats or dogs.

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PetAg Sure Grow 100

These chewable tablets are especially great for puppies. They contain calcium and phosporous to strengthen muscle, connective tissue, and bone, combining with vitamin A plus vitamin D3, which helps with calcium absorption. As noted above, be sure to monitor calcium dosage in large breed puppies as excess calcium can have negative effects.

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Vitality Science Lithothamnium supplement

Free of fillers and made in the USA, this supplement is another example of a product that derives its calcium from seaweed. Easily digestible, this naturally derived supplement is also good for diarrhea, as lithothamnium red algae have a drying effect.

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Now that you know more about calcium supplements and what’s available, you can decide what’s right for your dog. As always, the first step is to check with your veterinarian before introducing any new supplements to your dog’s diet.

Further Reading

Featured image by Stefan Glazer/Pixabay 

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