Sunday, July 19, 2009
By Lexiann Grant
When you think of essential minerals your dog requires in his diet, calcium probably comes to mind first.
Because bones and teeth are formed and maintained with calcium, the body requires this nutrient in greater quantity than any other dietary mineral. Calcium is also critical in nerve impulse transmission, contraction of muscles and heart rhythm regulation.
Excess calcium causes numerous health problems, including kidney disease and some urinary stones. Parathyroid hormones influenced by dietary calcium levels, can disrupt dynamics in the gastrointestinal tract.
Feeding insufficient calcium also undermines health. Puppies may have poor bone growth and inadequate dental development. Bones in deficient adults can soften or fracture, and tooth loss or accelerated tooth decay occur.
Because of this, some owners feel their dog or puppy – particularly if he is a large breed – should be given extra calcium. But too much calcium can have the opposite effect: excess calcium can slow bone and cartilage development, even stunt growth.
One Cornell University study found an increased incidence of skeletal problems including hypertrophic osteodystrophy (HOD), osteochondritis dissecans or osteochondrosis (OCD) and hip dysplasia when dietary calcium was excessive.
In HOD part of the bone over-grows causing pain, fever, enlarged joints, and possibly hunched spine or bowed legs. With OCD, fluid accumulates in affected joints or connective tissue separates resulting in inflammation and pain. By the time symptoms of lameness, pain, or swelling are present, the damage is done.
Young pups fed certain commercial foods, and dogs eating homemade diets, may not be getting enough calcium. Table foods naturally high in calcium, such as broccoli or dairy products, can increase levels.
Balanced dog foods like CANIDAE® All Life Stages supply the correct amount of calcium without guessing. This amount is based on AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials) and National Research Council guidelines. Formulas are tested to assure nutritional adequacy.
The minimum requirement is 1.0% and the maximum is 2.5% for a dry product basis. Growth formulas average 1.6% with maintenance formulas around 1.4%.
Calcium must also be balanced against phosphorous intake. The ideal range recommended by AAFCO is between 1-to-1 and 2-to-1 parts calcium to phosphorous. With improper ratios, phosphorous and zinc levels may become deficient.
Check with the manufacturer for calcium levels and ratios in your dog’s food. Nutritional information is usually available online as well. Your veterinarian can advise you if your dog or puppy requires extra calcium, but healthy dogs on a balanced, premium food shouldn’t need supplementation.
Read more articles by Lexiann Grant