- Calcium is a mineral — It’s considered an essential nutrient for pups.
- Does my dog even need a calcium supplement? — It depends. Commercial diets typically fit the nutrient profile outlined by the AAFCO, but some dogs still may need added calcium.
- Larger dogs are prone to orthopedic issues — Big dogs struggle more with bone health.
- Self-prescribing can be dangerous— There are few reasons why owners should seek a vet’s advice if they think their dog needs a calcium boost.
- Too much calcium isn’t a good thing — Added calcium can harm dogs with underlying illnesses.
- Healthy bones, happy pup — Positive lifestyle changes can encourage dog bone health.
At a glance: the best calcium supplements
- NaturVet All-in-One Dog Supplement — All- in-one, high quality chewable tablet
- TUMS — That’s right, as preferred by vets to supplement home-cooking
- Vitality Science Lithothamnium Calcium Supplement for Cats & Dogs — This supplement gets bonus points because it’s great for other things like chronic diarrhea and dehydration
- Animal Essentials Seaweed Calcium — Easy to feed and environmentally friendly
What is calcium and how it can help your dog?
Calcium is responsible for making sure your dog’s heart functions efficiently. Calcium is a digestive aid, allowing muscles to squeeze and contract, and promotes nerve function. Calcium is a crucial nutrient to a dog’s health. A dog’s bones store calcium and draw out more when needed.
Calcium is an electrolyte which controls fluid concentration in your dog’s cells. The blood detects calcium levels. A healthy dog is able to control their blood calcium levels. This depends on how much calcium-rich food is in their diet. Vitamin D is also a helpful aid because it promotes calcium absorption.
There are a few reasons why your dog might need a calcium boost. The most simple reason is because they’re not getting enough calcium in their diet. The problem could also be an underlying health issue. There might be a problem with their kidneys resulting in imbalance nutrient levels. Another cause of calcium deficiency is a faulty thyroid.
Is your dog nursing new babies? These pups are lactating and will also likely require additional calcium, especially if they have eclampsia.
How much calcium does my dog need?
The AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) outlines a diet containing the right balance of calcium and other nutrients that dogs need. For a product to meet AAFCO standards, it must contain every nutrient listed in the profile at the recommended level.
The AAFCO has designated that 0.6% of a dog’s total diet must be calcium. One gram per day is the gold standard (about 50 mg per kg of your dog’s weight).
👉 Look for the AAFCO branding on dog food labels. This likely means that the food is complete and balanced.
A note on healthy dog diets
Your dog’s diet affects their calcium levels. In fact, most dog foods do contain adequate amounts of calcium. Generally speaking, dogs shouldn’t be given table scraps. While a bite or two won’t hurt every so often, we recommend sticking with commercial dog food.
Some dog owners feed their pups homemade food on a regular basis. This is not always a bad thing. But if the home-prepared diet does not contain enough calcium, it might be doing more harm than good. Some home-fed dogs do need a calcium supplement. A vet can help recommend the right supplement and dosage to meet your pup’s calcium needs.
👉 Healthy home cooked diets cooked include: beans, salmon, tuna, broccoli, and dairy products (if your pup isn’t lactose intolerant).
Isn’t there already enough calcium in dog food?
The answer is yes, in most. There is a slight dilemma between calcium and phosphorus when it comes to the dog food consumed. Dogs should get approximately 1.2 parts calcium for every 1 part phosphorus. You shouldn’t be too worried about ratios if you’re feeding your dog a commercial diet.
🚨 Some owner’s may sneak bones into their dog’s meal due to their calcium density. This is not recommended. Bones can get stuck in the dog’s intestines and cause an obstruction, leading to expensive surgical procedures. And even worse, it can be dangerous or life-threatening for your pup.
The warning signs of calcium deficiency
When calcium levels are too low, your dog may experience rickets, muscle twitching, and restlessness. If your pup is in serious need of calcium, then a vet will decide if they need to start taking a supplement.
How do I know if my dog needs a supplement?
If your dog displays any of the above symptoms, you should go to the vet to decide on the best next steps.
🔎 How we picked our favorites...
We made sure there were no added sugars or other unnatural additives — There is nothing toxic in our favorite supplements. None of them contain xylitol, a sugar-free sweetener that is especially toxic.
We chose safe supplements that have just the right amount of ingredients — Balance in nutrients is key when considering supplements for your dog.
Supplements that work well with a homemade diet — Sometimes a TUMS is all your pup needs.
The big surprise! (Based on our vet’s recommendation)
Best for strong bones, healthy joints, and digestion
Vitality Science Lithothamnium Calcium Supplement for Cats & Dogs
🚨 Depending on the product and size of dog, the vet will decide on how much of the product to give to the dog. Each product contains a different amount of calcium.
When is calcium too much?
There is such a thing as too much calcium. Medical conditions, such as hyperparathyroid, kidney failure, or certain types of cancers can cause increased calcium in the body. Monitor these dogs closely for high calcium levels.
Excess calcium is called hypercalcemia. It can cause damage to the heart, kidneys, and nervous system. It can cause an irregular heart rhythm, bladder stones, and muscle weakness. If your dog’s body is producing too much calcium, they may lack other important minerals.
The dangers of self-prescribing calcium supplements
The best motto for dog owners to live by is this: Don’t self-prescribe calcium or other supplements for your dog. The vet will do bloodwork, assess, and prescribe if needed.
🚨 When giving your dog supplements in general, it is important to be careful about quantity. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble, meaning that there are limits to what a dog can absorb each day. Toxicity can occur with over-supplementation of these vitamins, especially vitamin D.
A note for owners of big dogs
Unfortunately, big dogs are more prone to bone, joint, and muscle abnormalities. Large breed dogs or dogs prone to orthopedic issues usually benefit from joint supplements. These should contain glycosaminoglycans and omega-3 fatty acids. If you do notice your dog is sluggish or seems to be experiencing muscle and joint pain, consult your vet. They might need a multivitamin instead of a supplement (yes, they are different).
Calcium supplements and multivitamins should not usually go together. If taken together, the drugs may interact for the worse, causing worrisome side effects. Calcium supplementation should not mix with the following: antacids, aspirin, azole antifungals, calcitriol, estrogens, fluoroquinolone antibiotics, levothyroxine, magnesium sulfate, or vitamin d analogs.
🚨 With growing puppies, extra care also needs to be given to checking on calcium levels. If a puppy has recently stopped nursing from the mother, they might suffer from hypocalcemia and need supplements.
Myth buster: Can I give my dog a supplement even if they don’t necessarily need it?
It might seem logical to give your pup a vitamin everyday since we do it too. Dogs should only take vitamins in special circumstances. These include the previously mentioned health issues. Athletic or sport dogs may also be an exception.
Healthy bones, healthy lifestyle
There are a few lifestyle tweaks and changes that encourage bone growth and health. Vets suggest commercial diets that fit the correct AAFCO nutrient profile. An active, adult dog who is eating a well-balanced diet usually doesn’t need to do anything special to maintain healthy bones.
If you are preparing your dog’s meals yourself, the right amount of calcium is key for your pup’s well-being. If your dog needs a supplement, our favorites are great choices to consider.