Calcium is a mineral that is found in foods, specifically dairy, and stored in bones and teeth. It is essential for growth and development, as well as the maintenance of strong bones and teeth.
Why do dogs need calcium?
If not enough calcium is consumed, it will be withdrawn from the bones and used in other areas of the body. If this keeps happening, over time bones can become weak and brittle, leading to various complications.
The amount of calcium absorbed into the bones is dependent on the amount of calcium we feed our dogs, and how much Vitamin D they get. Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption and is gained primarily through sunlight. It can also be found in small amounts in foods such as fish, and egg yolks.
How can dogs meet their calcium requirements?
Just like humans, dogs do not produce calcium and must get it through their diet. Calcium can be found in a variety of foods that you can feed your dog, including:
- Dairy products, such as cheese, milk, and yogurt
- Non-Dairy plant milk, yogurts, and cheeses
- Dark green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli and kale
- Fish with edible soft bones, such as sardines and canned salmon
While there is a common belief that most dogs are lactose intolerant, many are actually not.
Tip: When feeding my dogs, I try to choose foods that contain calcium or are fortified with calcium. For breakfast, my puppies often get goat yogurt, plant milk with oatmeal and other breakfast foods humans will eat. Just like with humans, it is possible to get enough calcium into their diets from real foods, but it does require some initial calculation on the owner's part!
While a lack of calcium won’t cause immediate problems (at least not in adult dogs), over time, it can lead to bone deformities, pain, fractures, and even bad teeth. Ouch!
How much calcium does my dog need?
According to the NRC, healthy adult dogs generally require 50 mg of calcium per kilogram of body weight. For example, an 11 lb dog needs 250 mg of calcium per day, a 55 lb dog needs 1250 mg per day, and a 110 lb dog needs 2500 mg per day.
In the table above, we have done these calculations for you. If you feed a combination diet of fresh and commercial foods, add enough calcium to match only the amount of fresh food; do not factor in the commercial food. We suggest you split this calcium in between meals and don't feed a full days worth all at once.
Calcium-phosphorus balance is something often mentioned in both human and dog nutrition. While adequate phosphorus is easy to get from a homemade diet when feeding a variety of foods, calcium needs to be additionally supplemented.
best calcium supplements for dogs
- Calcium Carbonate is a chemical compound that is commonly found in rocks, shells of marine organisms, snails, pearls, and eggshells. It is cheap, easy to find and absorbs nicely in the dog’s body.
- Seaweed Calcium is a calcified seaweed product that is usually harvested from the sea beds. It is rich in other beneficial minerals, such as magnesium, but also has zinc, potassium, iodine, and selenium.
- Eggshell Calcium is a quick, easy and cheap way to get your dog calcium from saved up eggshells. Check out our recipe here.
- Bone Meal is great for puppies as it contains both calcium and phosphorus. Since bonemeal can be contaminated with lead, look for brands that provide proof of testing.
Some of the links above contain powders intended for human-consumption, which we believe are higher in quality than some other brands made specifically for dogs. Make sure you are supplementing the correct amount for the size of your dog. See section above this for how much to supplement.
While it is important to add calcium to homemade diets, it is also important to make sure you are not adding extra calcium to commercial diets, especially for large-breed puppies and pregnant females. While adult dogs can excrete extra calcium, puppies younger than six months have less ability to control the absorption of calcium, and that can lead to problems.