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How Much Calcium Do Dogs Need? 6 Best Sources

Nicole Cosgrove

June 11, 2021

We tell our children that if they want to grow big and strong that they better drink their milk. Dogs need calcium just like we do and having the right amount in their systems makes them have stronger teeth, nails, bones, and coats. It also improves their nervous system and is a critical part of a healthy lifestyle.

Unless you’re trained in the science of dog anatomy, it’s hard to know how much calcium dogs should receive regularly. Some issues arise if there is too much or too little in their systems. What are the signs of calcium deficiency in my pet? How much calcium should you give your dog? And what are the best ways to nourish their bodies? We address all of your calcium-related concerns in this article so that you can give your dog the right amount of calcium in their daily diet.

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How Much Calcium Should a Dog Receive?

Based on the recommendations from The Association of American Feed Control (AAFCO), adult dogs should receive about 1.25 grams of calcium for every 1,000 calories they consume. This number changes slightly based on their overall size and weight but is a safe guideline to use if you’re unsure where to start.

There are several supplements and human foods that are safe for dogs to consume and boost their calcium levels. Many of these foods are the ones we eat when trying to increase the calcium in our own bodies, but you should always confirm that they are a safe choice from your vet. Professionals will be able to guide you accurately and make recommendations that you may not have considered before.

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Image Credit: Annette Shaff, Shutterstock

The 6 Best Calcium Sources for Dogs

Some dog food brands enrich their products with calcium, but they aren’t always as nourishing as they should be. Calcium is a fundamental element required for skeletal strength. Choosing food sources that are easily absorbed in the intestines is best because it is easy on the dog’s digestive system. Check your dog food brand labels to see if the calcium percentage meets their daily requirement. If it doesn’t, consider adding one of the food sources below into their weekly diet.

1. Yogurt

homemade yogurt
Image Credit: Marco Verch Professional Photographer, Flickr

Humans eat yogurt because it is rich in calcium. A single cup of regular yogurt contains around 450 milligrams. Adding a small dollop of plain yogurt is the easiest way to incorporate it into the diet of dogs with low calcium levels. If you have a larger dog, a couple of spoonfuls might be more sufficient.

Make sure that the yogurt you feed your dog has no flavoring and is either non-fat or low-fat. Some artificial sweeteners are toxic for dogs and could cause some digestive issues. Check with your vet to ensure your dog’s breed is able to tolerate dairy products.


2. Cheese

sliced of cheese
Image Credit: AlexKlen, Pixabay

Cheese is another food source that is high in calcium and typically safe for dogs to consume. Hard cheeses are richer than soft cheeses with about 200 milligrams in a single ounce. Cutting off a small slice from a cheese block and breaking it into bite-sized pieces is a quick way to create some custom treats. For dogs who prefer softer textures, cottage cheese has 65 milligrams for every half a cup.

You have to be cautious about how much cheese you allow your dog to eat. Make sure the cheese is plain and free from herbs or artificial ingredients. Some safe cheese choices include goat cheese, mozzarella, cottage cheese, or any other plain, low-fat cheese. Cheese low in fat and lactose is less likely to upset your dog’s stomach and contribute to obesity.


3. Fish and Chicken

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Imager Credit: Moving-Moment, Shutterstock

Considering that fish and chicken get all their praise from their high-protein levels, most people don’t consider them hardy calcium supplements. Chicken, salmon, mackerel, and sardines have high levels of calcium ranging from 170 milligrams to 370 milligrams for three ounces of meat. These proteins are already found in most dog foods, so yours might not need even more in their diet. If the dog food doesn’t have enough to meet the daily requirements, you might consider switcher to another brand with higher calcium content.

Be careful with fish containing lots of mercury, like tuna. Small bites of it won’t cause any crazy reactions, but it is always better to err on the side of caution.


4. Veggies with Calcium

You already know that raw vegetables are rich in calcium. Spinach and broccoli have the highest amount, with 240 milligrams for every cup of spinach and 180 milligrams for every cup of broccoli. However, dogs also enjoy having a little more variety. Other safe veggies to feed your dog are acorn squash, bok choy, collard greens, mustard greens, turnips, arugula, corn, and kale.


5. Bone Treats

dog staring at a bone
Image Credit: Bluesnap, Pixabay

We all know the cliché image of a dog lounging in a grassy backyard and chewing on a big bone from an unidentified animal. Because calcium is used to strengthen bones, they clearly have a good amount in them. Keep in mind that even though dogs love to chew on bones, not all of them are safe, especially if they chew off chunks and swallow them.

Give your pet raw or cooked bones as an occasional treat. Cooked bones are better for digestion but grounding them into a powder is a safer form of consumption. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of ground bone meal over the top of their daily food to give them the boost they need.


6. Calcium Supplements

 

The easiest way to incorporate some calcium into your dog’s diet is to use supplement pills. These take all the guesswork out of how much to give your dog and are designed to strengthen their teeth and bones and boost their immune systems.

Most dog supplements come in treat or powder forms that are easy for your dog to chew. Do not ever give dogs supplements meant for humans. These are formulated for a human’s height and weight and could cause a severe imbalance if given to a dog.

Before buying a calcium supplement, speak to your vet to ensure it is necessary and get some brand recommendations that they trust. They’ll also be able to tell you precisely how much they should take and where to buy them.

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What are Signs of Calcium Deficiency for Dogs?

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Image credit: llaszlo, Shutterstock

Calcium deficiency isn’t uncommon, but it can cause some severe issues if it isn’t rectified in a timely manner. Low calcium could result in kidney failure, inflammation in the pancreas, or gland failure.

Always take your dog to the vet if they are acting strange or out of character. Signs that they could be experiencing calcium deficiency include lethargy, dizziness, no appetite, twitching muscles, or seizures.

Treating Calcium Deficiency in Dogs

We know we sound like a broken record, but your veterinarian is the only person you should consult if you’re concerned about your dog’s health. Treatment for calcium deficiency varies from pet to pet based on their current and previous health conditions. Vets are able to identify the proper calcium dose and prescribe an oral supplement that quickly rectifies the problem.

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Conclusion

Throwing in a few spoonfuls or sprinkles of calcium to their food bowl is a simple way to improve their overall health. Calcium gives dogs extra-strong bones and a healthy coast. Plus, they don’t mind getting to eat a few extra treats every once in a while.

Whether you get it from meats, cheese, or veggies, calcium is found in a lot of dog-friendly foods and the quickest way to enhance their nutrition. As long as you don’t overfeed them, you’ll notice a difference in their activity, digestion, and coat in a short amount of time.


Featured Image: schmitma1, Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.

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