Calcium supplementation of cats and dogs

Calcium supplementation for cats and dogs

Cats and dogs fed good quality commercial diets rarely need any extra calcium supplements. Care must be taken not to give too much calcium in the diet.

Giving extra calcium and vitamin D3 as part of a routine diet for pregnant bitches can be controversial. There is the strongly held view that calcium is necessary for healthy foetal development and that it may prevent the onset of eclampsia after birth, however there is also a strongly held view that it isn't necessary as a routine supplement as long as the bitch is comsuming a well-balanced, high quality food. The greater needs of the bitch (and queen) are met by her eating more, usually 1.25 - 1.5 times the norm, fed as several small meals throughout the day. Problems can occur with specific breeds or individuals where a large litter may reduce food intake simply due to the room occupied by the puppies or kittens in the abdomen. 

Some experts claim that supplementing without 'need' may cause soft-tissue calcification or deformities. There is even some evidence that supplementing with calcium at this time when there isn't a 'need' can increase the likelihood of eclampsia / tetany by depressing normal regulatory mechanisms.

Vetark Calcium Lactate

Calcium supplementation following veterinary advice

However, calcium supplementation following veterinary advice is different and will be given for specific reasons, often because a bitch isn't eating sufficient amounts of a quality commercial diet.

Normal calcium levels in a diet are usually between 0.5-1%  dry matter, the higher percentage is required for growth, dropping to the lower amount for maintenance (pregnant and lactating bitches may need up to 1.4%). Calcium absorption in many animals including dogs is of two types, one requires vitamin D3 to move the calcium into the blood supply, the other mechanism (which is dominant in young animals but which fades as they age) is simple absorption depending on the level of calcium in the gut. Serious problems have been caused by oversupplementing calcium in puppies.

Requirements for supplementing D3 are also controversial and conflicting. Studies show that dogs fed practical diets and exposed to adequate sunlight do not require extra D3 (in the 2 years of the study). But, other data indicates that dogs and cats simply don't produce enough D3 using sunlight (even if given UV lamps) and for this reason it is included in commercial diets.

Veterinary advice recommends around 25-50mg elemental calcium/kg/day to be given to bitches which have suffered eclampsia, for the remaining part of their lactation. The easiest source is Calci-Dust (calcium carbonate) on food. If the water route is preferred then Calcium Lactate is suitable (if vitamin D3 is required as well then 0.03-0.06 µg/kg/day is recommended).

Calcium Lactate
Contains 129.8 mg Ca /per gram  =  approx 425mg/scoop. One scoop is enough for 12kg of dog if put in the water and consumed in 1 day. This equates to half a scoop per 6kg of dog (or cat) per day.

400mg Ca / g or roughly 35-40mg per pinch. Administer 1 pinch per kg of animal (one 1/3 of a scoop for a 12kg dog).

35mg Ca /ml and 25 IU of vitamin D3. 1ml provides enough D3 for 12kg of dog. 

These figures are for guidance only, please consult your vet for more information. We cannot take responsibility for use, all cases are different and many bitches/queens will require their blood calcium levels monitoring by blood test once or twice a week if they have a history of problems.

When comparing calcium sources it is important to calculate the dosage of calcium based on elemental (available) calcium because different products vary in the amount of calcium available.

Savannah cat calcium supplement

Calcium supplementation for Savannah cats

We have been asked about providing calcium to Savannah cats to balance and work in combination with the raw meat portion of their diet. The considerations and calculations are provided here:

Sample calculation

A 20kg animal requires 3,000mg of calcium and 1,500mg of phosphorus.

  • 1kg of lean beef contains 100mg Ca and 1,600mg P, so the remaining 2,900mg of Ca has to come from a supplement (for example 7.5g of calcium carbonate or 20g calcium lactate)

Because bone meal contains Phosphorus as well, you can't (in practice) balance the diet with it. The calcium carbonate comes out ahead as a smaller (and cheaper) volume, but the calcium lactate can be given in water which the carbonate can't.

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