Sunday, October 5, 2008

Don't Forget the Calcium, Mom

For a healthy adult dog being fed a home prepared cooked diet, it is important to understand the ratio of Calcium to Phosphorus and to create a proper balance. Opinions vary on what the ideal ratio of Calcium to Phosphorus should be in the canine diet. This veterinary article recommends a Calcium:Phosphorus of 1.2:1 while this one recommends 2:1. The first article also recommends against feeding a home prepared diet. It is from a website which sells its own brand of processed food. The second article is by Dr. Pitcairn whose pioneering book, Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, recommends feeding pets a balanced homemade diet. If you search the web, you will likely find other recommendations on the proper ratio of Calcium to Phosphorus with one thing in common - the amount of Calcium in the diet should be at least slightly higher than the amount of Phosphorus.

If you want to be all scientific-y about the Calcium:Phosphorus in the foods you feed your dog, you can research the Calcium and Phosphorus content of specific foods at the following pages:

Calcium supplementation to the home cooked canine diet is an important consideration when diet alone does not provide the proper Calcium:Phosphorus - which is usually the case. If we look at a sample dinner of 1 cup of cooked broccoli, 1 cup of cooked long grain white rice, and 1 cooked chicken thigh (bones removed), we get a Calcium to Phosphorus ratio of approximately 1:3.2 which is not at all balanced for dogs. (Remember, we are aiming for more Calcium than Phosphorus.) Meat is high in Phosphorus and low in Calcium and so an all meat diet is not balanced for dogs either.

At the other end of the spectrum, excess Calcium in the diet may be dangerous for some dogs. Large breed puppies for example are at increased risk for skeletal abnormalities when fed diets high in Calcium. And pregnant bitches who consume too much Calcium may experience eclampsia - a life threatening veterinary emergency. But for a normal adult dog, excess Calcium is probably not a concern.

So, in short, if you're cooking for your dog, you probably need to add a Calcium supplement. (Geez, couldn't I have just said that to begin with?)

By the numbers:

Minimum Daily Requirements for Calcium (Canine)
per National Research Council (NRC) 1985 Guidelines:

(Note: The 2006 NRC guidelines don't have these same numbers by dog's body weight and are calculated differently. I'm just using the 1985 numbers as a reference.)

Growth: 320 mg/kg body weight
Adult: 119 mg/kg body weight

You can do your own math for your dog's weight using this customizable table for converting pounds to kg but here are a few samples:

20# dog needs 1079mg Ca per day (roughly half tsp eggshell powder per day)
50# dog needs 2699mg Ca per day (roughly 1 heaping tsp eggshell powder per day)
60# dog needs 3213mg Ca per day (roughly 1 and 1/2 heaping tsp eggshell powder per day)
70# dog needs 3778mg Ca per day (roughly 2 tsp eggshell powder per day)


Personal note: Sorry to have been absent recently but I've been down with a cold and so my online time has been limited. I need more MEs!

1 comment:

jan said...

Glad you're feeling better and thanks for the good research and links. The whole subject of dog food is one that makes my head explode so I know I'll never write about it myself, but i do like reading what is on the internet about canine nutrition.