Dogs and Cats
Calcium is needed for healthy bone structure and growth. It is also important to adapt the calcium intake to the size and condition. For instance, gestating females and young during growth and suckling periods require more calcium. Too little and too much calcium can cause issues – moderation is the key. Various hormones control calcium levels in your pet’s body.
Calcium is essential for the calcification of the bones of fetuses. If the levels are too low, the mother loses calcium from her body to develop fetal bones. Hypocalcaemia (eclampsia) can be a life-threatening condition at birth in dogs and cats. It can also be a risk during the lactating phase.
For dogs, gnawing on bones is a great source of calcium as well as glucosamine and chondroitin for healthy joints. For both dogs and cats, foods like Big Dog BARF and Dr B’s BARF contain ground bone to increase the mineral content and benefit your pet. Supplements like Troy Calcium syrup can increase calcium levels around the times that your pet needs.
Calcium is also needed for bone and beak health in birds. It is important for egg health (eggshell is 95% calcium carbonate) and is urgently required in egg-bound birds. It can be lacking in seed-eating birds and so maintaining calcium levels is essential. Leafy greens can be a source of calcium. Alternatively, one supplement you can give is Vetafarm Calcivet. Calcivet contain Vitamin D3 to maximise the absorption of the calcium in the gut.
Grit and crushed shells are also worthy of note in the calcium discussion. Grit should be differentiated from crushed shells as it is mostly made of silicate and sandstone. Grit has minute stones which helps with the mechanical digestion of plant material. Crushed shells, however, are made of calcium carbonate – just like eggshells. They are readily digested to be a source of calcium.
With reptiles, there is another element to the calcium story. Reptile needs UVB light in order to form Vitamin D3 which, like in birds, helps the reptile absorb calcium in their gut. Calcium is needed for metabolism, bone growth, and muscle function. It is important to distinguish the UVA lights for plants and the UVB for reptiles.
Reptile bones can be weak, flimsy, and break often if they have too little calcium. The calcium from the bones is reduced to maintain necessary levels of calcium in the blood. For turtles, calcium blocks can be added to their tank to prevent soft shells.
In rabbits and other small animals, the demand for calcium is slightly different. The constantly erupting and growing teeth require a high calcium supply and so they absorb more in the gut. They therefore have to regulate the excretion of calcium better. Small animals can have calcium content in the urine but if the calcium clumps together can cause kidney stones and urinary tract problems. Lowering the amount of calcium in the diet is a way of preventing kidney and urinary tract issues – e.g. feed Oaten hay rather than more calcium-rich Lucerne hay.
Calcium is an important mineral for us and for our pets. Making sure they have adequate is essential and something to be mindful of. If you have any concerns, consult your vet.