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Calcium – Balancing Your Dog’s Diet

B-Naturals Newsletter – February 2010

Calcium – Balancing Your Dog's Diet

By Lew Olson, PhD Natural Health


One of the most common questions asked when changing diets, either to raw, home cooked, a mixture of raw and home cooked or adding fresh food to kibble, is how to maintain balance in the diet.

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Let’s look at the meaning of the word ‘balance’.  Most commonly it is referred to as the calcium/phosphorus ratio in the diet. Phosphorus is quite abundant in all foods. Calcium, however, is harder to find in foods. Commercial pet foods add calcium to bring the calcium/phosphorus ratios into balance. In the wild, dogs will consume bones from their prey which gives them the additional calcium needed.

In a raw diet, we simply prepare the meals so half of the diet is raw meaty bones and the other half is muscle meat, along with organ meat, and some vegetables, eggs and dairy, if preferred. The bone contained in 50% of the diet brings the calcium/phosphorus ratio into the balanced range. The bones we're referring to are the softer bones that are more easily digested, such as chicken necks, chicken necks, chicken backs, pork necks, pork ribs, pork tails, turkey necks and rabbit bones. The harder bones, such as beef, venison, elk and buffalo bones are utilized for ‘recreational’ bones, or to satisfy the dog’s chewing needs.

In a cooked diet, the most common ratio of food is approximately 75% animal based proteins, to 25% carbohydrates. These carbohydrates most often include vegetables, and less frequently, grains. We add these mostly for fiber, and any calcium in these foods is often not utilized by the dog. While we may add yogurt and cottage cheese, which are calcium rich foods, the calcium levels in these are high enough to balance themselves, but not the rest of the diet. So to help bring the calcium level up high enough to balance the diet, we add 900 mgs of calcium, per pound of food served. Three sources for this calcium are calcium carbonate, calcium citrate or ground eggshells (also calcium carbonate). Calcium carbonate or calcium citrate can easily be found at any grocery or drug store and usually come in tablets that are 500 mg to 600 mg. These can be divided or ground up and added to the diet. To use eggshell calcium, simply save eggshells, dry them overnight and grind in a coffee bean grinder. ½ teaspoon of ground eggshell is approximately 900 mg of calcium.  You may save ground eggshell in a covered container in the refrigerator.

For those choosing to add fresh food to commercial dry dog, you may add up to 50% of the diet without adding extra calcium. Once you feed more than 50% of the total diet in fresh food, you need to add calcium per the weight of the extra amount of food. This would not apply if you are feeding a calcium rich food for one of these meals, such as raw meaty bones.

Once the calcium balance is in place, there is no need to add other minerals. Food, especially animal based products, are rich in minerals. Most minerals need to be in balance with *each* other, so don’t add any unless directed by your veterinarian.

Generally, all I add to the diet after the calcium is EPA fish oil capsules (a source of omega 3 fatty acids). I add one fish capsule per 10-20 lbs of body weight daily. I also add vitamins E, C and B complex. These vitamins can be found in either the Bertes Daily Blend, which also contains kelp and alfalfa (good for trace minerals) or the Bertes Immune Blend, which also contains probiotics, enzymes and l-glutamine.

The calcium balance is very important for puppies, as they need calcium to help with the development of bones and teeth. But equally important is not over supplementing with calcium. Never add calcium to a commercial dog food and do not feed more than the recommend amount of calcium (900 mg per pound of food served) in a homemade diet.

I hope you found this newsletter helpful. 

Sending a Happy Valentine's Day hugs and kisses to you and your dogs!





Copyright Lew Olson 2010

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