Careful with Calcium

Calcium is a mineral that plays a role in both muscle contraction and in building the frame we stand on. They actually work together. Calcium is stored in the bone, and when the level of calcium in the blood is too low, it's pulled out of the bone. When we have excess, it is replaced. This regulation works well, as long as we don't shut it down by supplementing at the wrong time.


In mammals, giving birth and milking taxes the calcium stores of the body. Calcium allows the uterine muscle to slide past and shorten, resulting in effective uterine contraction. Low blood calcium leads to ineffective contractions and nervousness, often resulting in puppy loss. Mom will pull calcium out of the bone to augment her need.

In late pregnancy, the bitch demand for calcium begins to increase with the fetal demand and mammary gland development. The parathyroid gland requests calcium from the bone to supplement calcium levels as is needed. This demand for calcium spikes at whelping and lactation and continues to increase, peaking when the puppies are two weeks of age.


If you supplement calcium before whelping, you shut down the bitch's ability to fine tune the minute-by-minute demand needed for whelping and milk production. By staying away from calcium supplements pre-whelping, you can let her regulate and gear up for the needs of whelping and milking. This helps prevent calcium issues in the bitch, such as eclampsia or milk fever.

Once she starts whelping, supplementation is okay - in fact, desirable. Fast absorbing calcium like Breeders' Edge® ORAL CAL PLUS is very helpful. Use several times during the birthing process to keep calcium levels up, and the bitch will fine tune from the bone. She won’t be eating at this time, so a small amount of gel orally is the only choice. She will accept it readily.


The bitch that has had calcium issues in the past or is at a high risk for repeat eclampsia needs to be managed closely. Use Breeders' Edge® ORAL CAL PLUS or an injectable Calcium Gluconate when whelping starts and 6 hours later. If we are seeing signs of ineffective labor, nervousness or muscle twitching, quickly give Oral Cal Plus orally or inject Calcium Gluconate immediately. We do not want to give these bitches the chance to become repeat Eclampsia offenders!


Post whelping, all high risk moms and heavy milkers should get calcium supplements until weaning. I use the same bone supplements used for fast growing puppies. Doc Roy's® HEALTHY BONES has two parts calcium to one part phosphorus, which is needed for effective absorption. Giving only calcium will make the problem worse - you must balance 2:1 calcium with phosphorus. This formula also includes Vitamin D to help with absorption and Vitamins A & C to help get the calcium out of the bone. All of these nutrients are good for the bitch, and along with the puppy food the nursing mom is on, it will help ease the problems and bone loss.


Large boned and fast growing puppies will commonly have calcium problems as well. Because they will build bone frame faster than they store up calcium, it results in bone growth issues such as crocked bowed legs and other joint problems. The solution is to supplement calcium at weaning through the growth period with a bone supplement.

With the extra boost of nutrients, you can give your dog the frame he can stand on for a lifetime. Calcium supplementation doesn't have to be difficult. Success happens when you are able to use a calcium supplement when the animal needs it and not before. By preventing eclampsia and rapid puppy growth problems, we can make sure every mother and every puppy has the calcium they need to build a strong, healthy frame.

If you need help, call us at 1-800-786-4751.

-Dr. B
Don Bramlage, DVM, Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health

The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of a qualified veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.

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