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.
Why Pregnant Dogs Need Calcium
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 pregnant dog’s 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 pregnant dog’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 pregnant dog, such as Eclampsia or Milk Fever.
In early labor when the female starts nesting or her temperature drops one degree, give mom the first dose of calcium. Fast-absorbing calcium like Breeder’s Edge® Oral Cal Plus is very helpful. Before the first puppy hits the ground, the goal is to get three to four doses of calcium in mom. She won’t be eating at this time, so a small amount of gel orally is the only choice. She will accept it readily. Calcium helps to dilate the cervix and get the first puppy on the ground faster. This will help the female not get so tired with a long delivery and she can mother better because she won’t be so exhausted.
How Do You Fix Eclampsia In Dogs
The pregnant dog that has had calcium issues in the past or is at a high risk for repeat eclampsia needs to be managed closely. Use Oral Cal Plus gel or an injectable Calcium Gluconate when whelping starts and six hours later. If you are seeing signs of ineffective labor, nervousness or muscle twitching, quickly give Breeder’s Edge® Oral Cal Plus gel orally or inject Calcium Gluconate immediately. We do not want to give these pregnant dogs the chance to become repeat eclampsia offenders!
Post-whelping, all high risk moms and heavy milkers should get calcium supplements until weaning. Breeder’s Edge® Oral Cal Plus Powder contains calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and vitamin D3. Giving only calcium will make the problem worse – you must balance calcium with phosphorus. This formula also includes vitamin D to help with absorption and vitamin C to help get the calcium out of the bone. All of these nutrients are good for the nursing dog, and along with the puppy food the nursing mom is on, it will help ease the problems and bone loss.
Fast- Growing Puppies
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 such as Doc Roy’s®Healthy Bones at weaning through the growth period with a bone supplement. With the extra boost of nutrients, you can give your dog a frame he can stand on for a lifetime.
Calcium supplementation doesn’t have to be difficult. Success happens when you give 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 with how to use calcium with pregnant dogs, call our Pet Care Pros at 800.786.4751.
Calcium Related Issues in Dogs after Whelping
Why is my dog acting differently after having puppies? Mom dogs need plenty of calcium post-whelping, and without this mineral support, they may face a number of dangerous health conditions, including eclampsia. Learn about calcium for dogs after birth.
Calcium and Food for Pregnant Dogs: FAQs
Food and calcium supplements are critical to the health of both a pregnant dog and her pups. Learn what to feed a pregnant dog, and when to safely give calcium for pregnant dogs.
Eclampsia in Dogs: The Life-Saving Role of Calcium
Eclampsia in dogs can be scary, but it is often preventable. Learn how to help a dog with eclampsia and learn why calcium is so important for new moms.
How to Use Calcium at Whelping
To keep pregnant moms and their puppies healthy, it's important to know how to use calcium at whelping. Learn more from the Revival Animal Health team.
Written by: Marty Greer, DVM
Director of Veterinary Services
Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.