Breeding, Pet Tips with Dr. B, Whelping

How to Use Calcium at Whelping

November 29, 2022

How to Use Calcium at Whelping

Last reviewed: September 30, 2022 by Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

In mammals such as dogs, 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.

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 gear up for the needs of whelping and milking and help prevent calcium issues such as eclampsia or milk fever.

Should You Give a Whelping Dog Calcium?

Once she's in labor, supplementation is okay – in fact, it is desirable. Fast-absorbing calcium like Breeder's Edge® Oral Cal Plus Gel used several times during the birthing process helps keep calcium levels up. The pregnant dog will fine tune from the bone. Since she won't be eating, a small amount of gel orally is the only choice.

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 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 Oral Cal Plus orally or inject calcium gluconate immediately.

Can You Give a Whelping Dog Too Much Calcium?

Yes. You can giving a whelping dog too much calcium, but it is hard to, particularly when you are giving it short term during lactation. When dosing, consider the amount of calcium, form of calcium, as well as the magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin D3 levels in the supplement.

Injectable calcium gluconate 10% provides the fastest onset of action. Higher concentrations of calcium injectable products are dangerous and should not be used. During labor, you can use either injectable 10% calcium gluconate or Breeder's Edge® Oral Cal Plus Gel for the most prompt response. Products such as Tums® do not deliver enough calcium and phosphorus fast enough to use in place of Oral Cal Plus Gel. Each Tums® contains 200 mg of calcium carbonate.

We do not recommend the use of calcium supplements during pregnancy – start only at the start of labor. Starting calcium prior to the onset of labor will suppress the dam's ability to move calcium from her bones during labor and lactation, causing more harm than good.

At the first sign of labor, start oral calcium gel. One cc (ml) contains 200 mg of calcium as calcium carbonate, calcium lactate and calcium ascorbate and 100 IU of Vitamin D3. Large dogs can receive 2 cc and small dogs can receive 1 cc at the start of labor and this can be repeated after the delivery of each puppy.

Can I Give Calcium to My Dog After Giving Birth?

Post-whelping, all high risk moms and heavy milkers should get calcium supplements until weaning. Calcium supplements for nursing dogs such as Breeder's Edge® Oral Cal Plus Powder a great source of calcium for dogs after giving birth. Breeder's Edge® Oral Cal Plus Powder has both calcium and phosphorus, which is needed for effective absorption. Giving only calcium actually decreases absorption.

How Much Calcium to Give a Nursing Dog

After all the puppies and placentas are delivered, you can change to the oral calcium powder or tablets to support her during lactation. Small females with large litters particularly need oral calcium supplementation to avoid eclampsia, a life-threatening medical condition. Calcium supplementation should be continued until puppy weaning.

Breeder's Edge® Oral Cal Plus Powder contains 500 mg of calcium and 200 IU of vitamin D3 per 5 gm. Calcium tablets have a highly varied amount of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and Vitamin D3 so reading labels is necessary. Doc Roy's® Healthy Bones tablets contain 475 mg calcium, 200 IU Vitamin D3, 367 mg of Phosphorous and 10 mg of Magnesium per tablet.

According to veterinary formularies, oral calcium gluconate or calcium carbonate can be administered at 10 to 30 mg/kg three times daily. For a 60 pound dog, this would be 300 to 900 mg every eight hours as a maintenance dose.

Overexuberant calcium supplementation can cause GI upset, vomiting and potentially constipation. Large tablets given to a small dog can cause tablets to adhere to one another and could cause an obstruction.

Have more questions on calcium for pregnant dogs? Call our Pet Care Pros at 800.786.4751. They have the experience and knowledge to help you manage and prevent pet care challenges.

-Dr. Bramlage
Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Former Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health

Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, practiced veterinary medicine for 30+ years and is known for his work in managing parvovirus. He received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Kansas State University in 1985. He served as Revival's Director of Veterinary Services from 2011 until his retirement in 2019.

If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.