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 – calcium – in fact, supplemented births are desirable. Fast-absorbing calcium like Breeder’s Edge® Oral Cal Plus Gel used several times during the birthing process helps keep blood 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.
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.
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.
Dog Whelping: The Complete Guide | Revival Animal Health
Revival Animal Health put together a complete guide on dog whelping to ensure you have the right information. Learn about how to prepare for whelping.
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.
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.