Reviewed By Joana Garrido DVM
Did you know that some human foods can provide a natural source of calcium for dogs? Although most commercial pet foods contain the proper calcium and phosphorus ratio, if your dog is on a home-cooked diet or needs a calcium supplement, this article covers the top 4 calcium-rich foods for dogs. Learn how to incorporate these foods into your dog’s diet.
1. Sardines as a Natural Calcium for Dogs
What is a good source of calcium for dogs? Sardines are a good source of calcium for dogs. Their soft edible bones are densely packed with this bone-strengthening mineral.
To give you a rough idea of their calcium content, 7 whole sardines provide over 320 milligrams of calcium to dogs.
- Fresh sardines are highly perishable, so they must be consumed within a day of purchase. Look for shiny skin, bright eyes, firm texture, and fresh smell when searching for fresh sardines.
- Since this type of fish is soft-boned, it can be fed whole to your pooch. If you are worried about choking risks, slice them into smaller pieces.
- Fresh sardines are not always available in the market. Its canned variety can be an alternative calcium food for dogs. Go for unsalted products that are packed in water, not oil.
- If you cannot find one, you can settle for salted or oil-packed sardines. To reduce sodium and fat, pour the oil and run the sardines through cold water.
- Here is a guideline on how many sardines can be fed to dogs in a week:
- Dogs weighing under 30 pounds: ½ sardine
- Dogs weighing 30 to 60 pounds: 1 sardine
- Dogs weighing 30 to 60 pounds: 2 sardines
- Serve sardines to your dog at least 2 to 3 times a week.
- Good source of omega-3 unsaturated fats for skin health
- Calcium and phosphorus for joint health
- Omega-3 fatty acids for ocular health
- Coenzyme Q10 for heart health
- Low oxalic acid for high bioavailability
- Sardines are loaded with fats. Excessively eating this natural calcium for dogs can cause digestive issues as well as weight gain.
Remember to include these sardines in the daily calories of your dog’s whole diet and avoid developing more severe health issues like pancreatitis and obesity by sticking to the recommended serving.
- Oily fish such as sardines are high in purines. Purines are crystalline compounds that can exacerbate pre-existing renal issues and gout in dogs.
If your pooch suffers from any of these conditions, consult the vet before adding this natural calcium for dogs to his diet.
- Dog owners worry about heavy metal accumulation in aquatic food. Fortunately, fresh sardines are small and have a short lifespan, which prevents them from collecting high levels of toxins in their bodies.
2. Eggshells as a Natural Calcium for Dogs
Can dogs eat eggshells as a calcium source? Yes, eggshells can be used as a supplementary source of calcium for dogs.
A lot of research has been done on the levels of calcium eggshells possess. According to one study, a chicken eggshell provides around 380 milligrams of calcium per gram.
- 1 dozen eggshells
- Rinse eggshells thoroughly with water.
Do not remove their membrane, as it contains trace amounts of chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine. Both of which aid in maintaining strong joints in dogs.
- Boil the eggshells for 5 to 10 seconds for decontamination.
- Leave them out on a baking tray overnight to completely dry off.
- Preheat the oven to 195 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the eggshells inside for 12 minutes to completely dry out any remaining water.
- Use a coffee or spice grinder to grind the eggshells into a fine powder.
- Use this homemade calcium for dogs as your dog food topper.
- Place the remaining eggshell powder in a tightly sealed container. No need to refrigerate. You can store it in a cool and dry place for up to 2 to 3 months.
- Due to the high calcium levels of eggshell powder, a small amount goes a long way. A good rule of thumb to follow is to add ¾ teaspoon per cup of your dog’s food.
Eggs are calcium-rich because they are made out of calcium carbonate, which is the most common form of calcium.
- Eggshells can harbor bacteria such as Salmonella enteritidis. Never skip cleaning them properly to avoid food poisoning risks in your household.
- Large fragments of eggshells may cause teeth and intestinal injuries in dogs when chewed and swallowed. Always double-check for big shards after grinding. You can use a sieve to sift through the powder.
- Commercially-sold eggs are often sprayed with chemical sanitizing agents to remove dirt from their shells. They are potentially toxic to dogs. So source your eggs from farmers who wash eggs with only clean water.
3. Seaweed as a Natural Calcium for Dogs
In comparison, kelp offers 168 milligrams of calcium for the same amount. Whole milk only contains 113 milligrams of calcium per 100 grams.
- Hijiki is a seaweed that has the highest concentration of calcium. However, it is prone to quickly accumulating too much arsenic. A safer alternative would be wakame, which ranks second to hijiki in terms of calcium level.
- Opt for dried seaweed as it contains more calcium by weight, averaging around 4 to 7%. Your pooch will only need a small amount to obtain adequate amounts of calcium.
While you can feed your dog fresh seaweed, it does not yield plenty of calcium. That is because it carries more water. It will take large doses of fresh seaweed to achieve your dog’s recommended calcium intake.
- Choose plain, unseasoned, and sodium-free dried seaweed sheets. Offering large portions of this human food to your dog should be avoided. Otherwise, it will expand his digestive tract and cause intestinal obstruction.
- Grind the dried seaweed sheets into fine powder to prevent the risk of stomach blockage.
- Dried seaweed can be fed to dogs daily but in very small doses. Excessive consumption may easily lead to calcium overdose. So only give dogs 1 to 2 grams of dried seaweed per kilogram of body weight.
- Seaweed has better calcium absorption because of its low oxalic content and high magnesium concentration.
- Seaweed is safe for dogs to eat plain and in limited quantities, but as a supplement, it should not contain added seasonings. Consult with your veterinarian before introducing any supplements to your dog’s diet.
- Seaweed, including its dried form, is prone to accumulating high levels of heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, and cadmium.
Look for manufacturers that source this human food from areas with cleaner waters, such as the coasts of Iceland and Norway. Also, check the product’s label for testing for heavy metals.
- Seaweed is high in iodine, so it should not be used as a calcium supplement for dogs with thyroid conditions without consulting a vet first.
- Seaweed contains vitamin A, which can cause drug interactions with certain medications like blood thinners. Ask the vet for advice first before feeding it to dogs medicated with this type of drug.
- Avoid wild seaweed, especially kelp found at the beach, which can contain high levels of salt and carry parasites. In addition, the long strands can become lodged in the intestines. If your dog consumes seaweed on the beach, contact a veterinarian immediately.
4. Shrimp as a Natural Calcium for Dogs
Freshwater crustaceans such as shrimp are often rich in minerals, including calcium. Studies show that the calcium content of shrimp ranges from 21 to 583 milligrams per 100 grams of fresh weight, depending on the species.
- When buying shrimp, get fresh ones, which typically have pearl-like color and little to no odor.
- Rinse them with water and devein them. This process involves removing the shells of shrimps as well as their heads. However, do not throw these parts away, as they can be used later.
- Cook the shrimp in any method you prefer as long as they are served plain.
This natural calcium for dogs can be given to dogs raw too. However, a week before feeding, make sure to freeze them below 40 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid bacterial proliferation.
- For a long time, shrimp shells were thought to be full of calcium. However, this belief is said to be a misconception since they are only made up of a type of polymer called chitin. Their toughness is not due to the presence of naturally occurring calcium.
- Most calcium is stored in shrimp meat and legs. But shrimp shells do provide ample amounts of glucosamine, which is a natural sugar that is essential for good joint health in dogs.
- You can make a homemade glucosamine broth by boiling around 2 cups of shrimp shells in 4 cups of water for about 7 to 10 minutes.
- If you prefer, also include the heads to make the most out of them.
- Once you are done, let the broth cool and transfer it to an airtight container. Store in the fridge for about 2 to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
- Below is the guideline for the ideal serving of this natural calcium for dogs:
- Dogs under 20 pounds: ½ shrimp per day
- Dogs weighing 21 to 30 pounds: 1 shrimp per day
- Dogs weighing 31 to 50 pounds: 2 shrimps per day
- Dogs weighing 51 to 90 pounds: 3 shrimps per day
- Dogs over 91 pounds: 3 to 4 shrimps per day
- Shrimp is loaded with bone-strengthening minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, and selenium.
- Seafood, including shrimp, is notorious for causing foodborne illnesses. While the chances of this problem occurring to dogs is slim, always take precautions.
Never leave raw shrimp at room temperature for more than 2 hours. When cooking them, their internal temperature should reach 145 degrees Fahrenheit to eliminate harmful pathogens effectively.
- Shrimp contains high amounts of cholesterol. Feeding it to dogs with cardiac problems should be done with caution. Ensure to inform the vet before adding this natural calcium to their meals.
- Shrimp shells and heads are choking hazards to dogs. Always strain them out after making glucosamine broth for your pooch.
Frequently-Asked Questions About Calcium for Dogs
1. How Much Calcium Can I Give My Dog?
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) states that adult dogs require 1.25 grams of calcium for every 1,000 calories they consume.
AAFCO also highlighted that the calcium content of large-breed puppies should not exceed 4.5 grams per 1,000 calories consumed. This prevents them from quickly developing skeletal problems as they reach adulthood.
2. How Do I Know If My Dog Needs Calcium?
Calcium deficiency in dogs manifests in the form of inappetence, weakness, and listlessness. However, these clinical signs are similar to symptoms of other canine health issues.
To acquire a clear answer, get your dog tested for calcium deficiency. The vet will run a blood test to check your dog’s calcium levels.
Abnormally low concentrations of calcium call for an expensive test named the ionized calcium test. This is done to measure your pup’s blood calcium levels accurately.
3. Is It OK to Give Calcium Supplements to Dogs?
Calcium supplements should only be given to calcium-deficient canines under the supervision of a veterinarian. Administering them to healthy dogs is discouraged as it could cause nutritional imbalances or overdose.
4. When Is Calcium Bad for Dogs?
While calcium is essential for the proper growth of bones and teeth. When dogs consume an excessive amount of calcium, it could lead to a condition called hypercalcemia. This can negatively affect bone development, causing abnormal skeletal formations and an early onset of bone disorders. Hypercalcemia can also result in kidney and bladder issues, as well as chronic kidney disease.
Additionally, an imbalance in the diet due to too much calcium-rich food can negatively impact Vitamin D and skeletal metabolism. Nutritional hypercalcemia is usually caused by vitamin D toxicosis or chronic calcium over-supplementation.
The recommended calcium dosage for dogs should not be exceeded to prevent these issues.
5. How Long Does It Take for Calcium Supplements to Work?
Depending on the type of calcium supplement, it takes around 1 to 2 hours. However, the changes are not visible to the eyes. The vet will require your dog to undergo certain tests to assess the calcium supplement’s efficacy.
Natural calcium sources for dogs are affordable and healthy substitutes for commercial calcium canine supplements. They are also highly bioavailable, which promotes better calcium absorption in your pet’s body.
Check out our Diet & Recipes section to find the perfect addition to your pup’s meal plan.