We all know that dogs cannot live on meat as a stand alone diet. Due to the problems we are facing these days, like basically not knowing whom to trust when it comes to pet food, many pet owners have transitioned over to preparing their own, home cooked meals. That in itself is not a bad solution, however it also comes with some difficulties to begin with. The biggest concern is nutritional balance. It just so happened that the discussion came up today when I was talking to one of my home cooking customers and we ended up on the subject of a dog’s requirements for calcium.
Dogs with calcium deficiencies primarily are typically victims of lameness, bone demineralization like for example osteoporosis and an increased tendency towards fractures due to weakened bone structures. If you feed your dog a diet containing raw meaty bones you should be safe, your dog is getting ample supply of calcium. You also can obtain calcium through egg shells. Though this source may be a problem if the dog is not tolerating dairy products. One source very few people know about is actually sesame seeds. However, since dogs are by heart meat eaters, an animal based source has to be the better choice.
But there is yet another issue dog owners have to consider. As with everything it all is relative and sometimes they are providing too much supply of calcium. Too much calcium can increase risks of orthopedic disorders like for example hip dysplasia (degenerative joint disease), hypertrophic osteodystrophy (also known as HOD, a bone disease usually affecting young, rapidly growing, large breed dogs. Other names for this disease include skeletal scurvy, Moller-Barlow's disease, osteodystrophy II, and metaphyseal osteopathy. Causing severe lameness and pain and usually affects multiple limbs) or osteochondritis dissecans (also known as OCD, a disease of the cartilage affecting the joints in a dog’s body. In any joint in the body two bones come together and movement is allowed between them. Where the two bones meet, the actual joint, a smooth area of cartilage covers the bones’ surfaces. This acts as a cushion and protects the underlying bone. If anything disrupts this smooth cartilage surface, movement of the joint becomes painful. In a dog suffering from OCD, the cartilage is damaged or grows abnormally. Instead of being attached to the bone it covers, it separates or cracks, causing great pain. In some cases, small pieces of cartilage break off and float free in the joint. These pieces of cartilage do not die, but rather continue to grow and increase in size. These are known as joint mice. Approximately 15% of all dogs will develop OCD), as well as too much growth in too short of a time. Helpful guide lines are provided by organizations such as AAFCO (in their nutrient dog food profiles recommending 0.6% for an adult dog maintenance feeding and 1% for puppies, with a maximum of 2.5% for all dogs, all based on dry matter basis) or the NRC (National Research Council) (stating a maximum of 1,800 mg/kg body weight). Actually, come to think of it that is quite a bit and it should be difficult to exceed these recommendations. However, it does happen, especially when calcium is supplied with a supplemental source, like for example bone meal.
Finally one more fact to consider is the ratio of calcium to phosphorus. AAFCO recommends in their profiles a 1 to 1 ratio with a maximum of 2 to 1 for all dogs. So, when feeding your dog home cooked meals with meat and supplemented with bone meal powder, make sure you use bone meal powder without phosphorus as meat in itself already contains phosphorus and you may easily get out of balance here.