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Canine Hypocalcemia: Signs & Treatment for Dog Calcium Deficiency

by Geoff Works |

Just like in humans, calcium plays a vital role in the skeletal development and growth of dogs. Considered one of the most important minerals for overall health, calcium is essential to bone growth, muscle development, recovery from wound injuries, and the transmission of nerve impulses. 

But what happens if daily calcium requirements are not met?

Calcium deficiency in dogs is otherwise known as canine hypocalcemia. Low calcium levels in the body could cause weakness, behavior changes, and other health-related issues that need immediate treatment as soon as possible. And when this happens, it could put your dog at risk of injury.

Since hypocalcemia is a serious and complicated medical condition, we’ve listed the signs of calcium deficiency in dogs, as well as the treatment options available. By learning more about the condition, you can help your dog meet it’s required calcium intake requirements.

Signs & Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency

Canine calcium deficiency symptoms can vary depending on the severity of the condition and potential underlying causes. Dogs suffering from a mild condition may not show any signs of illness until their calcium level becomes abnormally low.

Since calcium is an important mineral for major muscle contraction, transmission of nerve impulses, and blood clotting, here are some of dog calcium deficiency symptoms you should watch out for:

  • Muscle twitches, spasms, or tremors
  • Loss of coordination
  • Rubbing the face against objects
  • Loss of control over body movements
  • Stiff movements
  • Panting
  • Unusual changes in behavior
  • Weakness
  • Listlessness
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Convulsions
  • Seizures

How Is It Treated?

The main goal of treating canine hypocalcemia is to bring your dog’s blood calcium levels back to normal. Since various causes are related to this disease, it is important that the root cause of this mineral deficiency is correctly addressed. 

  • Blood Tests

If your pet is showing symptoms of calcium deficiency, the best thing you can immediately do is bring your pet to your local veterinarian and have it go through a blood test. 

Through this procedure, your vet will verify any underlying diseases that might be causing your pet’s hypocalcemia. Some of the major calcium-related conditions include pancreatitis, kidney disease, nutritional deficiencies, toxicities, parathyroid gland function, and puerperal tetany.  

Urinalysis and fecal smears are also helpful diagnostic procedures but blood testing is still more efficient and accurate for determining your dog’s existing calcium levels. 

  • Total Calcium Testing

This test is a simple and rapid procedure that serves as a preliminary test to determine your dog’s current calcium levels. If the test results show canine hypocalcemia, your dog will usually go through a correlated ionized calcium test next.

  • Ionized Calcium Testing

Ionized calcium testing is a definitive diagnostic procedure for measuring blood calcium levels and identifying calcium abnormalities. Compared to total calcium tests, it is more expensive and requires special handling of the sample. 

Ionized calcium is measured directly using calcium-specific electrodes. As a result, it might tend to take a little longer before the results are released from the laboratory. 

  • Parathyroid Testing & Evaluation 

After blood calcium testing, your veterinarian could also choose to evaluate your pet’s secretion of parathyroid hormones. Parathyroid glands are mainly responsible for regulating and monitoring the calcium in the body. This procedure is considered an easy way to determine whether the parathyroid gland is working properly.

  • Oral Calcium Supplements

Oral calcium supplements might be needed for mild cases or long-term treatment of canine hypocalcemia. Calcium supplements are widely available in drug stores. These oral supplements also come in various compounds like calcium lactate, calcium gluconate, calcium carbonate, and calcium chloride. 

However, these supplements vary in doses and effects, so it is best to consult your veterinarian about the appropriate prescription and dosage.

  • Vitamin D Supplements

Vitamin D supplements might also be required to increase calcium absorption from the intestine. Vitamin D is a prohormone responsible for increasing the absorption of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and phosphate.

For long-term treatment, veterinarians might require your pet to take a specific form of Vitamin D. For instance, vitamin D2 (also known as ergocalciferol) is usually used as a dietary supplement and can be bought over-the-counter. 

Dihydrotachysterol (DHT) is another form of vitamin D and is often consumed by pets in liquid form. However, you can also choose to buy it as a pill. 

Calcitriol, meanwhile, is another type of medication that helps in regulating calcium levels. This compound is generally made for human consumption, but pharmaceutical companies have also regulated appropriate doses for pets.  

  • Intravenous Calcium Supplementation

This kind of calcium supplementation is recommended for mild cases of hypocalcemia. Just like other intravenous (IV) procedures, it is inserted into the dog’s system using a drip chamber. 

When performing this treatment, the dog’s back or foreleg is usually used as a clean site where the needle will be injected. But before injecting the IV, the targeted spot should be numbed with an ice pack to reduce some of the pain. 

IV calcium should be administered slowly and carefully, however, because it could result in a lowering of the heart rate.

Making Sure Your Dog Gets Enough Calcium

By properly treating and preventing these hypocalcemia signs in dogs, your pet can immediately get its calcium levels back to normal. This means they won’t have to go through more complex treatment. Still, it is important to continuously monitor the calcium levels of your pet. For optimum results, consider asking your vet for better dietary recommendations.

To know more about how to keep your dog in great condition so they can avoid the risk of injury, explore the Lick Sleeve blog.

recovery from wound injuries, and the transmission of nerve impulses. 

But what happens if daily calcium requirements are not met?

Calcium deficiency in dogs is otherwise known as canine hypocalcemia. Low calcium levels in the body could cause weakness, behavior changes, and other health-related issues that need immediate treatment as soon as possible. And when this happens, it could put your dog at risk of injury.

Since hypocalcemia is a serious and complicated medical condition, we’ve listed the signs of calcium deficiency in dogs, as well as the treatment options available. By learning more about the condition, you can help your dog meet it’s required calcium intake requirements.

Signs & Symptoms of Calcium Deficiency

Canine calcium deficiency symptoms can vary depending on the severity of the condition and potential underlying causes. Dogs suffering from a mild condition may not show any signs of illness until their calcium level becomes abnormally low.

Since calcium is an important mineral for major muscle contraction, transmission of nerve impulses, and blood clotting, here are some of dog calcium deficiency symptoms you should watch out for:

  • Muscle twitches, spasms, or tremors
  • Loss of coordination
  • Rubbing the face against objects
  • Loss of control over body movements
  • Stiff movements
  • Panting
  • Unusual changes in behavior
  • Weakness
  • Listlessness
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Convulsions
  • Seizures

How Is It Treated?

The main goal of treating canine hypocalcemia is to bring your dog’s blood calcium levels back to normal. Since various causes are related to this disease, it is important that the root cause of this mineral deficiency is correctly addressed. 

Blood Tests

If your pet is showing symptoms of calcium deficiency, the best thing you can immediately do is bring your pet to your local veterinarian and have it go through a blood test. 

Through this procedure, your vet will verify any underlying diseases that might be causing your pet’s hypocalcemia. Some of the major calcium-related conditions include pancreatitis, kidney disease, nutritional deficiencies, toxicities, parathyroid gland function, and puerperal tetany.  

Urinalysis and fecal smears are also helpful diagnostic procedures but blood testing is still more efficient and accurate for determining your dog’s existing calcium levels. 

Total Calcium Testing

This test is a simple and rapid procedure that serves as a preliminary test to determine your dog’s current calcium levels. If the test results show canine hypocalcemia, your dog will usually go through a correlated ionized calcium test next.

Ionized Calcium Testing

Ionized calcium testing is a definitive diagnostic procedure for measuring blood calcium levels and identifying calcium abnormalities. Compared to total calcium tests, it is more expensive and requires special handling of the sample. 

Ionized calcium is measured directly using calcium-specific electrodes. As a result, it might tend to take a little longer before the results are released from the laboratory. 

Parathyroid Testing & Evaluation 

After blood calcium testing, your veterinarian could also choose to evaluate your pet’s secretion of parathyroid hormones. Parathyroid glands are mainly responsible for regulating and monitoring the calcium in the body. This procedure is considered an easy way to determine whether the parathyroid gland is working properly.

Oral Calcium Supplements

Oral calcium supplements might be needed for mild cases or long-term treatment of canine hypocalcemia. Calcium supplements are widely available in drug stores. These oral supplements also come in various compounds like calcium lactate, calcium gluconate, calcium carbonate, and calcium chloride. 

However, these supplements vary in doses and effects, so it is best to consult your veterinarian about the appropriate prescription and dosage.

Vitamin D Supplements

Vitamin D supplements might also be required to increase calcium absorption from the intestine. Vitamin D is a prohormone responsible for increasing the absorption of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and phosphate.

For long-term treatment, veterinarians might require your pet to take a specific form of Vitamin D. For instance, vitamin D2 (also known as ergocalciferol) is usually used as a dietary supplement and can be bought over-the-counter. 

Dihydrotachysterol (DHT) is another form of vitamin D and is often consumed by pets in liquid form. However, you can also choose to buy it as a pill. 

Calcitriol, meanwhile, is another type of medication that helps in regulating calcium levels. This compound is generally made for human consumption, but pharmaceutical companies have also regulated appropriate doses for pets.  

Intravenous Calcium Supplementation

This kind of calcium supplementation is recommended for mild cases of hypocalcemia. Just like other intravenous (IV) procedures, it is inserted into the dog’s system using a drip chamber. 

When performing this treatment, the dog’s back or foreleg is usually used as a clean site where the needle will be injected. But before injecting the IV, the targeted spot should be numbed with an ice pack to reduce some of the pain. 

IV calcium should be administered slowly and carefully, however, because it could result in a lowering of the heart rate.

Making Sure Your Dog Gets Enough Calcium

By properly treating and preventing these hypocalcemia signs in dogs, your pet can immediately get its calcium levels back to normal. This means they won’t have to go through more complex treatment. Still, it is important to continuously monitor the calcium levels of your pet. For optimum results, consider asking your vet for better dietary recommendations.

To know more about how to keep your dog in great condition so they can avoid the risk of injury, explore the Lick Sleeve blog.



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