Too much calcium in a puppy’s diet has been shown to increase the risk of crippling hip dysplasia in large breed puppies.1
That’s because puppies can have trouble regulating how much calcium is absorbed from their intestinal tracts.2
Feeding too little calcium can also lead to problems.
That’s why it’s so important to feed a dog food that contains an amount of calcium considered safe for large breed puppies.
Safe Calcium Content
- 2.0 to 4.5 g calcium per 1000 calories4
- 2.5 to 4.0 g phosphorus per 1000 calories
- Calcium-to-phosphorus ratio 1:1 to 1.8:15
Especially for energy-dense foods… those containing more than 4000 calories per kilogram.
How to Check
Safe Calcium Content
Unfortunately, these guidelines and ratios are not usually found on a dog food label. Yet with a little effort, you should be able to use our Calcium Content Analyzer Tool below to check these values yourself.
To use it, you’ll first need to grab the following 3 values from the package label:
- Calcium %
- Phosphorus %
- Calories (kcal/kg)
Important: Calcium, phosphorus and calorie values may be reported as “dry matter” or “as fed”. Either type will work, so long as all 3 are entered using the same type
Calories are typically reported as metabolizable energy (ME) on a pet food label.
Next, enter those figures into the Calcium Content Analyzer tool below. Then, check the results to be sure each falls within the safe range described above.
Keep in mind — pet food companies typically report the minimum calcium content in their food.
So, be sure to use the actual calcium content or the maximum content — not the minimum. You’ll need to contact the company to obtain the actual test results.
Entering a mixture of “as fed” and “dry matter” values will deliver erroneous results.
- Hazewinkel HAW. Nutrition in relation to skeletal growth deformities. J Sm Anim Practice. 1989; 30:525-630. ↩
- Tryfonidou MA et al. Intestinal calcium absorption in growing dogs is influenced by calcium intake and age but not by growth rate. J Nutr. 2002;132:3363-3368. ↩
- AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles, Association of American Feed Control Officials, Official Publication, 2016 edition ↩
- Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats, National Research Council of The National Academies of Science, Washington, D.C. (2006), Table 15-5 “Nutrient Requirements for Growth of Puppies After Weaning”, Wasington, D.C., page 357 ↩
- Ratio reduced by the author from 1:2 to 1:1.8 based on energy-weighted maximum calcium and minimum phosphorus values ↩