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Calcium Content Calculator for Large Breed Puppy Food

Mike Sagman  Andrew Dickens

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Mike Sagman
Mike Sagman

Mike Sagman

Founder

Dr Mike Sagman is the creator of the Dog Food Advisor. He founded the website in 2008, after his unquestioning trust in commercial dog food led to the tragic death of his dog Penny.

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Andrew Dickens
Andrew Dickens

Andrew Dickens

Editor

Andrew Dickens is an award-winning writer, editor and broadcaster with 20 years in journalism. He’s created compelling content on film and television, travel, food and drink, physical and mental health, business, sport, technology and politics. And, of course, dog food.

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Updated: May 2, 2024

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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

What’s more…

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

Thankfully, there’s general agreement among the experts. To meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for growth3 in large breed puppies, a dog food must contain:

    • 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. 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.

Calcium Content Analyzer
Step 1

Enter dog food's calcium content

Step 2

Enter dog food's phosphorus content

Step 3

Enter dog food's calorie content

Sources

1: Hazewinkel HAW. Nutrition in relation to skeletal growth deformities. J Sm Anim Practice. 1989; 30:525-630.

2: 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.

3: AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles, Association of American Feed Control Officials, Official Publication, 2016 edition

4: 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

5: Ratio reduced by the author from 1:2 to 1:1.8 based on energy-weighted maximum calcium and minimum phosphorus values

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