Dogs and cats, like humans, need the natural mineral calcium to support healthy bones for an active lifestyle. But calcium is not made by your pet’s body, so it must come from his diet. Wild dogs and cats get calcium by consuming their entire prey, including the bones. But domesticated animals rely on commercial pet foods we feed them, and some sources of calcium are safer for your pets than others.
Calcium in Real Food Differs from Supplements
Most commercial pet foods contain the necessary nutrients your pet needs. However, nearly all pet foods, even so-called “natural” ones, contain dozens of synthetic vitamins and minerals, including calcium. Most of these man-made nutrients are produced in Chinese chemical plants (1). In addition to potential toxicities from unwanted ingredients synthetic nutrients contain, researchers are also finding they behave differently in the body.
A recent study published in the medical journal Heart, found that people who obtained their calcium exclusively from supplements were 2.7 times more likely than non-supplement-users to experience a heart attack. Previous research has also linked calcium supplements to kidney stones and abdominal symptoms. The authors say, "It is now becoming clear that taking this micronutrient in one or two daily [doses] is not natural, in that it does not reproduce the same metabolic effects as calcium in food (2)."
Calcium and Vitamin D work together to support bone health. Vitamin D is required in order for the body to absorb the calcium it gets from food (3). Cholecalciferol, a synthetic form of Vitamin D, is one of 20-26 added chemically-synthesized vitamins and minerals typically added to commercial pet foods. Like synthetic calcium, man-made Vitamin D is also not the same as the nutrient pets would get from whole food sources and sunshine.
Cholecalciferol is the active ingredients used in many rat poisons, causing death from hypercalcemia Hypercalcemia, or increased calcium levels, occurs when animals absorb too much calcium from their food. This can damage blood vessels, kidneys, the stomach wall and lungs, leading further to heart problems, bleeding, and possibly kidney failure (5). Excess synthetic Vitamin D added to pet foods has led to serious recalls, including the 2006 Royal Canin recall and the 2010 Blue Buffalo recall. However, getting Vitamin D naturally from sunlight or a good healthy diet has never caused hypercalcemia.
Safe Amounts of Calcium in Pet Food
How much calcium your pet should consume depends upon a few variables. In general, commercial pet foods formulate their products to meet the nutrient profiles recommended by The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). For calcium, AAFCO recommends pet foods contain from 0.6% - 2.5% calcium, calculated on a dry matter basis, depending upon whether the food is for growing puppies and kittens or for adult maintenance (6). To see where your pet’s food falls, you can check the nutrient analysis on the food’s label (7).
However, also consider the source of the calcium. Dogs or cats in the wild can consume large amounts of calcium in the bone of their prey, more than AAFCO guidelines, with no adverse effects. Calcium guidelines on commercial pet food are more likely due to the fact that added synthetic calcium in pet food is mixed with man-made vitamin D, or cholecalciferol. As stated earlier, too much synthetic Vitamin D can cause the body to absorb too much calcium, leading to hypercalcemia. This is not a problem when vitamins and minerals are obtained from food, not chemically-synthesized supplements. Whole foods naturally supply pets with nutrients in the most proper and safe amounts.
Natural Food Sources of Calcium & Vitamin D
Fortunately, calcium and vitamin D are readily available in foods like fish, liver, eggs, alfalfa, apricots, apples, broccoli, and spinach, all found in Nature’s Logic foods. They are among the long list of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds that naturally supply all essential vitamins and minerals dogs and cats need to thrive. While Nature's Logic formulas are on the higher end of the AAFCO recommended range for calcium than many other pet foods, the calcium in our food comes from real food, not synthetics with chemical additives that might cause adverse reaction.
Nature’s Logic® is the only full-line of raw, canned, and frozen commercial pet food with NO chemically-synthesized nutrients and NO ingredients from China. All of the vitamins and minerals in our formulas are derived from food. This is the safest way to supply nutrients to pets. For more information, visit www.natureslogic.com .
6. Official Publication Association of American Feed Control Officials, 2008, p. 131.