Linda Arndt ~ Canine Nutritional Consultant

The Truth About Low Calcium Diets And Growth


"I don't know what to feed my puppy because my vet tells me my large breed puppy must be fed a Large/Giant breed brand that is low in calcium. My vet says research show low calcium is necessary for proper growth. I am confused, what should I do?"


I get so many emails asking me my opinion of low calcium diets, that I have responded to this question in an article. Let me preface what I am about to say by stating that as a University Professor for 30 years, with some knowledge about actual research, I can tell you nutritional research needs to be done independent of, nor funded by, the commercial dog food industry in order to obtain objective, valid scientific information.

In this new day of marketing techniques, some of the larger manufacturers of dog foods are doing their own research or "funding" research, and passing this off as objective research, when in fact it is a marketing tool. Last year there was an international conference held to "educate" veterinarians about particular "low calcium" diets that were touted as THE diets to use for large/giant breed growth. This conference was funded by a major dog food company for the specific purpose to promote their diets.

Unfortunately the amount of nutritional information taught to physicians or veterinarians during their formal education is minimal and unless they self-educate, which many don’t, they will then obtain their nutritional information from the dog food company sales reps, newsletters and conferences funded by these companies. Of course this is not objective information nor science and because vets have little knowledge of animal nutrition, it is doubtful they have the background to dispute the information provided to them by these companies.

Many vets think this conference and published information about low calcium diets as science, when in fact it is marketing techniques. This so called "research" is done by a dog food company, funded by a dog food company and looking for a marketing niche.

The majority of developmental disease problems that come my way are due to dogs being fed this new feeding concept of using a low calcium diet, and this method goes against Mother Natures way of surviving in the wild during those fragile growth stages. (See: Do I Really Need A Puppy Food?)

A Long Track Record

The concept of feeding a low calcium diet is new and we are just now seeing the problems surface - and they are just the tip of the iceburg. I have raised Great Danes for 30 years am well aware of Developmental Orthopedic Disease and how to prevent them through proper feeding practices (See Blackwatch Puppy Feed Program).

Over 13 years ago Eagle Pack Dog Food owners/manufacturer agreed to do an extensive feed trial using Eagle Natural Pack formula on several litters of Great Danes throughout the country. I was asked to locate breeders and monitor their progress from weaning through one year of age. During this feed trial there was not one single case of Developmental Orthopedic Disease in any of these litters.

I am currently winding up the feed trials on Eagle Large/Giant Breed Puppy Formula and photos of those puppies will be up at my website, so you can see their progress from weaning through a year of age. At this writing, these puppies are now 7 months and we have not had one single case of Developmental Orthopedic Disease. (See: Guide To Recognizing Bone Diseases).

I ALWAYS suggest Eagle Natural Pack formula (23% protein - 12% fat - 330 Kcal/per cup with calcium 1.5%/ phosphorus 1.0%) to owners with animals having orthopedic problems and in every instance it reverses the problems of uneven growth patterns within 30 days if not sooner. (See: Growth Problems in Puppies part 1)

The majority of emails I get asking for assistance regarding growth problems are dogs fed "low calcium" large/giant breed formula. In 99% of the cases I suggest switching to Eagle Natural and using my total Blackwatch Feed Program and get these dogs turned around. A picture is worth a thousand words here are more examples of Growth Problems in Puppies part 2 and part 3

It is my experience and opinion based in years of raising giant dogs, that a low calcium commercial dog food goes against what would normally happen in the wild, and feeding this way goes against mother nature. Feeding a diet of moderate calcium, with a correct phosphorus ratio, one that has chelated or sequestered minerals is critical for laying down proper bone.

I also think in the future we will see more evidence of the fact that so that much of the bone cancer we see in the joints or long bones of the large/giant breeds, has to do with:

  • low calcium and/or
  • poor quality calcium absorption and/or
  • disruption in the calcium/phosphorus ratio when the dogs are in the developmental stages.

I am not implying that one should supplement calcium to a diet because this can have adverse effects as well by disrupting the balance of the commercial food. (Calcium, Do I Supplement?) But I find it interesting there is much new research done in human nutrition regarding the effects of higher calcium diets and more usable calcium and its effects on reversing and/or preventing cancer in humans. Why would there not be a connection in animals as well?

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