Rickets in dogs is becoming a lot more common than it used to be and it is speculated that it may be caused by Puppy mills and the lack of the proper nutrients that all growing dogs require.
However, there may be some other issues with your dog that causes this disease.
Although it is not considered life threatening to dogs, it can cause some very serious conditions if not treated properly. Most people have an understanding of what rickets is, and just like people, the majority of cases will be from a deficiency of Vitamin D; but there may be a lot more to it than just this vitamin deficiency.
What is Rickets?
Rickets in dogs is very similar to the same condition in humans and is found primarily in puppies or young developing dogs. Rickets is caused by either a deficiency of Vitamin D, or inefficient reactions in the body to the vitamin. This could be caused by your pet's parathyroid glands not functioning properly and releasing the proper amount of calcium and phosphorus into your dog's bone.
Vitamin D is a fat soluble nutrient that is stored in your dog's liver but it can also be produced in your dog by sunlight and is often referred to as the sunshine vitamin. When your dog is exposed to sunlight the ultra violet rays convert the vitamin D precursors into the active form of the vitamin, and conversion process starts in your dogs outer layers of their skin.
The conversion process from nutrients occurs when your pets system pulls the small amounts of Vitamin D it gets from their diet from their liver, and than transfers it into the kidney. If everything is functioning properly it than acts as a hormone in that it will regulate the levels of calcium and phosphate that goes to your dogs bone and skeletal structure.
However, because it is a fat soluble vitamin, if there are conditions existing in your pets body that reduce the digestion or absorption process, it will decrease the ability of your pet to pull and absorb it from the intestines. That is why sunlight is so critical to this process; your pet must get enough sunshine.
This vitamins major role in your pet is to regulate the levels of calcium and phosphorus in their body.
Most all dogs love to lay in the sunshine even on very hot days as it is a natural instinct for them. If they lack enough sunshine several things start to happen. If the blood levels of calcium and phosphate becomes low in your dog, other hormones in their body react and release the minerals from the bones into the bloodstream, and the result of this is rickets.
However, there may be one other cause. The parathyroid glands may increase its functioning process to try to make up for the minerals that are leaving the bone and going to the bloodstream, and the result is that even more of the mineral content is lost as the bones try to reabsorb them.
The parathyroid glands are four small glands and your dog has two on each side of their neck. Their main function is to regulate the balance of calcium and phosphorus in your pet's body. Rickets may also be caused by a deficiency of calcium and phosphorus, but that is extremely rare.
Calcium and Phosphorus Ratios:
In helping to prevent rickets in dogs, it helps to understand the ratio of calcium and phosphorus and why it is so important to your dog in all phases of life. This same condition can occur in older dogs, but it is than referred to as osteoporosis.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral found in your dog and it is essential in the prevention of rickets as well as over all bone health. Phosphorus is also extremely abundant but it has a slightly less presence and thus a lesser need by your dog in its overall health.
Deficiency of phosphorus is very rare, but an excessive of phosphorus is the major cause of renal failure in dogs.
The calcium to phosphorus ratio can be very difficult to understand but most major pet foods will have it explained and most all good mineral supplements will already have it measured properly. In the peak growth and lactation stages of your young dog, it should always be a 1.2 parts of calcium for each 1 part of the mineral phosphorus, or 1.2:1.
It will change slightly as your dog grows and matures, but just slightly. Ensuring the proper ratio of these minerals in your pet's diet will help prevent rickets and the harm that it can do.
Symptoms of Rickets:
The symptoms of rickets in dogs will obviously affect the bones, but it can also be very damaging to their teeth. The first symptoms you will see in your dog will be bone pain and tenderness in their legs as well as their spine and their lower back. Muscle cramps may also develop as a result of this tenderness.
If it is a severe case of rickets it may also cause the shape of the skull to be asymmetrical or abnormal. It could also cause a bowing of the legs, pelvic deformities, as well as spinal problems.
The symptoms you need to watch for with the teeth will be delayed formations and development; as well as defects in the structure of the teeth such as holes in the enamel and decaying at a very young age. If severe, there will be a very progressive weakness in the muscle tone of the jaws which may cause the loss of teeth in your young dog.
Treatment and Prevention:
Once the symptoms are understood and you know what to watch for, the treatment is really very simple. Replacing the lost nutrients in your pet's body at the proper requirements as quickly as possible can reverse the damage substantially.
Outside of neglect brought on by puppy farming or other such types of neglect, the major reason for a deficiency of these nutrients will be from homemade diets. Homemade diets are great for several diseases, but making sure your pet gets enough Vitamin D, as well as Calcium and Phosphorus in the correct ratios, will help to protect your dog from rickets.