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Rickets Explained!

Rickets affects puppies and the most likely cause of them suffering the condition is because they are being fed a poorly balanced diet that's lacking in vital vitamins and minerals. Dogs need the right ratio of calcium and phosphorus in their diet for their bones to develop properly or they may develop rickets.

Types Of Rickets

There are two types of rickets that affect dogs and these are as follows:

Type I: This is a Vitamin D-dependent form of rickets

Type II: This form of rickets is Vitamin-D resistant

Most dogs suffer from type I which is caused by their diets which are deficient in Vitamin D or phosphorus, or the levels of calcium in their diet is too high which can affect large and giant breeds when their bones are still developing.

What Causes Rickets

Puppies, when fed an all meat diet, are often most affected by rickets and this can result in them becoming extremely lame - because their bones are so fragile they can fracture easily. A puppy might show mild signs of being lame, but this can quickly turn into something more serious and as time goes by, they may not even be able to even stand up.

Research has established that when fed a diet that contains high amounts of calcium, Great Danes can show signs of developing rickets. Other conditions a dog may well suffer from at the same time include the following:


Retained cartilaginous cores

Stunted growth

With this said, there are congenital disorders which can affect a dog's ability to produce Vitamin D and this includes the following:

Biliary tract atresia

Familial rickets

Research has established that when dogs develop familial rickets it is typically because they suffer from Vitamin D insensitivity


It's a dog's long bones and their vertebrae which are most affected and the signs of there being something wrong could include the following:

Bone pain

A stiff gait

Swelling around bones most affected by the condition

Difficulty getting up

Joint pain

Bowed legs/limb deformities which includes bowed legs

Spontaneous fractures

Rubber jaw syndrome

Diagnosing Rickets

The vet would need to have a puppy's full medical history and they would check for microscopic lesions which would be evident on X-rays taken of a dog's bones. Elbows would appear larger than they should be and growth plates would be an irregular shape and wider. Tests would should that a dog's plasma alkaline phosphatase activity is less than normal.

Depending on why a dog has developed rickets, the vet might find the concentrations of vitamin D and concentrations of serum phosphorus is not as it should be and if the condition is in its advanced stage, a dog might have developed Hypocalcemia. If the condition is due to Vitamin D or phosphorus deficiencies, their levels would show up abnormally low in tests. Other tests a vet may well recommend doing could include the following:

Blood tests


Bone biopsies

Treating Rickets

The first thing to treat is the dog's diet allowing a correct ratio of calcium and phosphorus. The prognosis tends to be good for dogs suffering from rickets providing no fractures or other irreversible injuries have occurred. Dogs should be given free access to sunlight which is an effective way of increasing the production of vital Vitamin D3 precursors.

Foods that Contain High Levels of Vitamin D

There are very few foods that contain high levels of Vitamin D and these are as follows:

Cod liver oil

Fatty fish - salmon and sardines being a good source

Vitamin D is also present in some plants and dogs can obtain the vitamin from sunlight

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