How to Treat Rickets Disease on Dogs and Puppies

Rickets Disease on Dogs and Puppies

Rickets is a very important and extremely common disease affecting puppies. It´s generally considered as a disease of the bones, but as a matter of fact, the nutrition of the whole body is affected.

When the puppy is born, the bones are soft, and as he grows, they should normally become hardened by the lime salts which are deposited in them.

In rickets this process does not take place as rapidly as it should, if at all. The muscles are weak and flabby, but may be padded with fat.

Digestion does not properly function and the general condition of the animal is affected.

What Causes Rickets

The cause of rickets may be either a lack of salts in the food or an excessive excretion of them. The disease may be inherited from its parents, or it may be a result of poor breeding, or of inbreeding.

As yet the real cause has not been determined, but in nearly all cases the food has consisted mainly of milk, bread, vegetables, and soup.

Since dogs affected with rickets almost invariably harbor worms, there may be some connection between the two conditions. Collies, Shepherd Dogs, Airedales, English Bulldogs, and Pekingese are the breeds most commonly affected.

Symptoms of Rickets on Dogs

The disease does not become noticeable until the pup is at least four weeks old, when you start to observe that he´s not able to support on his body on his legs.

As a rule, he´s very fat and this is supposed to be the cause of the trouble. The dog is more frequently from two to three months old before the symptoms of the disease appear.

In these cases the’ dog becomes unthrifty, less lively, disinclined to moving about, which he does with difficulty. There´s great distention of the abdomen and the first evidence of trouble may be an attack of indigestion.

The hair is dull and staring, the skin dry and scaly, and eczema may be present, or developing.

The prominent signs of the disease are in the bones. The legs are crooked and the joints enlarged. The spine may be curved and the ribs so soft that the chest may be flattened similar to the human chest.

In severe cases the dog shows marked evidence of pain when trying to move about or when being handled. As the disease progresses, the attacks of indigestion increase in frequency, an intoxication of the system develops, and the dog is finally thrown into convulsions.

How to Prevent Rickets on Dogs

Rickets can be avoided if the puppies are fed good nutritious food from the time they are weaned. The young puppies must receive a generous amount of meat as early as possible.

Starchy foods and milk must be totally eliminated. If worms are present they should be treated. If a female dog is caryying her litter, she should be given plenty of solid food.

Lime in the form of bone meal may be given. Plenty of exercise and fresh air should be allowed while your female dog is pregnant and to the puppies as soon as they arrive.

Treatment of Dogs Rickets

If rickets´s symptoms are recognized early, progress of disease could be stopped and the condition overcome by correcting the diet.

IMPORTANT: Make sure to immediately seek medical advice from your vet before changing or altering your dog´s diet. Your vet will be able to recommend the right dosage for your dog, or to change its diet completely.

The food should not only contain plenty of protein but should also have a considerable quantity of fat. Beef fat, butter, cream, eggs, olive oil, or cod-liver oil will supply this, but they must be used with discretion or the puppy’s stomach which is already weakened will become upset.

Lime salts may be artificially supplied by giving lime water in teaspoonful doses in the drinking water or by putting small quantities of bone meal in the food.

You should be able to determine early whether or not the puppy is harboring worms. In case they are present, he should be treated for them providing he´s strong enough to withstand the ordeal.

Once the disease has progressed to such a stage that the dog’s movements are hampered, the possibilities of a successful treatment are slight.

photo credit: Pirate Scott


  1. Blake says

    My dog had rickets as a pup but not severely as was diagnosed early I tried to have same dog get pregnant , it was two years old at time and I had bitch knotted twice with male dog but the bitch did not fall pregnant . Would rickets be a possible cause for my bitch not conceiving ?

    • glee says

      Hi Blake, rickets could have possibly affected your dog´s ability to reproduce. However, your vet should be able to guide better on this matter.

  2. Tammy says

    Hi guys. I need an answer. I have a 4 month old boerboel with rickets, an SPCA special so who knows his breeding history. but most of the vets here say no don’t splint the legs. And one vet says split. He is the only one we with the actual living proof of a dog with rickets he bandaged and put a splint for 2 weeks now the dog walks perfectly on his feet. He says the tendon needs to shorten. He gets the best food royal canine for large breed pups. What do I do!! Do I let him splint for 2 weeks and see or will this ruin everything. His rickets is the one where his paw is bent in towards his back legs not outwards in the pics

    • glee says

      Hi Tammy. I´ve seen this method used to a baby bird with split legs and it actually worked, after two weeks the bird was able to walk perfectly without the splint. But this is your call. If you´re not sure, you better get a second opinion from another vet.

  3. pam says

    Dear Glee – your Website is misleading… I know u are trying to help but partial information is not good. The forum is ”How to treat dogs” , ie. knuckling, bowed legs etc. – but the” treatment” u have suggesed, although partially helpful, in inadequate and can cause people to think it is as simple as u have laid it out (lots of protein and fat, Lime salts and bonemeal etc). In fact it is vital to stress to all who are concerned about their dog, that homemade food is often a cause of the problem in the first place, which is undoubtedly a nutrition problem at the crucial development stage. It is therefore important to stress that a good quality commercial dogfood (like Hills Mobility) is fed, or that the dog receives the correct vitamins (esp. phrosphorus, zinc, calcium etc) as a supplement AND fresh air, exercise and sunshine (for Vitamin D). In many cases a splint (homemade or bought) to correct the legs while the dog is recovering (often only required for as little as two weeks in many cases) is advised – if the legs are very bowed and will lead to a quicker outcome. Nothing however will work without the correct nutrition and vitamins – and this is usually a problem if u cook your own food. If u encourage people to add eggs, olive oil, etc. u may upset the animals digestive system which will lead to a LOSS of nutrients… Surgery is not necessary in almost all but the most extreme cases , so there is no reason to fear the costs….. MOST IMPORTANT IS THAT U RECOMMEND THE DOG SEES A VET ASAP: VETS ARE IN A BETTER POSITION TO RECOMMEND WHAT HAS TO BE DONE AND IF U HAVE A DOG U SHOULD BE ABLE TO AFFORD ONE VISIT IF YOUR ANIMAL HAS A PROBLEM. Forums are good for some information but a visit to VET, if you notice physical handicaps in your pet is ABSOLUTE NECESSITY: If your child suddenly showed signs of crippling – would u visit a forum or would u take him to the Doctor? Think about it.

    • glee says

      Thanks for your clarification, Pam. I re-emphasized on this post the necessity to seek a vet´s advice before altering or changing the dog´s diet.

  4. Darshan Patel says

    I’m having street dog dont know the bread, its 5-6months old and having rickets, his back legs are bend very badly.
    Plz give me solution.

    • glee says

      Hi Darshan, you shouldn´t wait any longer, bring your dog to a vet so it can be diagnosed correctly immediately.

  5. Ritika says

    I’m having street dog dont know the bread, its 5 months old and having rickets, his back legs are bend very badly.
    Plz give me solution. Plzzz reply sir . he can’t able to walk .

  6. Suresh says

    Hi glee is rickets for my rotweiler is curable ,the stage is my front legs are poorly bend and it’s joints also round.
    My pup only 3 months old is it fully cured

    • glee says

      Hi Suresh, yes! As long as you bring your pup to a veterinarian asap for a proper checkup, there´s a bigger chance of curing its rickets. Don´t wait too long.

      • Suresh says

        I went vetenary doctor but they advice me some calcium syrups and tablets I follow till now my doctor say May your dog swollen and bow front legs cure or it may be permanent bend for it.My dog front leg is severely bowed and she walk differently can it cure permanently she has rickets.when she grows is the bone damage permanent or it grows like normal

  7. Manoj says

    My german shepherdis of 1 year old and he hs rickets kn his hind legs can it be cured ? Could you give the diet details please , and milk must be avoided??? My Vetc is useless we have very few people here


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