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.

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.

When the disease has progressed to such a stage that the dog’s movements are hampered, the possibilities of a successful treatment are slight. Make sure to immediately seek medical advice from your vet.

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.


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