Q: What is Rickets?
A: Readers may have heard the term Rickets being loosely used to describe children with bowed legs. The more general description of Rickets in dogs and cats is that it is a skeletal ailment that originally stems from an imbalance in the ratio of Calcium, Phosphorus, and vitamin D in the blood of puppies/kittens, and later in young adults.
Actually, the cause of this ailment may be more complicated. For example, the parathyroid hormone (PTH) plays a meaningful role in the development of the nutrient imbalance.
Q: What precipitates the Calcium, Phosphorous and Vitamin D imbalance?
A: The most common cause would be dietary deficiencies of Phosphorus and Vitamin D. Calcium insufficiency is also implicated in the development of this ailment, though this does not happen often.
Veterinarians have identified improperly formulated homemade diet fed to the young puppies and kittens, and even adults, as the main contributing factor to “Rickets”. These diets are often pure meat/all vegetable/all bread and rice concoctions. Diets of street corner dog foods are also questionable.
The development of Rickets in adult dogs – especially those that have other physiological problems, e.g., malabsorption disorders – is also linked to an all meat/vegetable/rice/bread/table scraps diet in adult dogs, (unbalanced diets), which leads to calcium deficiency.
Q: What are Rickets symptoms?
A: In puppies and kittens and young adult dogs, signs of Rickets include:
• Lameness/stiff gait/difficulty in rising.
• Bone pain (exhibited when the owner touches the leg or when the vet palpitates the legs).
• Bowing of the legs (see photos below), and other skeletal deformities – not lastly because the bones may be growing at different rates.
• Stunted growth.
• Perverse appetite (see N.B.2 below)
• Spontaneous fractures
• Greenstick fractures – a condition in which the bone is so soft that it bends (as a result of some physical pressure) instead of breaking/cracking.
• The joints are clearly enlarged, especially where the ribs meet the cartilage of the breastbone.
• Twitching, even seizures (rare) because of low calcium levels in the blood.
In adults (older) dogs and cats, in addition to some of the symptoms mentioned above, the veterinarian – during a clinical examination – may firstly find periodontal ailments. These would exhibit themselves as a thinning of the jawbones, exposing the roots of the teeth. Consequently, the teeth loosen and are expelled.
1. Many affected dogs/cats may not only fail to thrive, but certain physiological expectations do not emerge. For example, bitches may not come into heat regularly, or at all.
2. Growing and adult animals may exhibit perverse appetites – craving and eating substances like paint, clay, plasters, linoleum, dirt, etc.
A: As always, when one knows the cause of the ailment, it is easier to implement responsive therapy.
Since we have decided that Rickets is mostly diet-related, that is where the focus would be. Your vet would advise on a properly formulated diet, which in all likelihood would include tested and proven commercial rations that counter the described deficiencies.
Of course, if the problem is initially an inability to absorb the nutrients from the food offered, this condition must be corrected. Further, if the origin is hormonal (PTH- see above), your vet would advise accordingly. Also, relative to the Vitamin D involvement, it would be helpful to expose the puppy/kitten, young adults to sunshine for short periods (not so long as to kill them with sun stroke).
Please do not implement a diet regimen without vet advice, supervision, and monitoring (especially if the caregiver wants to add supplements (such as vitamins, calcium, etc. willy-nilly).
Q: Chances of
A: Once veterinary advice (especially related to the feeding/diet protocol) is followed, the afflicted puppy/kitten/young and adult animal would recover well. The response to proper nutrition is rapid. Within two weeks, the affected animals become more active. However, do not allow them to jump and climb up or walk down stairways. I advise you restrict their movement until they are considered to be in good health by your vet.