Family & Pets
Why dogs often need extra magnesium
It’s well-known that dogs need all the vitamins and minerals we do and one of the key nutrients is magnesium because a lack of it can cause all sorts of symptoms in dogs - in fact every time your pet moves a muscle, experiences a heartbeat or has a thought, magnesium is needed to help them achieve this.
It’s little wonder many of our pets are deficient in magnesium because they share the same deficiencies as their human masters. Magnesium is very very depleted in the foods we eat these days, especially when processed. We live in a fast-food world of packets and tins, where you can bet that this type of food provides little or no magnesium benefit.
Even fresh produce can be lower in magnesium than it should be simply because the soils have become depleted of magnesium. You only have to add to this the fact that we humans and our animals lose more magnesium when we’re under stress and you can see why magnesium deficiency is very common.
Many vets are aware of the importance of magnesium: Shailen Jasani is a veterinary surgeon specialising in Emergency and Critical Care in the UK. He says magnesium can be used as a medication with an escalating role in critical care medicine, and: “Magnesium plays a pivotal role in cellular energy production and cell-specific functions in every organ of the body.”
Some symptoms of magnesium deficiency in dogs are:
- Muscle weakness or trembling
- Hyperactive or improperly triggered reflexes
- Difficulty walking
- Muscle pain
- Heart arrhythmia
- Lethargy or abnormal behaviour
- Constant scratching or itching
- Difficulty sleeping
- Excessive stress, trauma or injury
- Chemical and toxic exposures
- Kidney damage
- Treatment with diuretics
- Digestion problems and disease inhibiting absorption of nutrients
If you feel your dog is showing signs of magnesium deficiency, this should be checked out quickly to avoid serious problems. Take your dog to the vet and they’ll listen to your dog’s heart. If any abnormality is detected they’ll probably order an ECG.
An ECG is a medical device which displays the patterns of your dog’s heartbeat on a screen using terminals taped to your dog’s chest. This is a simple machine and most vets have one. The classic signs of low magnesium are prolonged PR intervals, widened QRS complexes, depressed ST segments and peaked T-waves.
Lower magnesium levels are also associated with hyperactivity, anxiety and agitation. You can tell if this applies to your dog if it’s hard for your dog to relax and calm down.
Other minerals are also affected by magnesium deficiency in dogs
Sure, there are other electrolyte minerals required by both humans and dogs. We need sodium, potassium and calcium as well, but these are all dependent to some degree on the action of the magnesium because magnesium underpins and leverages their effect.
The main electrolyte team in addition to magnesium – sodium, potassium and calcium – is necessary for some very important functions, including muscle movement, proper heart function and nervous system signalling.
For example, if you or your dog have plenty of magnesium, your body doesn’t need quite as much calcium to get the calcium jobs done because magnesium organises and controls calcium’s use in the body. It turns out magnesium is the ‘Master Mineral’ electrolyte regulator in the electrical system. If it drops too low, calcium can cause a lot of havoc as free calcium depositing where it shouldn’t, or over-stimulating muscle cells.
Therefore, as magnesium drops lower, it can lead to the other three minerals losing effect. Studies have shown potassium suffers when magnesium is too low, as we can lose too much potassium due to membrane ‘leakiness’ when magnesium is deficient. If you lose too much potassium from inside the cell it can cause heart attacks. The potential knock-on effects are muscle weakness and tremors, as well as heart arrhythmias. As these issues escalate, they can become fatal.
What does all of this mean for your dog?
People who own racing dogs have seen how much magnesium helps. They often apply magnesium oil to the legs of their dogs so they can recover better from their events. Without the extra magnesium the dogs develop intense and involuntary muscle tremors and spasms. This is also a helpful strategy for all athletes who undertake extreme sports and gruelling training.
If your dog is behaving strangely and seems to be in pain or having trouble walking, take your pet to a vet straight away so they can check exactly what’s happening. Sometimes it might be a toxin from a tick or snake bite which is causing these issues, because these types of toxins block the electrical system.
Magnesium deficiency is something which tends to grow over time. You’ll be able to notice symptoms creeping in slowly, and escalating if left untreated.
If you’re worried about your dog’s health because he/she is behaving strangely with symptoms like sensitivity to stress or noises, anxiety, muscle weakness and changes to gait, or skin issues with constant scratching not due to fleas, then your vet will likely order a blood electrolyte test.
This measures the amount of minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium and sodium in your pet’s blood, in addition to some other common electrolytes. So, once you’ve done this you’ll be able to see what your dog is low in.
Treatment of magnesium deficiency in dogs
If you’re feeding your dog with a variety of fresh food, but suspect magnesium deficiency (perhaps due to stress or exertion), then you can test this by applying magnesium as a magnesium spray, lotion or cream on the underbelly or legs – wherever you can get it past the fur to the skin.
Avoid application of the cream to broken skin as it may sting, but rather apply to surrounding area. Apply regularly every day until the inflammation subsides.
You can also add food grade magnesium chloride flakes to your dog’s drinking water every day. You can make these changes and then check to see if the symptoms they’ve been showing tend to ease.
Or you can use a transdermal magnesium cream and find a way to rub this on your dog’s skin. Dogs usually love a massage so just rub in one or two teaspoons of Magnesium Cream for Dogs (Pet Cream). If your dog has developed magnesium deficiency, it’s best to keep applying the cream regularly, as well as adding the Magnesium Chloride Flakes to their drinking water, to prevent the magnesium deficiency symptoms from coming back.