Rickets, which affects only young dogs, typically stems from a nutritional deficiency and rarely occurs naturally. Because of this, the treatment most veterinarians recommend consists primarily of alterations to the diet. The Merck Veterinary Manual describes rickets as a disease of the bony growth plate, adding that symptoms can include stiff gait, bowed legs and fractures. Merck notes that the prognosis is typically good, provided the dog has not suffered permanent damage.
Take your dog to the vet for a thorough examination. If you change your dog’s diet or take any other action before receiving an official diagnosis, you could endanger the animal’s health. Your vet might test for abnormally low levels of phosphorus, vitamin D and calcium, some of the most common causes of rickets. Your vet might also use radiographs to examine the large bones and joints.
Follow your vet's suggestions regarding vitamin D supplementation. Merck notes that rickets often occurs because of poorly balanced diets. To remedy this, your vet might direct you to add Vitamin D to your dog’s diet. Ask your vet what form of vitamin D supplementation she recommends -- always consult a veterinarian before giving your dog a vitamin D supplement. If you formulate the dose yourself, you risk giving too much, which can cause vitamin D toxicity. Also, don’t count on sunlight to provide your dog with the necessary amount of vitamin D. It used to be believed that exposure to the sun boosted the production of the vitamin, but Dr. Mauria O’Brien from the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital has found no difference in blood levels of vitamin D between indoor and outdoor animals. Veterinarian Ron Hines notes that dogs and cats cannot synthesize it and must obtain it from their diets.
Consult your vet about the proper diet for your dog. Instead of supplementing your pet’s diet, your veterinarian might suggest that you change it completely. This is especially true for dogs fed homemade diets. Merck warns that many of these diets have improper ratios of calcium to phosphorus. Merck recommends a high-quality commercial pet food or one created by a qualified veterinary nutritionist. Again, ask your vet what type of diet she believes will be most beneficial for your dog. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's College of Veterinary Medicine points out that most commercial pet food diets contain enough vitamin D to protect against bone abnormalities, providing protection against diseases like rickets. All-meat diets can also cause rickets, so your vet might suggest you switch your dog to something with more variety.