Optimal Calcium/Phosphorus Ratio

Tips, experience & advice related to the healthy and not-so-healthy flying squirrel
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Optimal Calcium/Phosphorus Ratio

Postby Joan » Thu Mar 22, 2007 10:30 pm

Q: If a supplement is given, wouldn't a 2:1 ratio be preferred to a 2:0? Some folks I know are saying that flying squirrels should be supplemented with calcium without phosphorus because "too much phosphorus will cause a nasty attitude and adds hyperactivity" and thus they recommend Rep-Cal Phosphorus-Free Calcium with Vitamin D3.

A: Curt Howard was speaking of MBD when he stated in his 1996 pamphlet that "Too much phosphorus can cause hyperactivity and/or a nasty attitude." Some individuals have expanded this to mean any phosphorus in combination with calcium. They are incorrect and this has become a "flyer urban myth" with no scientific backing.

A: Katie Mullins, DVM says, "I have always heard that the optimal calcium/phosphorus ratio for squirrels is 2:1. It's my understanding that calcium and phosphorus work together and that phosphorus is needed to balance and metabolize other vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D, calcium, iodine, magnesium, and zinc and that the delicate balance between calcium and phosphorous is necessary to prevent MBD."

A: Dennis Quinter states that "a high phosphorous diet may interfere with calcium absorption." Nonda Surratt of Cedar Hill Wildlife Care, relates that research has shown that a calcium/phosphorus optimal ratio is 2:1. It is known that this is not on a daily basis but balanced over time. In other words over the course of weeks depending on the foods eaten the over all Ca/p should come in at 2:1 or 1:1. Why not Calcium with phosphorus? Phosphorus is an important part of the diet but must be in a ratio with calcium of about 2:1 Calcium to Phosphorous. Read this:

"Next to calcium, phosphorus is the most abundant mineral in the body. These two important nutrients work closely together to build strong bones and teeth. Approximately 85% of phosphorus in the body can be found in bones and teeth and roughly 10% circulates in the bloodstream. The remaining phosphorous can be found in cells and tissues throughout the body. Phosphorous helps filter out waste in the kidneys and contributes to energy production in the body by participating in the breakdown of carbohydrates, protein, and fats. It also helps reduce muscle pain after a hard workout. Phosphorus is needed for the growth, maintenance, and repair of all tissues and cells, and for the production of the genetic building blocks, DNA and RNA. Phosphorus is also needed to balance and metabolize other vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D, calcium, iodine, magnesium, and zinc. Symptoms of phosphate deficiency include loss of appetite, anxiety, bone pain, bone fragility, stiffness in the joints, fatigue, irregular breathing, irritability, numbness, weakness, and weight change. The delicate balance between calcium and phosphorous is necessary for proper bone density and prevention of osteoporosis."

Somehow, somewhere, someone came up with the claim that phosphorous made flyers get mean. It isn't true like a lot of things said. I think that is why people got the idea it was bad for flyers. It is actually needed in a calcium to phosphorous ratio of 2:1. A good diet gets them enough naturally. It doesn't need to be supplemented. All supplementing needs to be done on the light side. Flyers get calcium and Vitamin D2 from plant matter like brocolli. Vitamin D is fat soluable and is stored in the body. Excess Vitamin D causes decalcification which is basically the same problem as with not enough. The thought that more is better isn't true in this case. I'm reminding everyone that reads this to go easy on the supplements.
If you want a good basic food for flyers that has everything in the correct ratios, get Purina Monkey Chow. It can be fed dry, soaked in water or soaked in juice. I would never feed them only that because it sure would get old after a while. Good ol' natural foods are still best.

More on the C/p ratio:

Actually, I've never seen anything that says NOT to combine phosphorus with the calcium ... except in posts by the notorious Glidinon. He lifted that info directly from Curt Howard's pamphlet written in 1990 and reprinted and revised by Brisky Pet Products in 2000.

Curt did not have the benefit of the research that has gone on since his death. He states that "there has never been a known case of rabies in flying squirrels." We know that is not true, but I doubt he did any intensive search into it .. or the C/p ratio as his pamphlet was given only to buyers of his flyer pups.

Curt states on page 14 in the chapter on calcium deficiency that "The best calcium supplement I have found is one called 'ReptoCal". (We know that many more are now available.) "It is phosphorus fee and this is important. Too much phosphorus can cause hyperactivity and/or a nasty attitude." Glidinon often says this without crediting Curt pamphlet. How one tells that a flyer is "hyperactive" is beyond me.

We know that phosphorus and calcium work together, but we have no idea how much of either is too much in flyers. Nona's work is the best we have right now as far as I can tell.

I'd also be interested in where info about not including phosphorus came from and the research data that backs this up as I've heard this before, but it seems to be word of mouth and I've never been able to find anything to support it regarding squirrels. Vets I have check with confirm the C/p ratio.

More extensive information can be found in the Metabolic Bone Disease section:
"A lot of people spend time talking to the Animals, but not that many people listen. That's the real problem! ... Winnie the Pooh

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Re: Optimal Calcium/Phosphorus Ratio

Postby lynn » Thu Jun 05, 2008 12:17 pm

Thanks for this information, Joan. It fits with the nutritional guidelines we use in rehab, although most of our babies grow up and scoot outside, so we aren't as concerned with long-term nutrition as with our resident flyers. My daughter learned a lot about the ratios in her Wildlife Nutrition class at University. Too much phosphorus/magnesium can be just as bad as too little for the absorption of the calcium. If anyone wants more information than what you've alreay supplied, I can try to get it from her Nutrition professor.
Lynn's spastic nuts: Bunpei, Boeing, Calypso, Dixie, and Piper.

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