As DVM, author, and canine expert W. Jean Dodds says, “The functional effect of food is only good by combining ingredients”. Vitamins and minerals are significant components of dog nutrition helping them fight diseases, maintain good health, and increase the body’s energy level. In this article, we’ll discuss the importance and requirement of vitamins and minerals in dog food.
To provide a healthy diet, you want to ensure your dog is given the proper amount of minerals and vitamins in their food. If your dog’s diet is deficient in vitamins and minerals, you’ll want to add them. Vitamins are easy to include in your dog’s diet through nutrient rich foods or veterinarian formulated supplements.
Below we’ll take a closer look at all the vitamins and nutrients your dog should be getting in order to maintain a healthy diet.
Dog Nutrient Profile
The nutritional needs of a dog vary depending on the different stages of life. Veterinary nutritionists recommend feeding your dog according to its life stages. Your adult dog, puppy, pregnant female, and senior dog all have different vitamin and mineral requirements depending on their life stage. All-purpose dog food will not meet your pregnant female dog’s nutritional requirements, nursing mother, or growing puppy.
For example, when feeding your puppy nutrient-dense puppy food, you need to consider that if your puppy’s baby teeth are erupting through the skin. If so, then it would be better to mix wet and dry food. And only after your puppy has all their baby teeth should you switch them to dry food.
Adding supplements to your dog’s food can help balance their diet, but depending on your dog’s health, they are usually optional. “Some people use vitamin and mineral supplements not because they are necessary, but because they want to add them to their food,” says Dr. C.A. Tony Buffington, DVM, PhD, and Professor of Veterinary Medicine. Information on the vitamins and minerals already present in your dog’s food can be found on the product label.
The dog nutrient profile is divided into two types:
- Nutrients for growth and reproduction
- Nutrients for maintenance
Growth and reproduction
According to the American Association of Food Control Officials, lactating dogs, pregnant females, and puppies have different vitamins and minerals requirements, and should have a diet higher in nutrients than adult dogs. Dogs more than one year of age are considered adults.
Basic vitamin and minerals requirements for dogs
Essential vitamins and minerals are present in all types of dog nutrition and food, and they help the performance of basic functions of the body. There is a minimum and maximum requirement of each mineral and vitamin. If ingested in excessive amounts, some of the nutrients can cause toxicity. However, if nutrients are administered in less quantity, certain deficiencies can occur such as hair loss, weight loss, and digestive issues.
Vitamins are organic substances that the body needs to grow naturally. Typically, they are required in dog food in minimal amounts, and vitamin deficiencies can cause many health problems.
The most important vitamins that the dog’s body needs are:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B family
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin. It is commonly found in carrots and is responsible for maintaining healthy eyesight, fetal development, immune function, and body cell growth.
The minimum requirement of Vitamin A necessary in dog food for adult maintenance is 5000 IU / kg and for growth and reproduction is also 5000 IU / kg.
Vitamin B1 has a whole family of vitamins, and they play a significant role in maintaining your dog’s health.
Thiamine, also known as Vitamin B1, is responsible for energy and carbohydrate metabolism, and activates ion channels in neural tissues. Naturally, Vitamin B is present in beans, yeast, cereals, and nuts. The minimum requirement of Vitamin B1 for an adult’s maintenance is 2.5 mg/kg, and for growth and reproduction is 2.5 mg/kg.
Riboflavin is also known as Vitamin B12. It is combined with niacin and helps facilitate enzyme function. The Vitamin B requirement for reproduction, growth and maintenance of adults is 5.2 mg/kg.
Pyridoxine, also known as Vitamin B6, is a water-soluble vitamin. It plays a vital role in red blood cell function, glucose generation, nervous system function, hormonal regulation, immune response, and niacin synthesis and genetic activation. The minimum requirement of Vitamin B6 for reproduction, growth, and adults’ maintenance is 1.5 mg/kg.
Pantothenic acid, or Vitamin B5, is a water-soluble vitamin. It helps in the formation of coenzyme A and energy metabolism. The Vitamin B5 requirement for reproduction, growth and maintenance of adults is 12 mg/kg.
Folic acid, also known as Vitamin B9, is a primary function in the metabolism of amino acids and nucleotides, and the synthesis of mitochondrial proteins. The Vitamin B9 minimum requirement for reproduction, growth and adult maintenance is 0.216 mg/kg.
Vitamin C can be produced through normal glucose metabolism, and dogs can make it themselves, but their amounts do not meet the demand for optimal health. As an antioxidant, Vitamin C helps reduce inflammation and cognitive aging.
Also known as the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D helps dogs maintain phosphorus and calcium balance for healthy bone and muscle growth. The minimum requirement of Vitamin D for the development, reproduction, and adult maintenance is 5000 IU / kg.
Vitamin E supports the growth of puppies and is a fat-soluble vitamin. It benefits cell function, metabolism, and defense against oxidative damage. Deficiency will lead to muscle degeneration and reproductive problems. The requirement of Vitamin E in food for reproduction, growth, and adult maintenance is 50 IU / kg.
This is a fat-soluble vitamin and helps prevent bleeding problems and improves blood clotting. If a dog ingests any poisonous substance, its ability to use Vitamin K decreases and, if not treated in time, causes excessive bleeding and death.
Choline is a key nutrient for dogs and aids in important liver and brain function. It’s also used in the treatment of epilepsy in dogs. Its minimum requirement for adult maintenance, growth, and reproduction is 1360 mg/kg.
Minerals are divided into macrominerals and micro minerals of two groups. Macro minerals are required in large quantities, and micro minerals are required in trace quantities.
The macro minerals needed for dogs are phosphorus, calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium, chloride, and sulfur.
The micro minerals required by the body are copper, zinc, iodine, chromium, manganese, selenium, and fluorine.
Calcium and Phosphorus
Calcium and phosphorus are two minerals in dog food that go hand in hand. They are the building blocks of bones and teeth. Calcium also acts as a messenger in the dog’s body and performs the following functions.
- Nerve impulse transmission
- Muscle contractions
- Constriction and dilation of blood vessels
- Blood coagulation
- Secretion of hormones
- A co-factor for enzymes
Calcium in the diet helps keep the calcium level in the blood constant, and the heart rate stable. Additional calcium is also released from the bones if calcium level in the body falls below the recommended level to keep vital organs functioning.
The minimum requirement for calcium and phosphorus for growth and reproduction is 1.2% and 1.0%, and for adult maintenance, it is 0.5% and 0.4%.
Sodium, Potassium and Chloride
Potassium, Sodium, and Chloride are the three main electrolytes present in the dog’s body. Electrolytes are minerals and are present in the body as electrically charged ions and particles. Thus, these electrolytes play a crucial role in maintaining your dog’s fluid balance.
Function of electrolytes
- Transmitting nerve impulses
- Maintaining osmotic balance
- Transmitting muscle contractions
- Maintaining acid-base balance
Magnesium is mineral in dog food that performs a variety of functions. It is the main component of enzymes, bones, and intracellular fluids. Additionally, Magnesium has a large effect on neuromuscular transmission.
The requirement of magnesium in dog nutrition for reproduction, growth, and adult maintenance is 0.06g.
Iron is one of the most necessary minerals for the dog’s body. It plays many roles, but its most crucial function is transporting oxygen throughout the body. Oxygen transport is mainly carried out by myoglobin and hemoglobin, and iron is an essential part of these pigments.
Iron also helps strengthen the immune system. Natural sources of iron include red meat, fish, eggs, and legumes.
For dog nutrition, the minimum amount of iron for an average adult’s maintenance is 40 mg/kg and for reproduction, and growth is 88 mg/kg.
Zinc assists in activating hormones, enzymes, and various other bodily functions. Recent research has shown that more than 200 enzymes require zinc for activation and production.
Zinc also aids growth, wound healing, reproduction, strengthening the immune system, skincare, protein digestion, and thyroid function regulation. If the dog nutrition and food is zinc deficient, your dog will lack elemental immunity against infections.
Zinc is naturally found in eggs, pork, lamb, liver, and brewer’s yeast. The minimum zinc requirement for growth and reproduction is 100 mg/kg, and for the adult, maintenance is 80 mg/kg.
In the dog’s biological processes, copper helps provide the synthesis of neurotransmitters, bones and connective tissues, and the formation of collagen. Additionally, it provides antioxidant defense, pigmentation of the skin and hair, maturation and development of red blood cells.
The minimum amount of copper necessary for growth and reproduction in dog food is 12.4 mg/kg. For an adult, maintenance is 7.3 mg/kg.
Selenium is a trace mineral and has many health benefits. It’s available in two forms: sodium selenite and selenium yeast. In commercial dog food, selenium yeast is generally used.
The primary function that selenium performs is the metabolism of thyroid hormones and antioxidant protection. In dog nutrition, the minimum requirement of selenium for reproduction, growth, and adult maintenance is 0.3 mg/kg.
Wrapping Things Up
Dog nutrition may vary depending on the specific dog and breed. Before adding supplements to your dog’s food, check the nutrients they are already getting from their dog food. Then, assess which vitamins would best support their age and health conditions. Making sure your dog gets the right balance of vitamins and minerals in their diet will help them live a long, happy, and healthy life.
Alina Andreeva is a professional writer in pet care topics and Content Editor for ThePets. She has 3+ years of experience in writing content. Alina is a pet-lover. She has one dog and two cats. Alina specializes in writing about pet nutrition, and health. Her knowledge aims to make pet owner’s life with pets more comfortable.