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Minerals are inorganic compounds that can’t be synthesized by the body and therefore need to be supplied in the diet. They are important for certain functions of the body such as the formation of bone and cartilage, maintenance of fluid and acid/base balance, transportation of oxygen in the blood, normal functioning of muscles and nerves, and production of hormones.
Minerals are divided into two categories: macro-minerals and micro-minerals.
The macro-minerals are present in the body in some larger amounts than the micro-minerals. The most common macro-minerals are: calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sulfur, potassium and sodium.
Calcium is essential for the formation of bones, teeth, healthy gums; it maintains a regular heartbeat, helps the muscular growth and the blood clotting; it maintains the proper cell membrane permeability, keeps the skin healthy. As you can see, calcium is very important for a dog’s health and so is phosphorus and magnesium and you might want to consult your veterinarian before deciding on the right ratio. The signs of deficiency include: lameness, increased incidence of fractures. Calcium is extremely important during growth but can be easily supplied by a high-quality dog food.
The body needs magnesium to properly absorb the calcium. However, an excessive amount of calcium causes decreased phosphorus absorption and an excessive amount of phosphorus causes decreased calcium absorption. . Basically, all three minerals need to be supplied in proper amounts.
Calcium can be found in raw bones (raw, not cooked), bone meal (be careful because it might contain heavy metals; you should screen before buying it), beans, salmon, nuts, cottage cheese, yogurt, sardines and leafy green vegetables.
It works together with calcium for the formation of bones and teeth; it helps the cell growth, the contraction of the heart muscle and the kidney function. It also helps the body utilize some of the B vitamins. A deficiency rarely occurs and it translates into a poor appetite. The main sources of phosphorus are: fish, meats, beans. It doesn’t require a particular supplementation as excessive amounts usually cause more problems than the deficiencies.
It is related to the previous two: calcium and phosphorus and helps with the formation of bone and teeth. It is also the macromineral who relaxes the muscles. The body needs magnesium for the absorption of calcium, potassium, vitamins C, E and B complex and for the production of energy. The signs of deficiency include: reduction in weight gain, irritability and convulsions in puppies, cardiovascular problems. The most common foods that contain magnesium are: whole grains, meat, beans, bananas and leafy green vegetables.
It is essential for the formation and maintenance of skin, coat and nails; has a role in healing and detoxification of the body. A deficiency of sulfur usually appears under signs like skin problems and coat discoloration. Deficiencies usually occur after an antibiotic treatment because sulfur is absorbed in the intestine so, in order to prevent this situation, you can add a probiotic supplement to your dog’s diet. The best form of sulfur supplement is methylsulfonyl methane (MSM). Sulfur can be found in meat, fish, dairy products and eggs.
Potassium and Sodium
These are two inseparable minerals because they usually work together for many functions such as muscle functions, transmission of nerve impulses, heart activity and the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. The signs of deficiency include: fatigue, poor growth and restlessness at first in puppies, paralysis of neck muscles and rear legs and general weakness later in life, dehydration, lesions on heart and kidneys. The best sources for potassium and sodium are: meat, fish, grains, yogurt, bananas, sweet potatoes, beans.
The micro-minerals, also called trace minerals are and need to be present in the body only in very small amounts. The most common micro-minerals are: iron, boron, chromium, cobalt, copper, fluoride, iodine, molybdenum, silicon, manganese, selenium and zinc.
Iron is very important for the production of hemoglobin and myoglobin and for the oxygenation of red blood cells. The signs of deficiency include anemia, fatigue, intestinal bleeding, nervousness and heart palpitations. The oversupplementation can cause heart disease, weight loss, the loss of appetite. The iron-rich foods are: red meats, liver, beans and poultry.
Has a role in maintaining the bones, together with calcium and magnesium. A deficiency of boron may result in loss of bone mass and increased risk of arthritis. The main sources for boron are brewer’s yeast, broccoli, turkey and shellfish.
Cobalt is important for the production of red blood cells and for the absorption of iron. Cobalt is found in vitamin B12 so there is no need for specific supplementation. Apart from vitamin B12, cobalt can be found in meat and shellfish.
It affects the bone growth, the conversion of iron into hemoglobin and the proper functioning of the immune system. The signs of deficiency include loss of hair and skin color, anemia and improper bone formation. Excessive amounts can cause liver damage. The main sources of copper are: whole wheat, beef liver, nuts, beans, seeds and shellfish.
A normal diet usually provides the necessary amount of fluoride so there’s no need for supplementation. Excessive amounts can lead to arthritis, liver and kidney damage and cancer. Tap water generally contains fluoride so a good idea would be to filter it if your dog drinks tap water on a daily basis.
This micro-mineral is important for the production of thyroid hormones which regulate the metabolism. Both the deficiency and the oversupplementation result in metabolism imbalance. Iodine can be found in fish, sea salt and seaweed.
Molybdenum has a role in the normal cell function and nitrogen metabolism and helps the body in processing carbohydrates. A deficiency can result in metabolic disorders and excessive amounts can lead to diarrhea, anemia and slow growth. Molybdenum can be found in liver, whole grains and brewer’s yeast.
Silicon is essential the immune system; it helps the skin in healing the wounds; it keeps the bones, tendons and artery walls healthy. The signs of deficiency include: teeth, bone and joint problems. One common symptom of silicon deficiency appears when your dog eats grass. Silicon can be found in whole grains, alfalfa, leafy green vegetables.
Has a role in reproduction, bone and cartilage growth, the production of fatty acids and the absorption of vitamin C, B1, B8 and E. Deficiency of manganese has signs like poor bone growth, decreased reproduction performance and problems with blood glucose levels. Manganese can be found in whole grains, nuts, peas, eggs, leafy green vegetables.
Zinc is important for the immune system, plays a role in enzyme reactions, cell replication, protein and carbohydrate metabolism, skin function and wound healing. The signs of deficiency include: skin problems, dry coat, shedding, poor reproductive performance, weakened immune system and growth retardation. Zinc can be found in lamb, pork, liver, eggs, beans and brewer’s yeast.
All the presented minerals can usually be found in commercial foods so there is generally no need for extra amounts. The best minerals (meaning the ones that are highly digestible) are called chelated, amino acid chelate, amino acid complex, proteinate, polysaccharide complex or sequestered. Avoid terms like oxide, sulfate or phosphate.
Supplementation with minerals is very difficult and it’s better to consult your vet before taking a decision. Excessive amounts of minerals might have unfortunate consequences on the health of your dog so don’t neglect asking your veterinarian before starting supplementation.
Dog Training Tip #1