On this next part of the Basic Nutrition series, we will talk about micronutrients and how important they are for your pet.
We call them micro because they are added in very small amounts in your pet’s food compared to nutrients like fat and carbohydrates. But, do not think they are not important, as lack of any of them will cause deficiencies and in some situations it might even cause death.
We divide the micronutrients into two groups: vitamins and minerals. Let’s have a closer look at these and what they are.
Read our first article of the series: Basic nutrition of our best friend, the dog: water and energy sources
Vitamins are different organic compounds that help regulate many complex body processes. Most of them are “essential”, meaning the pet cannot synthesize them by themselves, and they must be provided in their everyday diet.
Some are water soluble, like vitamin B's and C. Being water soluble, they will be carried around in the body by water-soluble compounds, and if not needed, they can easily be discharged by the kidneys through the urine. Since water soluble vitamins can be easily excreted from the body, this means it is very difficult to be poisoned by one of them. But this can also lead to a lack of vitamins if the diet doesn't support a sufficient daily re-fill.
Other vitamins are fat soluble, like vitamin A, D, E and K. Being fat soluble, they must be transported by fat-soluble compounds in the body, and they are easily stored in the liver. This means that they can be available on a regular basis to the body and a daily re-fill is less critical. But since they are stored in the body the risk of toxicity is higher. The amount given through the dog’s diet must therefore be controlled to avoid poisoning.
But what are the vitamins really doing in a dog’s body? Here is a simplified short-list:
Minerals are inorganic components important for a healthy pet. Normally, you would see most of the minerals declared as “ash” on the pet food label. They are divided into two groups: the macro-minerals, which are required in relatively large amounts for a micronutrient, and the micro-minerals, which are required in relatively small amounts.
Read another article of the series: Basic nutrition of our best friend, the dog: let's talk about digestion
The macro minerals are calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, sodium and chloride. Whenever presented in the form of salts dissolved in fluid, they can be referred to as “electrolytes”.
The micro minerals are iron, copper, zinc, iodine, selenium, manganese, cobalt, chromium, fluoride, molybdenum, silicon, vanadium and arsenic. They may often be called “trace elements”. For this article, we will focus on the macro minerals, since these are the ones often referred to when discussing pet food.
Let’s now have a look at how the macro minerals support the dog:
We hope now you have a better overview over vitamins and minerals in your dog’s diet, and what they do for your dog’s health. And, if you are serving your best friend a high-quality food, this is something you usually do not have to worry about.
Pet food producers should good control over the vitamin and mineral supply, and they stay well within the deficiency and safety margins. Problems with lack/excess of micronutrients are more likely to occur if your dog is eating much less of the complete and balanced food than he or she should over time, causing a malnutrition, or if supplements containing minerals and/or fat-soluble vitamins are given in large amounts on the side.
So, make sure your dog eats well, and be careful with supplementing these nutrients in addition to the quality pet food, unless you have a very specific reason to do so.
Stay tuned for our next article which focuses on hydration of the active dog.