A mineral is an inorganic (non-living) chemical substance that occurs naturally in the earth. There are many different types of minerals, including calcium, magnesium, zinc, manganese, and boron. All mammals, including dogs, require minerals in order for their bodies to function properly.Minerals for Dogs: How Dogs Get Their Minerals
Minerals are not produced inside your dog’s body; rather, they are obtained through diet and/or supplementation. While not getting enough of certain minerals (mineral deficiencies) can cause negative effects and disorders in dogs, excessive levels of minerals have also been shown to result in host of health problems. Therefore, it’s important to strike a balance, where your dog is getting adequate amounts of the right minerals but not being overloaded with unnecessary nutrients.How Minerals Support Your Dog's Health
Most people associate minerals with strong bones and teeth. It is absolutely true that the canine skeletal system is able to offer structure, movement and protection in large part due to minerals. In fact, the average dog has over 300 bones in his or her body (from the auditory ossicles in the ear - which allow the dog to hear - to the elbows and knees - which allow the dog to bend their limbs). Every single one of these bones contains minerals.
But it’s important to understand that minerals are actually multi-functional in nature and do much more than just maintain and support healthy bones and joints in dogs. For example, calcium plays an important role in bone density, but also supports healthy heart function and proper muscle contraction. Similarly, zinc is an important co-factor in stimulating bone formation activity, but also has important applications in promoting healthy immune responses. Boron plays a major role in calcium metabolism and integration, but also has very important implications for joint health.Mineral Requirements in Dogs
There is not universally right amount or quantity of minerals that your dog should be receiving, which is why a commercial dog food may be only part of the equation in ensuring that your dog has proper mineral balance. The amounts and ratios of nutrients that your dog needs can vary depending on several factors:
DIET – Since nutrients and minerals are obtained through diet, this can also be the most important factor in determining whether your dog has the right balance. Finding a breed appropriate and high quality food regimen (whether it is commercial, homemade, or augmented via supplementation) can be the key to ensuring proper mineral balance.
SIZE – Larger dogs require more minerals than smaller dogs, which is why dosing is so important when it comes to food and supplementation.
AGE - Puppies need more minerals to support their growing development while senior dogs usually need more minerals to support the needs of their aging body.
BREEDS- Certain breeds are genetically predisposed to absorption problems. For example, northern breeds, such as Siberian huskies, have trouble absorbing zinc.
ACTIVITY LEVEL - The bone is a dynamic structure that is constantly remodeling, the more it is used, the faster the rate of turnover. Active dogs usually need more minerals than sedentary dogs.
TRAUMA OR EXTERNAL STRESSES – After an orthopedic procedure or fracture, the nutrient demand is usually localized to the site of the injury. The dog’s immune system is usually affected by antibiotics and open wounds, as well. Therefore, increasing mineral intake during this time is especially helpful.How Minerals, Vitamins, and Nutrients Function with Each Other
While minerals are crucial and necessary for good health, it is important to remember that they are still inorganic substances that need to be through the intestinal tract and integrated into the body. Some minerals are more easily absorbed, while others only become bio-available when combined with other nutrients (called co-factors).For example, calcium requires Vitamin D3 in order to be properly absorbed into the system. Similarly, lactoferrin (an important molecule that is naturally produced within the body of all mammals, including dogs), is a metal binding protein is a key transporter for many minerals, including iron and zinc.The Role of Bone in Supporting Mineral Balance
The bone provides for the storage and release of minerals in the body. The best analogy is to think as a bank, where minerals are the official currency. If the bone is functioning properly, it will release minerals as needed to support various functions in the body (from nerve impulses to digestion to even regulating sleep patterns). If, for any reason (including aging), the bone “bank” becomes deficient in minerals, the demand or “cost” to support the body’s functions remains the same. In some instances, the demands even increase. As a result, the bank may not be able to meet the demand and, as a result, the body can go into mineral “bankruptcy” and the bones can become structurally weak. Check out our canine skeletal system for more information on the functions of your dog's bones.How to Ensure Proper Mineral Balance in Your Dog
Ensuring that your dog has a proper balance is an important preventative step to help avoid negative scenarios caused by deficiencies or excessive levels of minerals. The best and most ideal way to achieve this balance is by keeping your dog active and healthy, with a well-rounded diet that is breed and age appropriate. This balance can be achieved through a high quality food, exercise and supplementation regimen based on your veterinarian’s recommendations.Chelated Minerals in Dog Food
When reading the ingredient listing on various dog foods, you may see that some minerals are "chelated." It refers to the process of stabilizing a metal ion by binding it to certain other chemical substances, usually amino acids or organic compounds. The chelated minerals are more readily absorbed than a non-chelated form.Calcium for Dogs (Ca2+)
Calcium is essential in the body for many functions including bone formation, blood coagulation, muscle contraction, and nerve impulse transmission. Dogs with inadequate supplementation with calcium may develop skeletal abnormalities often referred to as rickets; a condition where bone becomes soft or very thin and brittle. Feeding adequate calcium without the correct amount of vitamin D and magnesium could compromise the uptake and utilization of the calcium, thus the calcium:magnesium ratio is very important. Check out our blog to learn all about Calcium and How it Supports Your Dog's Health.Magnesium for Dogs (Mg2+)
Magnesium has a number of vital functions in canine (dog) physiology. It is necessary for the absorption and proper use of certain vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, vitamin E, calcium, phosphorus, sodium and potassium. Virtually every biological process requires magnesium, as it is an essential cofactor for about 300 enzymes. Magnesium is critical for energy metabolism/production, synthesis of nucleic acids/proteins, cyto-skeletal function in dogs. Magnesium has a possible role in chondrocyte-mediated cartilage biosynthesis. Cartilage is a highly specialized avascular connective tissue in the bone joints. Magnesium depletion adversely affects all phases of skeletal metabolism, which leads to impaired bone growth, osteopenia and skeletal fragility due to uncoupling of bone formation and bone resorption.Zinc for Dogs (Zn2+)
Zinc is one of the essential minerals supplemented in recent commercial diets for dogs. There are several factors, including genetics, that influence the absorption of zinc. Several of the northern breeds, including Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes, may have a genetic inability to adequately absorb zinc. Many dogs of these breeds must be fed a diet that is higher in zinc to prevent zinc deficiency associated skin problems. If your dog suffers from a skin disorder such as hair loss and excessive shedding, particularly if it is a northern breed, a puppy, or under a lot of stress, a supplement containing extra zinc may be very beneficial, especially if combined with lactoferrin, a zinc-transporting supplement.Manganese for Dogs (Mn2+)
Manganese occurs in the body principally in the liver, but it is also present in appreciable amounts in the bone. Manganese is essential for protein and carbohydrate metabolism, reproduction, and the action of many enzymes in the body responsible for the production of energy, especially in combination with coenzyme Q10. Manganese is a precursor for chondroitin biosynthesis, an essential component of articular cartilage. Manganese deficiency leads to cartilage metabolic disorder. Manganese supplementation could be a promising approach to improve in-growth and integration of bone implants in dogs.Selenium for Dogs (Se2+)
Selenium is an essential trace mineral for canine bone health. Free radicals generated during metabolism cause cumulative cell damage, senescence, and development of arthritis. Selenium, as an antioxidant, may help in relieving symptoms of arthritis by controlling the levels of free radicals. Selenium acts as a synergist with vitamins E and C, with more efficacy than combinations of single vitamins to prevent bone damage.Further Reading:
Check out our blog post on The 8 Reasons Why Your Dog's Bone and Joints Matter
This content is written by our Clinical Advisory Board for informational purposes only. It should not be viewed as an endorsement for any product or as a substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.