If you’re reading this, your dog is a family member. And like any other family member, his nutritional needs are important. Trace minerals are an essential part of that nutrition and play a vital role in every single cellular process. Are they getting enough?
Trace minerals are also necessary to perform regulatory and structural functions. Every moment of every day your dog relies on ionic minerals and trace minerals to generate billions of tiny electrical impulses. Without these impulses, not a single muscle could function.
So, what exactly are these trace minerals?
It’s Science Time!
Trace minerals are essential minerals found in many animal and plant foods. They’re called “trace” minerals because a body needs them in very small amounts. These trace minerals are simply elements … the same elements you learned about in your high school chemistry class. They make up this entire planet and everything on it, including you and your dog.
What Do Trace Minerals Do?
Trace minerals work hand in hand with macrominerals like calcium and phosphorus. Without the proper balance of trace minerals, macrominerals can’t do what they need to.
Here are just a few of the benefits of trace minerals:
- Iron: vital for bodily function and helps provide oxygen to organs and muscles
- Selenium: an antioxidant that helps prevent oxidative damage that can cause premature aging, cancer and inflammatory diseases
- Zinc: boosts the immune system and the quality of your dog’s skin and fur
- Copper: helps absorb iron, which participates in the synthesis of melanin and helps to stop anemia
- Manganese: needed for bone growth and thyroid hormone production. It ensures the quality of bone and cartilage, while playing a significant role in the mitochondria function
Trace Mineral Deficiencies in Dogs
If minerals are lacking, what can that do to your dog? Here are just a few examples:
- Copper deficiency
- Bone and joint disease
- Poor coat color
- Ligament and tendon issues
- Manganese deficiency
- Reproductive issues
- Skin and hair abnormalities
- Bond and joint development issues
- Selenium deficiency
- Low immunity
- Muscle cramping
- Low stress tolerance
- Iron deficiency
- Poor growth
- Zinc deficiency
- Fertility issues
- Bone and joint problems
- Decreased healing of wounds
Trace minerals are critical to your dog’s health, but where do they come from?
What Are the Best Sources of Trace Minerals?
The short answer: food, and dog owners that have the knowledge and time to feed a balanced raw diet can create and feed a very complete nutritional plan.
The full answer may be a little more complex … but I’ll get to that in a minute.
Adding a variety of these foods to your dog’s diet is the best way to get those trace minerals into his system:
- Nutrient rich proteins. Chicken, turkey and spinach are high in zinc. Halibut, sardines and beef are great sources of selenium. Broccoli and kale are rich in iron. Flax seeds, kale and spinach are great sources of copper. You can find manganese in rabbit, egg and pumpkin seeds.
- Greens like spirulina, chlorella, alfalfa and kelp also provide concentrated sources of a range of minerals.
- Organs are literally the multi-vitamins for carnivores – this is where you’ll find most of the vitamins, minerals and trace minerals. Add 10% to 15% organ meats into the diet. Try not to use just one organ though. Find the as many of the organs as possible and get them into the diet – liver, lungs, brain, skin, eyes …
- Herbs can also boost the trace minerals in your dog’s diet. Alfalfa, burdock root, catnip and chamomile are good for Manganese, Selenium and Zinc. Sheep sorrel is good for copper and use parsley or fennel seed for iron.
[Related: There’s more on where to find the important nutrients your dog needs in his diet. Find it here]
How’s Your Dog’s Diet?
While natural food sources are the best source for minerals, many dog owners today still feed kibble. If you’re feeding kibble, there are a number of immediate concerns when it comes to quality of ingredients. But every raw diet feeder knows there are also challenges when it comes to providing the proper balance of trace minerals.
Let’s elaborate, shall we….
There are hundreds of different dog food options out there. Most pet foods claim they’re full of vitamins and minerals, but look at the source of the minerals in these factory foods. Most nutrients don’t survive the cooking process, so the makers need to add these minerals to the foods after.
That means they’re not real. They’re synthetic.
In order for minerals to survive processing and to stay price-competitive, most pet food companies add things like magnesium oxide, which is hard for your dog’s body to use. Imagine eating a penny and expecting your body to absorb copper!
These mass-produced foods may also contain chelated minerals with a variety of bonding agents in the form of carbonates, citrates, sulfates and phosphates. Later I’ll explain why this is an issue.[Related: Can you recognize those synthetic vitamins and minerals on the label? You’ll be able to after reading this]
Feeding a Raw Food Diet
So you’re feeding a raw food diet to your pet, and you’re great at it. You’ve done all the research and you’ve got a balanced diet plan. When it comes to trace minerals though, we still have 2 problems:
Soil Depletion – without a doubt, soil from decades ago was more nutrient-rich than the soil today. So, today’s food sources are lacking nutrients. A study from 2004 says modern American agricultural practices is one of the reasons today’s soil has been drained of nutrients. The study found that, in 12 fresh vegetables:
- Average calcium levels dropped 27%
- Iron levels dropped 37%
- Vitamin A levels dropped 21%
- Vitamin C levels dropped 30%
Daily Mineral Requirements – If you feed your dog the exact same thing every day, he may be lacking in certain trace minerals. Heat stress, travel, rigorous exercise, cold stress and other factors can lead to higher requirements of electrolytes and trace minerals. You want to make sure the minerals your dog needs are available when he needs them. So be sure to rotate a variety of the mineral-rich foods listed above into your dog’s raw diet or feed a natural supplement that will.
For different reasons, kibble and raw food diets can each leave your dog deficient in certain trace minerals.
Clearly it’s a smart idea to make sure your dog’s getting everything he needs to be healthy, and that includes trace minerals. While fresh, whole foods are always the best way to give your dog minerals, if you prefer to give a mineral supplement there are some important differences you need to know about before deciding what kind of mineral supplement to buy.
Types of Mineral Supplements
You can add different types of minerals to your dog’s food or the treats you buy …
… But not all minerals are equal! Some are literally like tossing your money down the drain.
- Chelated minerals, chelate and chelation are popular buzzwords in the supplement industry. The term sounds awfully scientific, but it isn’t that complex. The truth is chelated minerals are essentially minerals that makers bind to a living component or amino acid. Manufacturers design them in laboratories to trick an organism into accepting the amino acid along with the attached mineral. While it’s possible that some chelates are more easily absorbed, in most instances chelates and non-chelated minerals have the same rate of absorption.
- Colloidal minerals are mineral particles suspended in a solution. Some say that colloidal minerals are so small they require very little effort to be absorbed, but there’s currently no research to prove that. Colloidal minerals have a relatively large particle size, are suspended (not dissolved) in liquid and lack an electrical charge necessary to be easily absorbed.
- Ionic minerals differ from both chelated and colloidal minerals. Ionic minerals are not designed in a lab and don’t need to be chelated to be effective. These minerals carry an electrical charge, and in this form the body can immediately absorb them without intermediate processing. Ionic minerals are dissolved in a liquid, rather than just suspended in liquid. This makes it easier for the body to absorb ionized minerals. Research shows that a body is able to selectively absorb and use ionized minerals. This means pets given these types of minerals are able to use the minerals they need, when they need them.
As far as supplements go, there are various ways to provide these required nutrients to your dog. Some manufacturers will tie together a few minerals, vitamins and sometimes mix in whatever they have created in a laboratory. The easiest way to find the best trace mineral supplement is to search for “trace minerals for pets” on Amazon.
Your dog relies on trace minerals every moment of every day. They’re building blocks to a long and happy life. Make sure he’s getting enough.