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Understanding the mineral requirements of your raw fed dog

How many people do you know that exist entirely on prepackaged food?

Unless you’re living on the space station, we’re all encouraged to eat a variety of home prepared foods.

So why should feeding our dogs be any different?

Raw feeding is the home prepped, biologically appropriate dietary approach which emphasizes raw meat, organs, bones, fruits, and vegetables.

However, the naysayers of the raw feeding movement disapprove of these diets because they can be deficient in several key minerals (as the whole supply chain can’t be controlled or measured).

Understanding minerals in raw fed dogs

The essential minerals required to keep your dog in optimum health can loosely be classified into macrominerals and trace minerals.

Trace minerals are called trace because they are required in tiny amounts (milligrams or less). However, the small requirements for these minerals does not reflect their importance.

Macrominerals are required in larger amounts than the trace minerals and are found in greater amounts in a dog’s body.

Iron:

Iron plays a critical and indispensable role in carrying oxygen, bound to hemoglobin in red blood cells, and myoglobin in muscle tissue.

A natural diet with liberal use of organ meats is highly bioavailable and should not require any supplementation.

Copper:

Although not well studied, the total body copper content is quite low in dogs. 

Copper is essential for: 

• skin and coat pigmentation

• antioxidant functions

• incorporation of iron into hemoglobin

• formation and maintenance of connective tissues, including tendons and ligaments

Some terrier breeds (Bedlington, Skye, West Highland White) may carry a genetic mutation. This mutation makes them prone to accumulate copper in the liver and eventually develop liver disease. This has led to a widespread misconception that copper is dangerous for dogs in general. It is only some individuals of some breeds that need a low copper diet.

Copper is commonly added to commercial diets because grains and vegetables are low. Organ meats are a good source of copper. 

Zinc

There are several different factors that effect the absorption of zinc in your dog’s diet. Some young puppies and pregnant dogs, as well as performance dogs, or animals with skin problems, may require more supplemental zinc than is being fed in the diet.

Zinc is required for

  • DNA protection,
  • cell multiplication,
  • dark hair pigmentation,
  • spermatogenesis,
  • skin health,
  • immune function plus
  • protein and carbohydrate metabolism.

 

Zinc deficiency in young animals causes stunted growth and anemia. Alarmingly, arrest of testicular development occurs even before stunting.

The most classical lesion of zinc deficiency is a dermatosis

Pictured here: a dog displaying typical zinc responsive dermatosis.

This is where dogs develop crusting and thickening where skin meets the mucus membranes of the mouth, nose and eyes. Dermatosis may also cause thinning of the coat. 

Kelp is a great source of Zinc ( 100gr = 1.23 mgs of Zinc), in addition to a wide range of other vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. By adding half a teaspoon of this green food to your dog’s diet 2 or 3 times a week you can help naturally support your dog’s thyroid and keep their zinc levels topped up.

Manganese

Manganese is essential for:

  • Bone and joint formation
  • Pancreatic function

However, the total amount required for your dog is extremely small (less than 0.5 mg/kg).

No naturally occurring manganese deficiency has ever been documented in a dog or cat on any type of diet although there is a potential for this in diets with excessive calcium.

Levels present in a raw fed diet will be more than sufficient in manganese. 

Selenium

Selenium is a trace mineral that has antioxidant properties. Benefits of selenium include:

  • Cancer prevention
  • Defense against heart disease
  • Treatment for IBD, arthritis, and skin problems.

Muscle, organ meats and eggs are good sources of selenium.

No supplementation should be needed for dogs on a raw fed diet. 

Iodine

Iodine supports your dog’s metabolism and helps them produce thyroid hormones. 

Iodine deficiency has been documented in raw fed dogs. This is consistent with the relatively low iodine level of skeletal muscle.

Iodine deficiency can cause:

  • mental retardation in younger dogs;
  • goiter,
  • dry skin,
  • cold intolerance,
  • hair loss and
  • weight gain.

Iodine deficiency is most common in medium- to large-sized dogs between 4 and 10 years old.  Some breeds, including Doberman Pinschers, Irish Setters, Golden Retrievers, Great Danes, Old English Sheepdogs, Dachshunds, Miniature Schnauzers, Boxers, Poodles, and Cocker Spaniels are more predisposed to hypothyroidism than others. Iodine deficiency is also more common in dogs that have been either spayed or neutered.

These foods are rich in iodine, and might be worth adding to your dog’s diet. Foods rich in iodine include:

 

Calcium

If you’re feeding a raw diet – you need to be aware that calcium deficiencies can be brought about by high-meat diets because meats contain an unbalanced amount of phosphorous.

Of all the minerals, calcium is required in the greatest amount. Calcium is essential in the body for many functions including bone formation, blood coagulation, muscle contraction, and nerve impulse transmission.

Diets deficient in calcium can cause: 

  • Anxiety
  • skin conditions like eczema,
  • arthritis
  • respiratory problems

NOTE: Raw feeders should not rely on bone as the sole source of calcium in your dog’s diet. The bioavailability of calcium from bone consumption is inconsistent.

One way to offer calcium in a more bioavailable form is through regular access to a fresh antler chew. In addition to numerous other minerals – antlers are high in calcium.

 

Phosphorous

Phosphorous is the other dietary mineral that your dog requires in a relatively high amount.  Meat or organ meats are high in phosphorous but relatively low in calcium.

Phosphorous deficiency is a significant problem in herbivores but isn’t a problem for most dogs.


 

Seaweed has an abundance of naturally occurring minerals and is a great way to supplement your dog’s nutritional needs.  Check out our practical feeding guide about Kelp for Dogs here or view our own King Island Kelp product here.

 

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