Lew Olson's newly revised edition is filled with an abundance of new topics and information. Whether you are new to home feeding or a seasoned raw feeder, have a senior dog or a new puppy, a pregnant mom or a toy breed, this book presents all the information you need to make the best nutritional decisions for your dog.

Minerals in Canines

Minerals in Canines

By Lew Olson • February 2006 Newsletter
The issue of minerals is important in canine nutrition. Too often this subject is misunderstood. Minerals often need to be balanced with each other in the diet to work well. Giving too much of one mineral and not enough of another can affect growth and cause other problems in the body. While certain vitamins can be used therapeutically in high doses, minerals don’t have this same capability. This article will try to explain the uses of the most common minerals, how they work together and how to understand which ones you may need to add to your dog’s diet. Please note that you do not need to add minerals to commercial pet foods, as these already contain a balanced amount. I will also talk about trace minerals, which can be found in whole foods, such as kelp or other types of sea vegetation.

This section will address eleven of the most common minerals found in food and necessary for health. It will also talk about why they are needed, what their actions are, what foods contain them and the general amounts needed by dogs in their diet.

Calcium is the most abundant of all minerals found in the body. The functions of calcium include:
– Vital for healthy bones and teeth
– Activates enzymes involved in fat and protein digestion and production of energy
– Helps in blood clotting and transmission of nerve impulses
– Regulates contractions and relaxation of muscles, most importantly the heart
– Helps with the absorption of B-12
The bones store calcium, and resemble a ‘bank’ in the body for this mineral. Should calcium be deficient in the blood, the body will withdraw some from the bones to insure enough calcium is in the blood stream for regulation of the heart muscle. Bone can lose up to 30% to 40% of its calcium before a deficiency becomes apparent. A blood panel with calcium results will not show a calcium deficiency in the bones, as the body will leech calcium from the bones to the bloodstream to keep the heart beating regularly. Blood values can show enough calcium in the blood stream, but this number won’t reflect the calcium levels that are in the bones and cannot be used to identify calcium deficiencies.
Calcium and phosphorus work together. The normal ratio for these two in the diet is 1:1. In some diets, this may need to go higher if the diet contains large amounts of grains or other plants that contain phytates. Phytates block some of the absorption of calcium. Typical diets that use a higher ratio of calcium to phosphorus would be commercial dog foods that are high in grains and fiber. No additional calcium is needed in a raw diet, if the diet is composed of 40% to 50% raw meaty bones and no or very few grains. However home cooked diets and raw diets without bones will need calcium added.
For dogs, raw meaty bones provide a good source of calcium. Secondary sources would be dairy products, such as yogurt and cottage cheese, but these do not supply enough calcium to balance out the phosphorus in other parts of the diet. Supplement sources would include calcium carbonate as the main choice, with the next choice being calcium citrate. These two are the most easily absorbed, and calcium carbonate has the highest elemental calcium. Bone meal is not a good source, as it is also high in phosphorus. Vitamin D also works in tandem with calcium, as it helps with the uptake of this mineral but giving too much vitamin D can result in too much calcium uptake, so be aware of the dose given. Probably no more than 100 mgs is needed per 25 lbs of body weight daily in a healthy dog.
When feeding a home made diet that does not provide raw meaty bones you should add approximately 900 mg of calcium per pound of food served. Calcium carbonate would be the best source. This can be obtained either from a calcium supplement or from egg shells. With egg shells, simply dry them overnight and then grind them in a coffee bean grinder to powder. 1/2 teaspoon ground eggshell provides approximately 900 mgs.
Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the body. Like calcium, phosphorus is also found in the bones, but there is much more phosphorus in muscle and tissue than calcium. The functions of phosphorus include:
– Important for hardness of bones
– Helps with utilization of fats, proteins and carbohydrates
– Combines with fats in the blood to become phospholipids
– Part of the cell structure that regulates transport of materials in and out of the cell
– Involved in the transport of fat in the circulatory system
– Is involved in the bodies buffer system, which keeps the body pH in balance
While it is more common to have a calcium deficiency, with phosphorus we often have too much rather than too little. Part of this is due to the fact that most foods contain phosphorus and also in eating too little food with calcium.
Phosphorus is found in dairy products, meat, fish and grains. There is no need to supplement with extra phosphorus as it is so readily available in any diet. Phosphorus binds with calcium, so too much phosphorus with not enough calcium can contribute to calcium, deficiency, which is why it is of the most important to balance calcium and phosphorus in your dog’s diet.
Magnesium is also important for strong, healthy bones. Other functions include:
– Helps maintain function of the nerves
– Helps with muscle relaxation
A deficiency of magnesium is thought to cause sleep disturbances, depression and may be linked to certain nervous system problems such as epilepsy.
Magnesium is found widely in many foods. The highest content would be found in dairy products, meat and fish. A deficiency would be rare in any balanced diet for a dog.
Zinc is not stored in the body, so the dog is dependent on diet for this mineral. A deficiency would show up rather quickly if the diet does not contain enough. Signs of deficiency would include:
– Impaired sense of smell (which may cause lack of appetite)
– Impaired ability to heal well
– Impaired vision
– Skin problems, hair loss and skin infections
– Infertility in males, miscarriage in females
Stress and illness can reduce Zinc levels in the body. Zinc is also thought to help boost the immune system. Medications such as steroids and diuretics can interfere with Zinc absorption. However, care must be taken when deciding to supplement with Zinc, as this can interfere with Copper levels in the body. These two minerals work together and need to be given in balance with each other. High Copper levels can also interfere with Zinc absorption. Always check with your veterinarian before deciding to supplement with either one of these minerals.
Zinc is plentiful in meat, poultry, fish and eggs. While Zinc is available in some grains, studies show that Zinc is absorbed more readily from meats and eggs. Zinc is needed in small amounts, anywhere from 5 to 15 mgs for dogs, depending on their weight.
Iron is an important mineral for our cells and blood. Iron is found mostly in the hemoglobin of our red blood cells. Lack of iron causes anemia.
Signs of Anemia include:
– Listlessness, fatigue
– Irritability
– Difficulty swallowing
– Heart palpitations
– Pale gums
Of all the minerals, iron is the most difficult to provide. Iron deficiency is the most common deficiency in people, but somewhat rare in dogs due to the fact that commercial diets provide adequate amounts of iron, as do meat based diets.
Food sources for Iron include meat (especially liver), poultry, fish and eggs. Iron in red meat is the most absorbable. Supplementing with Iron is not needed if the dog is given a good diet, but supplementation may be needed in the case of some diseases and illnesses. Check with your veterinarian if you suspect your dog may be anemic.
Copper is used as Iron, as it helps the body to absorb Iron. It is necessary for bone development and elastin. It also:
– Helps with integrity of mylin (outer covering of the nerves)
– Helps with enzymes that are required for energy production
– Used for oxidation of fatty acids
– Aids with the formation of melanin, a skin pigment
– Involved with the metabolism of ascorbic acid (vitamin C)
Copper is widely available in foods, including liver, meat and fish.
Only small amounts of manganese are necessary, but it has several important uses:
– It is an essential part of enzymes uses in protein, fat and energy metabolism
– Used for normal bone growth and reproduction
– Essential for proper functioning of the nerves
– Can act as mild muscle relaxant
– May help lower glucose levels in the blood
Good food sources are seaweed and seaweed blend (kelp, blue green algae, spirulina, etc)
This mineral is important in the metabolism of glucose. It is the major mineral used for insulin production. A Chromium deficiency may tend to decrease the liver’s uptake of cholesterol and fatty acids which can lead to lipid build up in the bloodstream.
Food sources for Chromium include cheese, meat and liver.
There may be selenium deficiencies due to low amounts of selenium found in the earth where plants are grown and cattle graze. Deficiencies of Selenium can affect the heart and liver. Selenium has been found to help skin conditions and certain neurological problems, such as Muscular Dystrophy. Good selenium in the diet has also been shown to protect dogs against cancer. Using vitamin E with Selenium has shown to increase the effectiveness of selenium.
The best food sources of selenium include seafood, organ meat and meat.
Iodine is best known for helping with the function of the thyroid gland. Deficiency of this mineral can cause goiters, in which the thyroid becomes enlarged. Foods which can interfere with thyroid production (in large amounts and daily use) include rutabagas, strawberries, peaches, cabbage, peanuts, spinach and radishes.
Food sources for humans are table salt, in which iodine has been added. For dogs however, a better choice would be kelp and other seaweed foods. Iodine can also be found in fish and shellfish.
Potassium is an important mineral as it is responsible for maintaining the fluid balance in the cells. It also helps to convert glucose into glycogen for storage. It is used for nerve transmission, contraction of muscles and hormone secretions.
Deficiency can appear as listlessness, muscle weakness, muscle spasms and rapid heartbeat. The use of steroids or diuretics can cause potassium deficiency in the dog. Potassium also works in tandem with sodium. The correct ratio of these two is important for blood pressure and often Addison’s or Cushing’s disease can be diagnosed when an imbalance of one of these shows in the blood work.
Potassium is found in many food sources. It is high in dairy products, meat, poultry and fish. Note some potassium is lost through cooking. Supplementation is not needed without your veterinarian’s advice and supervision.
Now that the minerals have been discussed, remember these points:
Calcium must be present in the diet to balance with the phosphorus. Phosphorus is found in most foods and is often in over abundance in the diet. To balance this in home cooked diets or raw diets without bones, add calcium to the diet at 900 mg per pound of food served. This can be done with either supplements such as calcium carbonate or powdered egg shell. Do not add calcium to commercial dog foods, as these already have calcium added. While it is important to have the right amount of calcium, too much calcium can cause as much harm (if not more) than too little. In raw diets with raw meaty bones, feed at least 40% to 50% of the diet in raw meaty bones to achieve good calcium to phosphorus ratio. More than this is too much calcium, and less than this is too little.
The other minerals listed are easily found in food so these do not need to be added unless indicated by your veterinarian. Most of these minerals are found in meat, organ meat, fish and dairy. Iodine is found in kelp or other sea vegetation sources.
Remember that zinc and copper need to balance each other. Adding just one of these without the other can cause problems.
You can find further information here:
Minerals and Dogs
Calcium and Puppies
January 2004 B-Naturals Newsletter
Dangers of Vegetarian Diets in Dogs and Mineral Needs
August 2003 B-Naturals Newsletter
For good sources of trace minerals, the best nutrients are sea vegetables.
Sea vegetables are considered the best of these green foods, as they do not require cellulose to encircle the cell wall, which is difficult for dogs to digest. Seaweeds average about 25% protein and 2% fat. They are one of the richest sources of minerals and amino acids found in a plant source. Their dense amounts of nutrients are thought to help produce energy, enhance the immune system, and darken coat color and skin pigment. Seaweeds are also rich in iodine and support the endocrine glands (thyroid functioning).
Seaweeds have been a daily staple of the Japanese for years and have only recently become popular in the United States. It is shown that seaweeds provide many health benefits and promote longevity. While they were once considered only a specialty food, they are now offered in most supermarkets and many restaurants. www.lef.org
Some studies have shown that seaweeds may be helpful in reducing breast cancer and are thought to contain anti-tumor properties. It is also believed they may fight heavy metal accumulations in the body by binding to them and may be helpful after cancer treatments. Seaweeds are also high in tryptophan, which is also helpful in fighting cancer.
While seaweeds may taste salty, they are actually low in salt and are often used as a salt substitute for conditions requiring low sodium diets. There are also new studies showing seaweeds being helpful for diabetes, hypertension and heart conditions.
Probably the best features of these foods for dogs is the high trace mineral content, phytonutrients, color enhancement for hair coats and pigment, energy builders, immune enhancers, ease of digestibility, thyroid support and potential cancer protection. Some more common sea vegetables include:
This is a brown marine plant that is high in minerals and contains vitamins A, B, E, D and K. It also contains sodium alginate (algin), which helps remove heavy metals from the dogs system. It has gels called carrageenan and agar that aids dogs with IBD and colitis by easing digestion. Kelp is a good source of iodine that helps promote good thyroid function.
Blue Green Algae
This seaweed is very high in protein (60%). It contains a good source of chlorophyll, which is high in beta-carotene. It contains essential fatty acids, minerals, enzymes, vitamins and minerals
This alga is also 60% protein. It is high in GLA (gamma Linoleic acid), which is an essential fatty acid. GLA is an anti-inflammatory and can inhibit the growth of certain cancers. Spirulina contains vitamin C, B complex, and E, carotenoids, chlorophyll (which helps purify the blood), and phycocyanin. It is a highly digestible food and nutrient dense.
Irish Moss
This is an excellent aid for digestion problems such as gastritis and ulcers. It has also been used for bronchitis and other lung problems. It is high in calcium, magnesium and potassium. It helps to strengthen nails and hair and boost the immune system. Recent research has shown promise for Irish Moss in fighting certain viruses.
This is red algae, which is rich in iron, iodine, potassium and trace minerals and is a very high source of vitamin B12. It is also low in salt, yet has a’salty’ taste.
B-Naturals has combined the best of the above ingredients into a product called Berte’s Green Blend. It contains kelp, spirulina, irish moss, blue green algae, dulce, alfalfa and ground fenugreek to offer all the good nutrients each of these green foods offer. It is a super food mix that contains a rich blend of minerals, trace minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients. It is designed to promote immunity, endurance and energy, and is excellent for coat and skin, useful for arthritis, senior dogs, gastric conditions, allergies and thyroid health. It is an excellent supplement for many ailments as well as maintaining health in normal dogs. And birds like it too!
Contact Me
If you would like to ask me any questions about my products, I would love to hear from you. Please check your return address when you send me email from my web site and try to write me again if you have not heard back from me.
To email: lew@b-naturals.com
To order call toll free: 1-866-368-2728
To fax an order: 1-763-477-9588
Email orders are also accepted
Copyright 2006 Lew Olson, All Rights Reserved

Leave a Comment