November 10, 2009

Here’s a quick primer on the vitamins and minerals that are important for cats and dogs. Vitamins are only required in minute amounts, but they are critical for life. Minerals are some of the most important of all nutrients, and are needed to help maintain the correct composition of body fluids, proper formation of blood and bones, a healthy nervous system.

Macro minerals (calcium, phosphorus, sodium, magnesium, potassium, sulfur and chloride) are those that are required in fairly high concentrations and are usually expressed as a % of the total diet. Micro minerals (iron, manganese, zinc, copper, cobalt, iodine and selenium) are required in lesser dietary amounts and are usually expressed as ppm or mg/kg in a nutrient profile.

Vitamin A is fat soluble, and important for skin, eyes, mouth, intestines and reproduction. It is found in Liver, egg yolk and milk. Beta Carotene, a related compound, is found in yellow and orange colored fruits and vegetables like carrot and sweet potato, as well as leafy greens.

The B Vitamins are water soluble and necessary for a whole array of functions including metablism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates and enzyme formation. Foods rich in B vitamins include liver, beans, organs, legumes and some grains.

Vitamin C is water soluble and necessary for collagen formation. It is also an antioxidant. It is prevalent in fresh fruits and some vegetables. Some people thoerize that Vitamin C is not an essential vitamin for dogs since they manufacture it in their own bodies – however many holistic vets advocate vitamin C supplementation for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Vitamin D is fat soluble, and necessary for the proper regulation of calcium and phosphorus in the body. Yogurt and cottage cheese are good sources of Vitamin D.

Vitamin E is fat soluble. It is found in spinach as well as wheatgerm- safflower- and sunflower oils. It is an antioxidant and regulates prostaglandin.

Vitamin K is Fat Soluble and essential for blood clotting. It is found in leafy greens including spinach, turnip greens and broccoli.

Folic Acid is water soluble, and found in dark leafy greens and liver. It is needed for genetic transfer.

Biotin is water soluble and necessary for protein construction. Biotin is found in oats, egg yolk and liver.

Choline is a water soluble vitamin whose role is in liver function and nerve transmission.

Inositol is water soluble, and plays a part in fat metabolism.

Calcium is essential for life, most of the body’s calcium reserves are found in the bones and teeth. Calcium also plays an important role in the functioning of the nervous system, the contraction and relaxation of muscles, blood and hormones. This mineral also plays a role as a ‘coenzyme’ for a number of chemical processes in the body. If calcium intake in the diet is insufficient, calcium is removed form the bone, to maintain proper blood calcium concentrations. Long term calcium deficiencies can result in skeletal problems and thyroid disorders.

Copper is a micro-mineral which works with iron and helps with the production of hemoglobin and red blood cells. Copper also plays an important role in collagen formation, cartilage, pigmentation in the hair, immunity and reproduction.

Iron is vital for hemoglobin formation, iron combines with oxygen to give blood its bright red coloration. Iron is also an essential component of myoglobin, whose role is to supply oxygen to the muscles. Animals have a limited ability to excrete excess iron. Excess iron in the diet is extremely rare may reduce serum phosphorus levels and also decrease bone mineralization. A shortage of dietary iron can result in anemia.

Iodine is essential for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. Iodine deficiencies can result in reproductive and developmental problems as well as thyroid imbalances.

Magnesium plays an important role in metabolism as well as nervous system and muscle function. Most of the body’s calcium is stored in the skeletal system and teeth. Magnesium excesses are unlikely but a deficiency of magnesium can cause skeletal deformities.

Manganese is important for the proper development of connective tissue and bone, as well as aiding in the function of many enzymes. Growth and development problems can result from a deficiency but an excess is rare.

Phosphorus has a close relationship with Calcium; the two are required in balance with one another because one cannot function without the other. The ideal range for the calcium to phosphorus ratio is 1:1 to 2:1 parts calcium to phosphorus. Around 1.2 or 3 to 1 is considered ideal by many. A deficiency of phosphorus can cause thyroid problems. An excess can lead to calcium deficiencies.

Selenium is strictly an antioxidant, this mineral works with fatty acids and is important for immune system and reproductive function. The correct balance of selenium is very important; an excess can cause toxicity which affect the heart, liver and kidneys. Deficiencies may cause bone and heart abnormalities.

Zinc is vital for healthy skin, hair pigmentation and proper growth and development. Zinc is also as a co-enzyme for many enzymes involved in the digestive process. Zinc aids in wound healing and immunity. An excess of zinc can result in copper and calcium deficiencies.