Just as with our own diets, water, protein, carbohydrates, and fats are the basic building blocks of a good diet for our pets. Yet, these are only the starting point for our pets’ healthy diet, vitamins and minerals too are essential. Because vitamins and minerals are so necessary, AAFCO (Association of Animal Feed Control Officials) has set recommended daily levels like our RDAs formulated by the FDA. It is important to understand these levels, the same guidelines commercial food manufacturers are required to follow, are not intended for promoting optimum health, but are only the amounts needed to prevent deficiency in the “average” pet.
Ideally, quality prepared foods would provide our animals with a healthy diet, completely balanced. Yet, what is considered complete and balanced? Can we expect one nutritional diet formula to suit every pet’s need? Active and working dogs, pets under stress, on restricted diets, fighting illness, recovering from surgery, fighting environmental toxins, or on medication may need higher than normal amounts of nutrients. Cooking and processing also destroy nutrients, making it more difficult to get the recommended vitamin levels. Adding a vitamin and mineral supplement may be appropriate and helpful to balance their nutritional needs. But just because a little may be beneficial, more may be detrimental.
Vitamins regulate the metabolism and assist the biochemical processes that release energy from digested foods. There are two types of vitamins: water-soluble that must be replenished daily, such as Vitamins C and B-complex, or fat-soluble that are stored for longer periods of time in fatty tissue and the liver, such as Vitamins A, D, E and K. At the same time there are two groups of vitamins: synthetic and natural. Synthetic are produced in laboratories to mirror their counterparts found in nature. Natural vitamins are derived from food sources. Chemically there are no differences, however the synthetic supplement contains only the isolated vitamins, which may work well in a deficiency situation. Natural supplements often contain other nutrients not yet discovered and may offer more benefits as with whole foods.
Minerals are needed for the proper chemical balance of our pet’s body fluids, the formation of blood and bone, the maintenance of healthy nerve function, and the regulation of muscle tone. There are two groups of minerals: bulk (macrominerals) which include calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, and phosphorus, and trace minerals (microminerals) that include boron, chromium, copper, germanium, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenium, selenium, silicon, sulfur, vanadium, and zinc. As with vitamins, supplemental minerals should be taken in balanced amounts, otherwise they may not be effective and can be potentially harmful. For example, too much zinc depletes copper or excessive amounts of calcium affects magnesium absorption.
Whether you are seeking to correct a deficiency, supplement a commercial diet or boost nutrient density, it is important to recognize that vitamins and minerals work synergistically. In other words, there is a cooperative action between supplements promoting absorption and assimilation. This means that it’s not simply the replacement or increase of a vitamin or mineral, which may be ineffective or dangerous, but a balancing act between supplements for the most effective nutrient assimilation. For example, high doses of an individual B vitamin have been shown to cause depletion of other B vitamins. This is why in most instances, a balanced vitamin and mineral supplement should be taken in addition to any single supplement.
From home-prepared recipes to commercially prepared foods, a growing range of options now offers pet owners convenience and reassurance for bettering their pet’s diet. Supplementing with vitamins and minerals helps enable your pet’s immune system to function to its fullest potential. Nutritional supplements are now developed for pets in a range of forms for a range of health applications to eliminate the dosage questions and risk of using human supplements. Multi-vitamins flavored for greater palatability are available for cats and dogs in chewable treat tablets or powders for mixing in foods. Natural supplements made from whole foods and herbs are now more readily available in formulations for pets. Discuss your pet’s diet and individual needs to get them started on a healthier, nutritionally balanced diet.
© Terri Grow
Adding a vitamin and mineral supplement may be appropriate and helpful to balance their nutritional needs. But just because a little may be beneficial, more may be detrimental.