As DVM, author, and canine expert W. Jean Dodds says, “The functional effect of food is only good by combining ingredients”. Vitamins and minerals are significant components of dog nutrition helping them fight diseases, maintain good health, and increase the body’s energy level. In this article, we’ll discuss the importance and requirement of vitamins and minerals in dog food.
To provide a healthy diet, you want to ensure your dog is given the proper amount of minerals and vitamins in their food. If your dog’s diet is deficient in vitamins and minerals, you’ll want to add them. Vitamins are easy to include in your dog’s diet through nutrient rich foods or veterinarian formulated supplements.
Below we’ll take a closer look at all the vitamins and nutrients your dog should be getting in order to maintain a healthy diet.
Dog Nutrient Profile
The nutritional needs of a dog vary depending on the different stages of life. Veterinary nutritionists recommend feeding your dog according to its life stage. Your adult dog, puppy, and senior dog all have different vitamin and mineral requirements depending on their life stage.
For example, when feeding your puppy nutrient-dense puppy food, you need to consider that if your puppy’s baby teeth are erupting through the skin. If so, then it would be better to mix wet and dry food. And only after your puppy has all their baby teeth should you switch them to dry food.
Adding supplements to your dog’s food can help balance their diet, but depending on your dog’s health, they are usually optional. “Some people use vitamin and mineral supplements not because they are necessary, but because they want to add them to their food,” says Dr. C.A. Tony Buffington, DVM, PhD, and Professor of Veterinary Medicine.
Information on the vitamins and minerals already present in your dog’s food can be found on the product label.
The dog nutrient profile is divided into two types:
- Nutrients for growth and reproduction
- Nutrients for maintenance
Growth and Reproduction
According to the American Association of Food Control Officials, lactating dogs, pregnant females, and puppies have different vitamins and minerals requirements, and should have a diet higher in nutrients than adult dogs. Dogs more than one year of age are considered adults.
Basic Vitamin and Mineral Requirements for Dogs
Essential vitamins and minerals are present in all types of dog nutrition and food, and they help the performance of basic functions of the body. There is a minimum and maximum requirement of each mineral and vitamin.
If ingested in excessive amounts, some of the nutrients can cause toxicity. However, if nutrients are administered in less quantity, certain deficiencies can occur such as hair loss, weight loss, and digestive issues.
Vitamins are organic substances that the body needs to grow naturally. Typically, they are required in dog food in minimal amounts, and vitamin deficiencies can cause many health problems.
The most important vitamins that the dog’s body needs are:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B family
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin. It is commonly found in carrots and is responsible for maintaining healthy eyesight, fetal development, immune function, and body cell growth.
The minimum requirement of Vitamin A necessary in dog food for adult maintenance is 5000 IU / kg and for growth and reproduction is also 5000 IU / kg.
Vitamin B1 has a whole family of vitamins, and they play a significant role in maintaining your dog’s health.
Thiamine, also known as Vitamin B1, is responsible for energy and carbohydrate metabolism, and activates ion channels in neural tissues. Naturally, Vitamin B is present in beans, yeast, cereals, and nuts. The minimum requirement of Vitamin B1 for an adult’s maintenance is 2.5 mg/kg, and for growth and reproduction is 2.5 mg/kg.
Riboflavin is also known as Vitamin B12. It is combined with niacin and helps facilitate enzyme function. The Vitamin B requirement for reproduction, growth and maintenance of adults is 5.2 mg/kg.
Pyridoxine, also known as Vitamin B6, is a water-soluble vitamin. It plays a vital role in red blood cell function, glucose generation, nervous system function, hormonal regulation, immune response, and niacin synthesis and genetic activation. The minimum requirement of Vitamin B6 for reproduction, growth, and adults’ maintenance is 1.5 mg/kg.
Pantothenic acid, or Vitamin B5, is a water-soluble vitamin. It helps in the formation of coenzyme A and energy metabolism. The Vitamin B5 requirement for reproduction, growth and maintenance of adults is 12 mg/kg.
Folic acid, also known as Vitamin B9, is a primary function in the metabolism of amino acids and nucleotides, and the synthesis of mitochondrial proteins. The Vitamin B9 minimum requirement for reproduction, growth and adult maintenance is 0.216 mg/kg.
Vitamin C can be produced through normal glucose metabolism, and dogs can make it themselves, but their amounts do not meet the demand for optimal health. As an antioxidant, Vitamin C helps reduce inflammation and cognitive aging.
Also known as the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D helps dogs maintain phosphorus and calcium balance for healthy bone and muscle growth. The minimum requirement of Vitamin D for the development, reproduction, and adult maintenance is 5000 IU / kg.
Vitamin E supports the growth of puppies and is a fat-soluble vitamin. It benefits cell function, metabolism, and defense against oxidative damage. Deficiency will lead to muscle degeneration and reproductive problems. The requirement of Vitamin E in food for reproduction, growth, and adult maintenance is 50 IU / kg.
This is a fat-soluble vitamin and helps prevent bleeding problems and improves blood clotting. If a dog ingests any poisonous substance, its ability to use Vitamin K decreases and, if not treated in time, causes excessive bleeding and death.
Choline is a key nutrient for dogs and aids in important liver and brain function. It’s also used in the treatment of epilepsy in dogs. Its minimum requirement for adult maintenance, growth, and reproduction is 1360 mg/kg.
Minerals are divided into macrominerals and micro minerals of two groups. Macro minerals are required in large quantities, and micro minerals are required in trace quantities.
The macro minerals needed for dogs are phosphorus, calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium, chloride, and sulfur.
The micro minerals required by the body are copper, zinc, iodine, chromium, manganese, selenium, and fluorine.
Calcium and Phosphorus
Calcium and phosphorus are two minerals in dog food that go hand in hand. They are the building blocks of bones and teeth. Calcium also acts as a messenger in the dog’s body and performs the following functions.
- Nerve impulse transmission
- Muscle contractions
- Constriction and dilation of blood vessels
- Blood coagulation
- Secretion of hormones
- A co-factor for enzymes
Calcium in the diet helps keep the calcium level in the blood constant, and the heart rate stable. Additional calcium is also released from the bones if calcium level in the body falls below the recommended level to keep vital organs functioning.
The minimum requirement for calcium and phosphorus for growth and reproduction is 1.2% and 1.0%, and for adult maintenance, it is 0.5% and 0.4%.
Sodium, Potassium and Chloride
Potassium, Sodium, and Chloride are the three main electrolytes present in the dog’s body. Electrolytes are minerals and are present in the body as electrically charged ions and particles. Thus, these electrolytes play a crucial role in maintaining your dog’s fluid balance.
Function of electrolytes
- Transmitting nerve impulses
- Maintaining osmotic balance
- Transmitting muscle contractions
- Maintaining acid-base balance
Magnesium is mineral in dog food that performs a variety of functions. It is the main component of enzymes, bones, and intracellular fluids. Additionally, Magnesium has a large effect on neuromuscular transmission.
The requirement of magnesium in dog nutrition for reproduction, growth, and adult maintenance is 0.06g.
Iron is one of the most necessary minerals for the dog’s body. It plays many roles, but its most crucial function is transporting oxygen throughout the body. Oxygen transport is mainly carried out by myoglobin and hemoglobin, and iron is an essential part of these pigments.
Iron also helps strengthen the immune system. Natural sources of iron include red meat, fish, eggs, and legumes.
For dog nutrition, the minimum amount of iron for an average adult’s maintenance is 40 mg/kg and for reproduction, and growth is 88 mg/kg.
Zinc assists in activating hormones, enzymes, and various other bodily functions. Recent research has shown that more than 200 enzymes require zinc for activation and production.
Zinc also aids growth, wound healing, reproduction, strengthening the immune system, skincare, protein digestion, and thyroid function regulation. If the dog nutrition and food is zinc deficient, your dog will lack elemental immunity against infections.
Zinc is naturally found in eggs, pork, lamb, liver, and brewer’s yeast. The minimum zinc requirement for growth and reproduction is 100 mg/kg, and for the adult, maintenance is 80 mg/kg.
In the dog’s biological processes, copper helps provide the synthesis of neurotransmitters, bones and connective tissues, and the formation of collagen. Additionally, it provides antioxidant defense, pigmentation of the skin and hair, maturation and development of red blood cells.
The minimum amount of copper necessary for growth and reproduction in dog food is 12.4 mg/kg. For an adult, maintenance is 7.3 mg/kg.
Selenium is a trace mineral and has many health benefits. It’s available in two forms: sodium selenite and selenium yeast. In commercial dog food, selenium yeast is generally used.
The primary function that selenium performs is the metabolism of thyroid hormones and antioxidant protection. In dog nutrition, the minimum requirement of selenium for reproduction, growth, and adult maintenance is 0.3 mg/kg.
Wrapping Things Up
Dog nutrition may vary depending on the specific dog and breed. Before adding supplements to your dog’s food, check the nutrients they are already getting from their dog food. Then, assess which vitamins would best support their age and health conditions. Making sure your dog gets the right balance of vitamins and minerals in their diet will help them live a long, happy, and healthy life.
Vitamins and Minerals Required in Dog Nutrition
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Sometimes dogs need vitamins or additional dietary supplementation. An inadequate diet, illness, age, certain diseases, and veterinary recommendations are all reasons why dogs may benefit from a nutritional boost. It is imperative not to give dogs human vitamins or supplements. Check with your pet’s veterinarian before including anything new in your pup’s diet. With that in mind, we’ve curated a list of our favorite vitamins and nutritional products for dogs. Happy shopping!
Make sure your dog gets the vitamins and minerals they need with the Daily Great All-In-One Multivitamin. Busy pet parents enjoy the ease of administering a chewable chicken-flavored treat each day. After all, hiding a pill in food and finding it spit out onto the floor is no fun. Fortunately, Daily Great’s multivitamin packs four healthy benefits in each dose. Most canine vitamins focus on general health, but Daily Great targets joints and hips, healthy skin and coat, a digestive probiotic, and all the vitamins and minerals dogs need.
- Designed for all dogs over 12 weeks of age
- Omega- 3’s support healthy skin and coat
- Helps growing bones and senior joints with glucosamine and chondroitin
- Probiotic ensures proper digestion for a healthy gut
- Eliminates the need for other products with its 4-in-1 formula
- Chews are easily divided into morning and evening dosing
Things to Consider
- Nutritional needs vary by dog, so checking with your vet before administration is best
- Best to give with each meal
- Store these tasty vitamins out of curious dog’s reach
Coconut oil is a win-win for most dogs because it can be added to food, served plain, or topically applied to soothe hot spots, chafing, and itching on the skin. Considered a “superfood,” Zesty Paws Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil for Dogs is delicious and nourishing. Rich in medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), coconut oil is good for a dog’s nervous system, skin, joints, and more. Coconut oil is generally safe for dogs but should be added gradually to their diet. Too much too fast can cause digestive upset, so start slowly.
- Coconut oil supports brain and digestive health while boosting a dog’s immune system
- Made in the USA without corn, wheat, artificial flavorings or preservatives
- Can be used daily for dogs of all ages and sizes
- Made in an FDA-registered, Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) facility
- Use topically to soothe hot spots and revitalize a dull coat
- Derived from 100 percent certified organic coconuts
Things to Consider
- High in calories at 413 kcal per teaspoon
- Serve one-fourth of the recommended dosage for dogs new to coconut oil
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No two dogs are alike, so why should they all take the same supplements? Dandy has developed an extensive line of personalized supplement treats designed to target your dog’s unique health and wellness needs. Simply take the two-minute quiz on the Dandy website, and you’ll receive instant suggestions for the veterinarian-backed formulas that will benefit your pup the most. You can go with those recommendations, pick and choose your own pack, or order pre-made veterinarian-formulated packs that target a range of common concerns, including allergies, anxiety, joint health, and more. Dandy ships direct to you so your dog receives a personalized 30-day supply of supplement treats every month.
- Based on your quiz responses, Dandy’s proprietary algorithm pinpoints where your dog needs the most daily support
- Developed by a team of veterinarians, food scientists, and dog lovers for maximum efficacy, digestibility, and bio-availability
- Convenient monthly home delivery so you never forget to place an order
- Perfect for multi-dog households, too – each dog’s unique profile can be tied to your Dandy account
- Made in the USA at an NASC-certified facility
- Non-GMO with all-natural ingredients
Things to Consider
- Treats only available in beef flavor
- Dandy packs contain four different supplements to be taken every day
- Try breaking the supplements up onto your dog’s meal if they aren’t a fan of treats
- Recommended for dogs six months and older
Provide your dog with daily support for gut health, immune function, and healthy digestion with one easy-to-administer soft chew. Open Farm’s Probiotic Supplement Chews for Dogs pack 2 billion CFUs (colony-forming units) with 100 percent traceable ingredients. Open Farm’s probiotic supplement promotes gut flora, healthy bowel movements, and more. At 18 kcals per chew, your dog gets a plant-powered yummy treat that is kind to the waistline.
- Each chew contains seven active probiotics
- All ingredients are 100 percent traceable and made in an NASC-certified facility
- Contains no wheat, soy, corn, artificial flavors, or preservatives
- Chews appeal to even the most finicky pups with pumpkin, sweet potato, ginger, chicory root, and more
- Veterinarian-formulated without any GMOs
- Made in the United States
Things to Consider
- The number of daily chews to administer depends on the weight of your dog (i.e., dogs up to 25 pounds get one soft chew daily vs dogs over 75 pounds will receive three soft chews per day.)
- Available in one 90-chew size
As dogs age, their immune systems may not fight diseases off as in their younger years. Fortunately, Dr. Harvey’s Golden Years is made from a proprietary blend of herbs to ward off illness and increase longevity. Golden Years is an easy-to-administer holistic whole food and herb supplement designed for dogs over seven years old. Dosage is based on your dog’s weight and is perfect for every size purebred and mixed breed dog.
- Made in America without artificial ingredients
- May help put some pep and energy in your senior pup’s step
- Can be added to your dog’s daily diet to ward off chronic illness
- Acts as a tonic to keep aging dogs comfortable along with increased energy
- Made with whole food healthy ingredients like spirulina, alfalfa leaf, kelp, and ginger root
- Smells delicious and palatable
Things to Consider
- Some dogs may not enjoy an additional mixture in their daily diet
- Scoops per serving depending on the size of your dog. Each container holds 76 scoops.
- Use with caution in dogs with hyperthyroid disease, diarrhea, cardiac and kidney problems.
If your dog could have a sharp mind and healthy skin and coat thanks to one product, Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Fish Oil supplement is worth considering. It contains fatty acids along with EPA and DHA to support your dog’s eyes, heart, and brain whole keeping her joints healthy and skin beautiful. All Nordic Natural omega-3’s are of the triglyceride molecular form that is naturally found in fish.
- Derived exclusively from wild anchovies and sardines
- May be served directly on your dog’s food or served by itself
- Friend of the Sea certified & sustainably made in a zero-waste facility powered by biofuel
- Crafted from fresh, wild-caught, omega-rich fish
- Non-GMO verified and third-party tested for purity
- May reduce shedding and improve coat
Things to Consider
- Does not come with a pump, so the oil must be measured for each dose
- Also available in capsule formula
- Do not use Nordic Naturals human products on pets
Dog food toppers are a great way to mix up mealtime and add variety to your dog’s diet. Merrick’s Beef Bone Broth Grain-Free Dog Food Topper is formulated with a natural source of minerals and compounds to support a dog’s joint health. This human-grade bone broth can be added to kibble, served as a treat, or mixed with freeze-dried dog food. Because it is accented with superfoods like sweet potato and blueberries, your pup gets a palate-pleasing and nutritionally-enhanced yummy addition to ordinary meals.
- Natural human-grade meal topper that is gentle on the stomach
- Made in the USA with beef bone broth, butternut squash, blueberries, parsley, and cinnamon
- Also available in chicken and turkey formulas
- Provides dogs with an additional source of moisture
- Can be used as a savory treat
- Handy pourable spout means less messes
Things to Consider
- Feed up to approximately 1/8-cup per 10 pounds of body weight per day
- Close and refrigerate unused portions, and serve within seven days of opening.
- Intended for intermittent or supplemental feeding only
Alina Andreeva is a professional writer in pet care topics and Content Editor for ThePets. She has 3+ years of experience in writing content. Alina is a pet-lover. She has one dog and two cats. Alina specializes in writing about pet nutrition, and health. Her knowledge aims to make pet owner’s life with pets more comfortable.