Does My Dog Need Additional Vitamins?
Providing dogs with vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional components is important to their health and well-being. The best way to do so is by feeding a high-quality complete and balanced diet. Supplementing dog food often upsets the balance and may lead to a variety of health problems.
Reasons Why People Might Supplement Their Dog's Diet
People supplement their dog's diet for different reasons. Some of these reasons might include:
- To increase palatability or add variety
- To feel assured the dog is receiving complete nutrition
- To enjoy a larger role in "preparing" the dog's meal
Supplementing Can Unbalance the Diet
It is important for concerned pet owners to realize that a quality dog food is carefully formulated to meet the caloric needs of the animal. In addition, the food provides the essential amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals specific to the nutritional requirements of dogs. Quality foods are complete and balanced for a specific life stage or lifestyle. By adding table scraps or other supplements, the delicate nutrient balance can be disrupted.
What We Know About Minerals and Supplements
The interaction between different minerals is very complex. Fortunately, this is an area of nutrition that has been the focus of extensive research throughout many years. Research has shown that not only are the individual levels of minerals in a diet important, but so is the proper balance. An excess of one mineral may affect the absorption of a second, and lead to a deficiency in that second mineral.
Supplementing with Meat As An Example of Mineral Interaction
One common supplement is feeding additional meat. However, because meat contains 20 to 40 times more phosphorus than calcium, adding meat to a balanced diet will upset the calcium to phosphorus (or Ca:P) ratio, which is important for proper bone development and maintenance. This may prompt the animal's body to absorb calcium from the bones in order to reach the right balance. This is often the case in older animals that experience tooth loss due to the resorption of bone from the lower jaw. Ca:P ratio should range between 1.1 to 1.4 parts of calcium for each 1 part of phosphorus.
More Calcium Is Not Always Good
Excess amounts of calcium have been associated with several bone diseases affecting growing puppies. Owners of large-breed puppies in particular believe that their puppies require extra calcium for proper development of large bones. Adding yogurt, cottage cheese, or calcium tablets to the pup's diet will only upset the body's delicate mineral balance. Remember that large-breed puppies will consume more food and receive the calcium their bodies need by eating the recommended portions. The best way to support a normal growth rate is to feed growing dogs adequate—but not excessive—amounts of a balanced diet, using a portion-controlled regimen.
Make Sure a Pet Food Is Complete and Balanced
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) regulates the pet food industry and has established certain nutritional requirements for dogs and cats. These requirements are published annually in the AAFCO Manual. Only pet foods that have met the strict testing criteria established by AAFCO can carry the "complete and balanced" statement on the label.