Does Your Dog Need Vitamins?
By Anne Black
Providing your dog with vitamins, minerals and other nutritional components is important to your pet's health and well-being. The best way to do so is by feeding it a high-quality, complete and balanced diet. Often you may be tempted, for a number of reasons, to supplement your pet's diet with table scraps or other nutritional supplements.
It is actually better for your dog if you forego supplementing its food, however. Here's why:
Risks of Supplementing
It is important for concerned pet owners like you to realize that quality dog foods are carefully formulated to meet the caloric needs of your pet. In addition, quality dog food provides the essential amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals specific to the nutritional requirements of your dog. 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.
The interaction between different minerals is very complex. 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. This could lead to a deficiency in that second mineral.
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 your dog's body to absorb calcium from the bones in order to reach the right balance. Ca:P ratio should range between 1.1 and 1.4 parts of calcium for each 1 part of phosphorus.
Excess amounts of calcium have been associated with several bone diseases that affect growing puppies. If you own a large-breed puppy, for example, you may believe it requires extra calcium for proper development of bones. However, 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 food that are part of a balanced diet, using a portion-controlled regimen.
Complete and Balanced Food
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. Check to make sure your dog's food has it.
So, while supplementing begins with good intentions, it is often unnecessary and it can upset the delicately balanced nutritional requirements of your dog.
Anne Black writes about dogs and other animals for national publications.