Supplementing Your Dog's Diet

Providing pets with vitamins, minerals and other nutritional components is important to the pet's health and well-being, and the best way to do so is by feeding a high-quality, complete and balanced diet. Supplementing pet food often upsets the balance and may cause health problems.

Reasons to Supplement a Pet's Diet

People supplement their pet's diet for different reasons:

  • To increase palatability or add variety
  • To feel assured the pet is receiving complete nutrition
  • To enjoy a larger role in "preparing" the pet's meal
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Supplementing Can Unbalance the Diet

It is important to know that a quality dog food is carefully formulated to meet the caloric needs of the animal. The food provides the essential amino acids, vitamin-rich fish oils and minerals specific to the nutritional requirements of the 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.

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What We Know About Minerals and Supplements

The interaction between minerals is very complex. Fortunately, this is an area of nutrition that has been the focus of extensive research for 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.

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Supplementing with Meat as an Example of Mineral Interaction

One common way of supplementing is to feed extra 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 pet'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 re-absorption of bone from the lower jaw. Ca:P ratio should range between 1.1 to 1.4 parts of calcium for each part of phosphorus.

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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, large-breed puppies consume more food and get the calcium their bodies need by eating the recommended portions. The best way to support a normal growth rate is to feed growing dogs a balanced diet using a portion-controlled regimen.

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Make Sure the Dog 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. These requirements are published annually in the AAFCO Manual. Only pet foods that have met the strict criteria established by AAFCO can carry the "complete and balanced" statement on the label.

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Supplementing a high-quality, complete and balanced diet with vitamins, minerals or other foods is unnecessary and can upset the delicately balanced nutritional requirements of the dog.

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