Canine & Feline Nutritional Requirements

American society as a whole has become increasingly aware of the importance of nutrition and its effect on health. What we have learned is that there are a number of principles that must be adhered to if optimum nutrition is the goal.

As humans, we have a choice to either ignore or embrace the principles of optimum nutrition. Not so for our domesticated pets. They consume what we provide. As such, their nutritional health is completely in our hands. Getting it right from the start is crucial if optimum nutrition and health are to be achieved.

Who and What are we feeding?

Canines

Canines include the wolf and all living species of dogs. In other words, dogs, as we know them today are domesticated wolves that are primarily smaller and better behaved.

How and when this domestication occurred has been a matter of speculation. It was thought until very recently that dogs were wild until about 12,000 years ago. But DNA analysis published in 1997 suggests a date of about 130,000 years ago for the transformation of wolves to dogs.

Based on the molecular genetic analysis of Mitochondrial DNA between domestic dogs and wolves, there is direct evidence that the genetic ancestor of the domestic dog is the grey wolf (Canis lupus). The domestic dog differs from the gray wolf by at most 0.2% in their mitochondrial DNA sequence. In comparison, the gray wolf differs from its closest wild relative, the coyote, by about 4%.

Dogs vary so greatly in their physical appearance today it is difficult to surmise that they all belong to the same species. The profusion of individual breeds today — at least 400 around the globe — reflect years of selective interbreeding by humans resulting in the “artificial evolution” of dogs into many different breeds and types.

Felines

No one knows exactly when or how the cat first appeared on Earth. Most investigators agree, however, that the cat’s most ancient ancestor probably was a weasel like animal called Miacis, which lived about 40 to 50 million years ago.

Evidence of modern day large cats goes back approximately 10 – 12 million years. There is also evidence that 3 – 4 million years ago a wide variety of small cats populated the entire world. Cat skeletons have been found in very early human settlements, but they are assumed by archaeologists to have been wild cats. The earliest true record of cat domestication comes from Ancient Egypt about 2000 years ago.

Inheritance and gene sequencing

All cats have 38 chromosomes in each cell – except for Ocelot’s and Geoffrey’s Cat, which only have 36 chromosomes.

A species of cat is a group that normally breeds and produces fertile offspring. However, under artificial conditions – such as captivity – it is possible to crossbreed different species and create variants. For example, leopards have been crossed with lions to create leopons, lions and tigers to create ligers (father a lion) and tigons (father a tiger). The offspring are usually sterile. An exception to this “rule” is that feral domestic cats have successfully bred in the wild with their wild counterparts.

The transfer of genetic material can explain the anatomical, behavioral and other characteristics of modern-day cats from one generation to another, the principle of “survival of the fittest” and by adaptation to the surrounding environment. Sometimes a desirable trait transmitted by a genetic sequence can be linked to an undesirable trait. The most notable example of this is the white hair coat. White cats are often born deaf, and they are also predisposed to develop hypersensitivity and in some cases cancer of the earflaps (pinnae) when exposed to sunlight.

What does it mean to be a Carnivore?

As humans, we often classify things based on observation rather than scientific fact. For example; I hear pet owners, pet food manufacturers and even veterinarians describe modern day canines as omnivores based solely on their being fed a variety of both plant and animal foods. Few stop to think that our domesticated pets consume what we have decided is best for them rather than using a more objective approach such as looking at the diet of their ancestors or their digestive anatomy and physiology to identify which nutritional ingredients are the most biologically appropriate rather than the cheapest, most abundant or convenient.

Carnivores are animals that eat the flesh of other animals. Both the dog and cat are anatomically and physiologically Carnivores.

Canine Feeding Habits

Wolves prefer to hunt in packs seeking a diet rich in meat sources from small or large animal prey. Although rare, they have occasionally been spotted including berries, fruit and some plant parts in their diet.

This behavior poses some ethical questions – are a few berries and plant parts enough to justify the large amount of carbohydrate being fed to today’s domesticated canines.

Let’s see if I can answer that question.

Anatomically, the digestive system of the dog is still the same as its carnivore relative the wolf, requiring a high protein, nutrient dense diet.

Metabolically, today’s dog has a few characteristics of an omnivore such as the ability to convert carotene to Vitamin A, Tryptophan to Niacin, Cysteine to Taurine and Linoleic acid to Arachidonic acid.

These however, are only four of the millions of metabolic decisions the dog makes daily in its quest for meeting its nutritional needs.

So, what is the actual benefit derived from including a high percentage of carbohydrate in our pet diets? One simple reason; carbohydrate is a low-cost alternative to fresh meat.

It also requires that a larger volume of food be fed on a daily basis in order to meet minimum dietary needs. More food sold = higher profits.

A balanced diet contains optimal proportions of all essential nutrients in order that they may be utilized with maximal efficiency for any specified purpose. Optimal amounts of each nutrient are best provided as a range rather than a single value because of the variation between an animal’s size, weight, activity or health status. In addition, a broad range of hair coats, body types, temperaments and environmental settings all complicate the estimation of nutritional requirements.

Nutrient ranges are broad in undemanding situations, such as maintenance of an adult pet living in comfortable surroundings. The range narrows under more demanding situations, such as growth, reproduction, performance, hard work and stress.

Feline Feeding Habits

Wild cats, including the domestic cat that is allowed to roam outside, are all solitary hunters of animal flesh. By examining their digestive anatomy and physiology and observing their feeding trends, one can only conclude that they are true obligate carnivores, showing no tendencies towards any omnivorous (carbohydrate) feeding behavior.

It is also true that the dog and cat are both highly adaptable creatures and will not voluntarily starve themselves when fresh meat is not available. This means that if you feed them carbohydrate for economic reasons they will eat it and most likely survive. But, do they actually live as long and healthy a life as possible?

Pet food manufacturers claim success only because our dogs and cats eat these foods. They do not factor in all of the medical problems that these biologically inappropriate diets cause and the shortened lives due to numerous debilitating diseases.

It should be noted that all wild dogs and cats – including today’s domesticated species – are carnivores and they cannot optimally survive without ingesting nutrients derived from other animals.

Canine & Feline Nutritional Requirements

The natural diet of the dog includes a high level of protein (55%), low to moderate fat content (15 – 20%), and almost no carbohydrate (5 – 10%). The natural diet also provided biological water from the fluid content of animal cells and blood.

When we compare this to one of today’s highly promoted premium dog foods we see quite a different story. The kibble is low in protein (22%), low in fat (10%), high in carbohydrate (50%) with 12% moisture; none of which could be considered biological.

Protein Needs

Protein provides “essential amino acids” that dogs and cats cannot synthesize yet are required for the construction of the many organs and tissues of the body. Protein also provides dispensable amino acids (those that can be synthesized if appropriate nitrogen and carbon sources are provided).

Amino acids are the building blocks of the body. As primary constituents of structural and protective tissues, enzymes, and hormones – proteins are regarded as the most important dietary compound in all carnivore diets.

The nutritional value of protein depends on its amino acid content – the amount of each essential amino acid the protein source provides. Not all protein sources are considered equal. The overall value of meat, eggs and dairy products is high while plant protein sources are considered to be low in value due to their deficiency in specific amino acids and their lower level of digestibility.

The Biological Value of Protein Providers

Feathers, beaks and hooves all contain high amounts of protein unfortunately, it is unusable protein as they are difficult to digest and lack the essential amino acids needed by our dogs and cats.

Just because a particular dog food label states the product is of high protein content doesn’t necessarily mean the protein is beneficial. That’s because a product’s stated protein percentage can ignore one very important factor – its nutritional value to the dog.

Biological value is a scientific way to compare the nutritional worth of different protein ingredients. It’s a measure of a protein’s ability to supply amino acids – especially the 10 essential amino acids needed by the dog and cat.

Biological value (BV) uses a number to represent how efficient the protein source is.

In other words, the higher a protein’s biological value – the more usable it is to the animal.

Here are the Biological Values of some common protein sources. BV = (protein used/protein available) x 100

Source BV Source BV
Whey Protein Isolate 104 Soy Protein 74
Whole Egg 100 Rice* 59
Fish Meal 92 Corn* 54
Beef 80 Beans 49
Milk Protein 78 Wheat* 40

*The three ingredients most commonly found in pet food (corn, rice, and wheat) are all considered to be poor sources of protein for either the dog or cat.

Over the last 30 years, scientists have come to the conclusion that the quality (amino acid profile) of protein is actually more important than the total quantity provided.

Nutritional value is also lost when digestibility is low. For example, your dog may eat 100% of the food you offer but only digest 50 – 70% if the nutrient sources are not compatible with the digestive anatomy and physiology of the animal. The dog and cat do not utilize poor quality protein sources as efficiently thus; an additional portion of the digested amount is also lost resulting in less than optimal pet nutrition.

The dangers of not consuming a high protein diet are many. Scientists have demonstrated that dogs and cats are less resistant to stress, more prone to anemia, infectious disease, internal and external parasites, depressed immune systems, cancer and decreased life expectancy.

When it comes to protein – remember these two things. The most efficient dog and cat foods contain the proper ratio of all essential amino acids required to maintain a balance (homeostasis) between the breakdown of cells (catabolism) and the building up of new cells (anabolism).

Considering the importance of protein in the dog and cat and the serious problems associated with protein deficiency, wouldn’t it be better to insure adequate protein intake by improving the quality of the protein sources currently being fed to our pets. This can be easily accomplished using proper nutritional supplementation.

How much protein is needed by the dog and cat?

While many dogs are able to adapt to the lower protein and extra carbohydrate over the short term, it certainly doesn’t make scientific sense to do so over their entire life. A biologically appropriate diet for any carnivore usually contains about 55% protein.

Recent clinical trials in sled dogs illustrate the impact of high-carbohydrate diets on a dog’s health and performance. Sled dogs were tested to see what would happen when they were fed differing levels of protein and carbohydrate.

Test results showed the following:

The inclusion of high levels of carbohydrate in these working dogs led to a significant drop in their performance. Numerous health problems were also present such as – muscle stiffness, fatigue, diarrhea, and early signs of anemia. As carbohydrate was reduced the problematic conditions went away.

Like all animals, dogs require some glucose as a short term energy source. The majority of canine energy (80%) comes from burning fatty acids. It is important to note that dogs and cats are metabolically capable of converting protein to glucose through the liver (a process called gluconeogenesis). In the wild, when dietary intake is mostly protein, this process is heavily relied on. In fact, it has been shown scientifically that the domestic dog and cat can sustain healthy blood glucose levels without any carbohydrate in their diet at all.

Optimum nutrition is a fundamental requirement to keep your pet in top physical shape and improve his or her chances of resisting disease and other degenerative conditions. Optimum cannot be achieved when manufacturers include inferior meat meals and by-products, cheap grains like corn and soy, various fillers, food coloring, pesticides, toxic preservatives, and other contaminants in their foods.

Case in point: the widespread contamination of pet foods with melamine (a chemical used in the production of plastics that can also imitate protein). The melamine scandal rocked the pet food industry not so long ago, and led to thousands of pet illnesses and deaths. More than 5,600 products by dozens of pet food makers – everything from cheap supermarket brands to prescription diets had to be recalled because they added melamine to boost the protein content on their labels.

Energy

Energy is the single most important requirement in canine and feline nutrition. All animals eat to supply energy. It is the first requirement of life. Food energy (calories) is made available through the process of digestion – the breakdown of protein, fats and carbohydrates that ultimately provide the chemical energy units that can be used inside living cells.

Dogs and cats require energy to support body metabolism during growth, adult maintenance, reproduction, lactation, physical activity and as seniors.

Energy is not itself a nutrient, but is gained through the digestion, absorption and metabolic conversion of the three major food sources: proteins, fats and carbohydrates.

Not all fuel sources are equal. Protein and carbohydrate provides approximately 4 calories (fuel units) per gram while fats provide roughly 9.2 calories per gram. One can easily see the potential benefits of increasing the fat content of the diet for animals whose energy needs are higher than maintenance (i.e. high performance and endurance).

Energy usage requires knowledge of many complicated subjects like Calories, Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) and Metabolism. Let’s keep it simple and discuss energy in terms of the food energy (fuel) needed by an animal to keep it working.

Optimum calorie intake ultimately depends upon protein intake, age, and the physiologic state of the animal. If adequate energy requirements are neglected in young dogs, growth will be inhibited even when protein levels are sufficient. Without a balanced source of energy during growth, animals will form smaller body organs, especially the liver, heart and kidneys. Too much energy during growth often leads to bone disease and an overweight pet.

Scientific studies have demonstrated that dietary metabolism is greater in dogs fed four small meals daily than when fed one large meal. The rise in metabolism amounted to an 11% increase overall. Metabolism is also increased with higher protein dog foods. Simply stated, higher levels of protein fed in smaller meals throughout the day actually helps to provide optimum pet nutrition and will keep an animal thinner, more active and in a healthier condition throughout life.

In the final analysis, the individual response of the animal is perhaps the best guide to meeting its optimal energy needs. If an animal is losing weight, the caloric intake should be increased. Likewise, whenever a pet begins to lose its youthful figure energy should be decreased.

Energy and nutrition in senior animals should be aimed at prolonging the length and quality of life and delaying the onset of geriatric dysfunction and disease states associated with aging. It should be noted that the decrease in physical activity and metabolism of aging dogs and cats routinely results in a reduction of about 20% in maintenance energy requirements. On the other hand, nutrient requirements increase as nutrient absorption in the gut slowly diminishes. This is a critical time in the life of both humans and their pets when they need to reduce caloric consumption and increase nutrient intake. The solution is to eat less or eat better foods and replace needed nutrients through low calorie, nutrient dense supplementation.

Fats and Fatty Acids

Fats and oils are the most concentrated source of food energy providing more than two times that of protein or carbohydrate on an equal volume basis. Fat, in moderation, is also the most digestible of the food sources thus, balancing the fat content of the diet is important. Too little leads to dry, scaly skin and harsh coats while too much produces weight gain, diarrhea and may overwhelm the pancreas leading to a very sick pet.

Feeding the correct amount of a nutritionally balanced diet ensures that your pet obtains the correct amount of all nutrients. Balance is critical. If, for example, the fat content of the diet is increased and other essential nutrients are not, the caloric density (fuel load) will increase; the animal will eat a smaller amount of food and risk ingesting insufficient levels of many other essential nutrients.

Dogs and cats usually can tolerate high levels of fat. Nevertheless, high fat levels should only be used by highly active dogs such as our working and performance breeds or during reproduction especially late pregnancy and throughout the lactation period.

Fats actually provide your pet with energy by converting them to essential fatty acids. Certain fatty acids play a specific role as principle structural components of cell membranes. These structural components are called phospholipids. Fatty acids also play a functional role as precursors for hormones and cell mediators responsible for regulating such important events as inflammation and platelet aggregation (blood clotting).

Recently, there has been a lot of detailed scientific information relating to the kinds of fatty acids we take in. Plant sources provide primarily omega-6 fatty acids while marine sources (certain fish oils like mackerel, salmon, krill and squid) contain mostly omega-3 fatty acids.

Several of the fatty acids serve as precursors of prostaglandins and eicosanoids, which are powerful physiologic regulators of cell functions. They also serve as carriers for fat-soluble vitamins and thus provide important substrates for cell processes during all life stages.

Brain and retinal development in animals and man depends upon the intake of the fatty acids Arachidonic Acid and Docosahexaenoic Acid during prenatal and neonatal life.

The skin is an important target for Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency as it is one of the largest organs of the body and is easily deprived if the wrong fat sources are ingested. An indication that pet food manufacturers are missing the boat in terms of proper fatty acid nutrition is that skin and hair coat problems are the number one reason why pets are being seen by veterinarians today.

Essential Fatty Acids

Your dog or cat has a fundamental dietary requirement for certain fatty acids that it cannot produce on its own. These fats can only come from the food you feed your pet, thus the term essential.

Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids derive their names from their chemical composition. It’s important to realize that your pet requires both omega-6 (linoleic acid) and omega-3 (alpha-Linolenic acid) in order to thrive.

The ratio of omega 3 to 6 fatty acids is very important to your pet’s wellbeing. The omega-6 fatty acids are generally considered to be inflammatory while the omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory. In general, most pets are consuming far too many Omega 6 fatty acids and too few Omega 3 fatty acids making them vulnerable to the effects of inflammation.

Most pet foods today are high in linoleic acid causing pets to be more prone to inflammation (redness, swelling, itching etc.) establishing what scientists are saying may be the primary cause of illnesses and disease. Nutritionists are now in favor of balancing the two kinds of fatty acids to achieve a more neutral environment at the cellular level.

Unfortunately, both omega-6 and omega-3 sources are very vulnerable to heat and oxidation, so while these fats may have once been present in your pet’s food, it’s possible they lost their bio-availability during the kibbling or canning process or prolonged storage.

Omega-6 Fatty Acids
The ratio of omega-6 to 3 fats is very important to your pet’s well-being. Current recommendations are for ratios of 5:1.

If your dog or cat is eating a typical commercial pet food diet, it’s actually far more likely he or she is getting too much omega-6 rather than too little. However, it’s important to understand the role the omega-6 fats play in your pet’s health.

A lack of omega-6 fats in your pet’s diet will result in poor overall development and a failure to gain weight. An omega-6 deficiency can compromise your pet’s immune system and cause liver and kidney degeneration.

Other signs of omega-6 deficiency include:

  • behavioral disturbances
  • poor wound healing
  • potential miscarriage
  • sterility in male pets

The omega-6 fats also play a major role in the health of your pet’s skin and coat. A deficiency can result in dry, flaky skin and a dull, brittle coat which leads to hair breakage and loss. In this compromised condition, your pet’s skin can become prone to bacterial infections and itchiness. Your pet might also develop a condition known as hyperkeratosis (thickened skin).

Omega-6 fatty acids are primarily found in plant oils such as flaxseed, hemp, and pumpkin seeds. If your pet is deficient in omega-6 fatty acids, which is highly unlikely given the ingredients used in most commercial pet foods today, supplementation will benefit the skin, coat and nails, and can also help alleviate skin allergies.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids have tremendous potential to positively impact your pet’s health.

Omega-3 fatty acids encourage the production of prostaglandins and leukotrienes, compounds that help regulate inflammation, immune system response and blood clotting activity in your dog or cat.

They help to reduce the inflammation associated with arthritis and conditions of the bowel such as ulcerative colitis and inflammatory bowel disease.

Research indicates omega-3 fatty acids may also prevent pet heart problems like arrhythmia and high blood pressure, as well as decrease triglyceride and blood cholesterol levels.

Omega-3 fatty acids are also being researched for their potential to slow the development and spread of certain cancers in pets, as well as for their ability to prevent or alleviate auto-immune disorders, allergies, and some skin conditions.

A deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids in your cat or dog can result in stunted growth, eye problems, muscle weakness and lack of motor coordination, as well as immune system dysfunction.

Carbohydrate
A dietary requirement of carbohydrate has never been scientifically established for either the dog or cat. Let me repeat neither the dog nor the cat – not even those subjected to hard work – require any carbohydrate at all in their diet. Some carbohydrate (10% of the diet) may be beneficial during late pregnancy, lactation and weaning as these periods pose an extreme nutritional challenge.

Having said that, why then is carbohydrate so widely used in today’s commercially prepared foods. Food manufacturers cite an important role of carbohydrate as that of being a “protein sparing” additive. In the wild, dogs and cats use protein and fat to generate energy units. Protein also has the responsibility of building and regenerating all of the body’s cells. In the wild protein efficiently allows both functions to occur.

Protein sparing works in omnivores and herbivores. However, it is not as efficient in the carnivore that uses protein and fat for both energy production and tissue metabolism.

The principle question is – are we really saving anything by using high levels of carbohydrate in pet food or are we doing something that may have a much higher cost overall in the years to come.

Fiber
A nutritional value of zero is given to fiber. Its primary use is to provide bulk and regulate intestinal transit. Given the relatively short intestinal tract of a carnivore system designed for optimal digestion of concentrated protein and fat with as little bulk possible, one might surmise that little fiber is needed in the dog or cat diet.

Vitamins

Vitamins are organic molecules that in very small quantities act as regulators. With few exceptions, they cannot be synthesized in the body and therefore must be obtained from food sources or through supplementation. Vitamins must be considered essential for life.

Vitamins are highly vulnerable to inactivation by oxidation (contact with air) and other chemical reactions that are accelerated by light, heat, acid or alkali. Thus, many of the natural vitamins in food are destroyed by most kinds of food processing, prolonged storage, open containers and moisture.

Vitamins are classified into two categories:

  • Fat-soluble vitamins – vitamin A, D, E and K
  • Water-soluble vitamins – The B vitamin group and vitamin C

The importance of knowing this is water-soluble vitamins can be taken in excess of recommended requirements because they are easily broken down and excreted in the urine. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in body organs like the liver. Excesses in these vitamins over a period of time can reach toxic levels with severe consequences to a pet’s health.

Vitamin A
Vitamin A describes a family of essential compounds including retinol, retinal or retinaldehyde, retinal esters, retinoic acid and provitamin carotenoids such as Beta-carotene. Vitamin A is essential for growth and life, taking part not only in vision but also in developmental processes that begin in embryogenesis. It is required throughout life in order to maintain normal cellular differentiation.

Vitamin D (Cholecalciferol)
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that requires some dietary fat for absorption. Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) is produced by plants while D3 (cholecalciferol) is made by animals. When produced by animals the body must have exposure to UV rays (sunlight).

Vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium and phosphorous, which are vital in forming and maintaining strong bones and teeth. The intake of high fiber in the diet reduces absorption. Like other fat soluble vitamins, excessive intake of Vitamin D can possibly lead to toxicity.

Vitamin E (Tocopherol)
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin and a powerful antioxidant. It consists of eight compounds all synthesized by plants. Vitamin E is divided into two major groups, tocopherols and tocotrienols. The most potent Vitamin E compound is natural vitamin E (d-alpha-tocopherol).

This is often called the fertility vitamin and is good for both dogs and bitches. It is used for the formation of genetic material and helps to prevent atony (stalled birth). It is beneficial for the immune system and helps with autoimmune problems. It is also helpful for blood circulation. Lack of it can cause testicular degeneration in dogs. Vitamin E is also a powerful antioxidant.

Vitamin K (Menadione)
Vitamin K is the anti-hemorrhagic vitamin required for the synthesis of the thirteen cofactors required for the normal coagulation of blood. It is also required for the production of proteins found in plasma, bone, and the kidneys.

B Vitamins
The whole spectrum of B vitamins is important for fertility and preventing birth defects. It is important to give all the B vitamins, in balanced doses, as they compete with each other in the small intestine for absorption.

Vitamin B1 Thiamine
Thiamine requirements for this vitamin go up during pregnancy. It is felt that a deficiency of this vitamin can cause fading puppy syndrome, and reduced sexual development. It also helps to protect cell development. Foods containing this vitamin include organ meats, pork, egg yolks, poultry, fish and broccoli.

Vitamin B2 Riboflavin
Riboflavin is important for tissue repair and stress. A deficiency can also cause anemia. It also is important for healthy eyes, and helps with good milk production. Foods containing riboflavin include yogurt, eggs, meat, poultry, fish, kidney and liver.

Vitamin B3 Niacin
Niacin and Niacinamide are needed for alertness and avoiding depression and for healthy skin. It is important for growth in puppies and kittens unfortunately, the consumption of corn in most pet diets blocks the absorption of B-3. Foods sources are beef and pork, fish, milk, cheese, eggs, broccoli and carrots.

Vitamin B5 Pantothenic Acid
Pantothenic acid is known as the anti-stress vitamin since it is involved in the production of adrenal hormones and antibodies produced by the body’s white blood cells. Like other vitamins, it assists in vitamin metabolism and helps in the conversation of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates into energy for the body.

It is an essential part of acetyl coenzyme A, which is involved in energy production for the cell via the production of ATP.

Vitamin B5 enhances stamina and is involved in the production of neurotransmitters. It may help prevent and treat depression and anxiety and is useful for normal function of the intestinal tract.

Sources: Vitamin B5 is obtained in the diet from beef, brewer’s yeast, eggs, organ meats (especially liver and heart), rice, mushrooms and saltwater fish.

Vitamin B6 Pyridoxine
Pyridoxine is important in the metabolism of amino acids found in protein and essential fatty acids. It also helps in absorption in iron, B-12 and zinc. B-6 levels are found to be deficient in pregnant human mothers and can cause convulsions and irritability in infants. A deficiency can cause anemia and immune problems. Lack of this vitamin can be linked to cleft palate. Foods containing this vitamin include eggs, fish, spinach, carrots, meat, chicken and salmon.

Folic Acid
Folic acid is important for the production of the genetic material, RNA and DNA. It is necessary for good brain development. Deficiency of this vitamin can cause anemia in the mother and birth defects in the puppies. Food sources include beef, lamb, pork and chicken liver.

Vitamin B12 Cyanocobalamin
This vitamin is important to nerve growth, and to prevent anemia. Its absorption is enhanced with vitamin C. Food sources are lamb and beef kidneys, lamb, beef and pork liver.

Additional Important Vitamins

Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
Vitamin C and Bioflavonoids are part of the team of nutritional antioxidants that help suppress free radical inflammatory attacks on cells. Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant that can quench both reactive oxygen and reactive nitrogen species and can act as a reducing agent in hydroxylation reactions.

Additionally, this vitamin helps in the formation of collagen. It is an anti-stress vitamin and helps to synthesize hormones. It also helps to promote good immunity and is a powerful antioxidant. It also helps to reduce fatigue during whelping, and aids in the process of milk production.

Bioflavonoids
Bioflavonoids are considered to be antioxidants and help to increase vitamin C absorption. They are also helpful in cataract prevention.

Biotin
Biotin is important to newborns, which can often be deficient in this vitamin. Deficiency symptoms include a skin rash, appetite loss, weakness and hair coat development. It is also important for function of the thyroid gland, adrenal glands, ovaries and testicles. Foods high in biotin are chicken, lamb, pork, beef, liver, milk and salt water fish.

Minerals

Minerals are inorganic compounds found in the earth. Minerals are not required in large volume like other basic nutrients, but their function in canine and feline health is vitally important. Calcium, phosphorus and magnesium are primary components of bone metabolism. Sodium, potassium and chloride are responsible for maintaining extra-cellular and intra-cellular fluid volumes, one of the most important functions of any animal’s system. Minerals also play important roles in most enzymatic and hormonal functions of the body. Like vitamins, minerals are also critical components to overall pet health.

Calcium
Calcium intake is particularly important during the growth and suckling stages of young puppies and kittens. About 99% of the body’s calcium is stored in your dog or cat’s bones. There, it is responsible for making a strong skeletal structure and supports the transfer of information between cells and sensory impulses.

Phosphorus
The amount of phosphorus your pet consumes in should be balanced with his or her level of calcium intake. Together, the two minerals can help with bone structure and cell energy. However, older dogs should be given less phosphorus, because it could make certain health conditions worse.

Potassium
Potassium is called a macro mineral, because the body needs large amounts for proper functioning. This mineral works in the cell to keep a balance of pressure with sodium. It also helps create energy at a cellular level.

Potassium Citrate
Your pets, just like humans, can develop painful kidneys stones that must be passed through urine. That’s where potassium citrate comes in. This mineral can bond with calcium in your pet’s system, keeping it from forming stones and reducing urine acidity.

Sodium
Just like calcium, sodium helps monitor the pressure inside and outside of your pet’s cells. It is also the mineral responsible for regulating water. Sodium encourages your dog or cat to drink more water, which, in turn encourages him or her to urinate more frequently, clearing out any minerals that could become stones.

Sodium Phosphates
A very common health issue among pets is dental disease, caused by plaque and tartar build-up on the teeth. Sodium phosphates help slow down the formation of tartar. You’ll even find this mineral in a lot of human toothpastes.

Magnesium
Magnesium is a multifunctional mineral, used in a number of ways in your pet’s body. It helps build your pet’s bones, produces energy at a cellular level, and is needed for a good working nervous system.

A deficiency of this mineral can cause premature birth and inter-uterine growth retardation. It can also cause over-extension of the carpal joints.

Trace Elements

Zinc
This mineral can help boost your pet’s body function in several different areas. For instance, zinc improves the quality of your dog or cat’s skin and hair, while also improving his or her reproductive function.

Lack of this mineral can cause miscarriage and birth defects. It can also cause skin problems, poor immunity, low sperm production. It also helps to activate vitamin A for eye development and health. It is involved in the synthesis of the nucleic acids RNA and DNA, which aid in cell division, repair and growth.

Iron
Your pet needs only trace amounts of iron, placing it in the category of a trace mineral. However, it’s still vital for bodily function, helping provide oxygen to both organs and muscles.

Manganese
This mineral is especially important to puppies and kittens, as well as older pets. Manganese helps ensure quality bone and cartilage. It also helps with the mitochondria function, or the cell’s energy source.

Copper
This may be a minor element, but copper helps with several functions in your pet’s body. It helps your pet’s system absorb iron, helping stop anemia and participates in the synthesis of melanin, which ultimately gives your pet his or her hair color.

Iodine
While only a minor metal, iodine plays a significant role in your pet’s digestive system. It also helps with the synthesis of thyroid hormones that regulate your pet’s metabolism.

Selenium
Just like other antioxidants, selenium helps fight against oxidative stress, like aging, pollution, cancer, or inflammatory diseases. Inside your pet’s body, this trace mineral acts in tandem with vitamin E to protect cell membranes from free radicals.