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Is your pet’s illness linked to a vitamin or mineral deficiency?

Updated: Mar 5

Part 1 of a 2-part blog series


What if you could resolve your animal’s health issue by ensuring that they’re getting the nutrients they need?


There are two categories of nutrients - macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates and fats. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that are essential for healthy development, disease prevention and wellness.


In this blog post series, we’re going to be focussing on the micronutrients - vitamins and minerals, and how many ailments in animals can result from micronutrient deficiencies.


In this Part 1, we’ll explore minerals.


In Part 2, we’ll explore vitamins.


Minerals v vitamins


Generally, a greater emphasis is placed on the importance of vitamins in the diet rather than minerals. But, minerals are equal in importance, if not more important.


According to veterinarian and author Pat Coleby, a deficiency in minerals will always precede a deficiency in vitamins.


If an animal’s intake of minerals is in total balance, vitamin deficiencies should not occur.

Coleby asserts that without adequate minerals, vitamins cannot function properly.


Minerals and their relationship with illness


If the diet is missing minerals, or the minerals are delivered in a way that aren't bio-available (they aren't capable of being properly absorbed or used), illness can result due to mineral deficiency.


What are minerals?


Minerals are inorganic elements that are essential for sustaining life and maintaining health. They make up about 4% of an animal’s body weight.


They are split into two categories - macro-minerals (calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sulphur, iron, sodium, potassium and chloride) and micro-minerals (chromium, cobalt, copper, fluorine, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, and zinc).


Minerals are essential for bodily metabolic processes. They play a variety of essential roles in an animal’s body including skeletal support, nerve transmission, protein and hormone transport, water and electrolyte balance. Many minerals work synergistically, and an imbalance in one can affect the body’s ability to utilise other minerals in the diet.


Because of these factors, it’s vital that minerals be included in an animal’s diet, in the right quantity and in the right balance.


Mineral imbalance and illness


An imbalance of minerals in an animal’s diet can cause a variety of health issues, such as:


  • bone deformities and inflammatory conditions like arthritis (imbalance of calcium, magnesium, cobalt, phosphorus)

  • poor muscle tone (imbalance of calcium)

  • poor teeth (imbalance of calcium)

  • respiratory issues (imbalance of calcium)

  • lactation problems such as milk fever and mastitis (imbalance of calcium, magnesium)

  • poor gut and muscle functioning (imbalance of magnesium)

  • nervous system issues (imbalance of magnesium)

  • unhealthy red blood cells and vessels (imbalance of cobalt, potassium)

  • anaemia (imbalance of cobalt, copper)

  • reduced resistance to disease (imbalance of copper)

  • thyroid diseases (imbalance of iodine)

  • liver failure (imbalance of copper - excess causing toxicity)

  • muscle wasting (imbalance of selenium)

  • fluid retention (imbalance of sodium)

  • skin problems (imbalance of sulphur)

  • death (imbalance of selenium)


This isn’t to say that mineral imbalance is the sole cause of your animal’s health issue, but ensuring they’re getting the minerals they need in their diet, in the right balance, can go a long way to helping them prevent and heal from disease.


Ways to balance minerals in your animal’s diet


One of the best ways to ensure that your animal is getting the minerals they need is by feeding them a fresh and varied diet that consists of whole foods they were designed to eat.


Feeding foods that contain naturally occurring minerals is superior to feeding foods with synthetic minerals or adding synthetic mineral supplements. Your animal’s body will better assimilate minerals that are naturally occurring rather than synthetic / artificial.


You can include seaweed in the diet (for all animals including horses, chickens, cats and dogs) because it provides a natural and comprehensive source of minerals such as boron, cobalt, copper, iodine, selenium, sodium and zinc.


Additionally for cats and dogs, these food items can provide a rich and bioavailable source of essential minerals:


  • Raw meaty bones are one of the best ways to ensure a balance of calcium and phosphorus. If not feeding bones, you will need other sources such as egg shells (calcium only), dolomite (providing balanced calcium and magnesium) or micro-crystalline hydroxyapatite, which is derived from bones (provides calcium, phosphorus, magnesium).

  • Meat and poultry provide selenium, manganese, sulphur and phosphorus.


  • Fish provides phosphorus, sulphur, manganese, iodine and cobalt.


  • Organ meats provide iron (spleen in high amounts) and copper.


  • Beef liver, egg yolks, dark poultry meat and oysters provide zinc.


  • Grains provide iron, magnesium, phosphorus and selenium.

CAUTION: It’s important to be mindful about what you’re feeding your animal. If you’re already feeding a complete and balanced diet, adding foods that are rich in certain minerals can result in an excess, which can cause illness eg an excess of copper can cause liver failure. This can happen for example if you’re feeding kibble and you add beef liver, feed liver treats etc. The kibble will no doubt have adequate levels of copper (albeit synthetic which won’t support optimal absorption) and adding liver, that is rich in copper, could result in an excess and cause illness.


If you’re feeding a homemade diet, it’s vital that your animal’s minerals needs are met with a variety of foods and / or supplementation.



If you would like to make changes to your animal’s diet, it’s best to work with a qualified animal nutrition professional, like myself. Book in a complimentary initial chat with me here to see how I can help you feed your animal a balanced, healthy and mineral-rich diet.



References:

Canine and Feline Nutrition: A Resource For Companion Animal Professionals by Linda P Case et al. 3rd edition.

Natural Horse Care: A Practical Guide by Pat Coleby. 2008.

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About Ruth

Ruth Hatten is a Holistic Animal Care Mentor with qualifications in animal naturopathy, pet nutrition and energy healing. She helps animals using holistic principles and natural remedies, including naturopathy, nutrition, plant medicine, energy and spirituality. Ruth believes that animals can thrive when they are supported in this way.​

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