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Essential Minerals for Dogs

by Lauren Samet

Minerals are an essential component of a dog’s diet in order to maintain their health. They can be divided into two groups: the macrominerals and the trace minerals. Macrominerals are those which are required in larger amounts in a dog’s diet and are present in larger quantities within the body. These include calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, magnesium and chloride. The trace minerals, as the name suggests, are required in much smaller quantities within the diet and the body. Examples include zinc, iron, copper, iodine, chromium, selenium, manganese and fluorine.

If you feed a “complete” dog food then this should provide all the minerals with your dog needs for a balanced diet and to avoid mineral deficiency. Minerals should never be overlooked in a dog’s nutrition, as feeding too much or too little of one can result in major health problems. If you’re unsure about what to feed your dog, speak to a veterinarian or an animal nutritionist that specialises in canine nutrition. 

Some breeds of dog or individuals with particular requirements may require extra care with supplementation. For example, it’s extremely important that calcium and phosphorus intake is balanced for growing dogs, especially in giant breeds. Failure to get this right can result in skeletal deformities and abnormalities that can cause a lifetime of issues. Similarly, certain breeds of dog appear to be prone to kidney stones or copper toxicity; owners of these breeds may wish to seek extra advice on mineral intake from vets.

Just because minerals make up a small proportion of the diet, it does not mean that mineral nutrition should not be taken as seriously as any other dietary component.

Macrominerals for Dogs

Calcium & Phosphorus

Calcium and phosphorus are essential for bone formation, nervous system function, blood coagulation and muscle function. Just like in human nutrition, a deficiency in either of these macrominerals can result in skeletal deformities and weakness. Equally, over-supplementing these minerals can also lead to skeletal health problems, which can include abnormal growth or skeletal development issues, especially in larger dog breeds.

Calcium plays an important role in nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction and in the constriction and dilation of the blood vessels. It’s therefore crucial for a healthy circulatory system in your pet. 

The multi-functional nature of calcium in the body indicates the significance of maintaining a balanced level in the blood. Bone reserves of calcium can be utilised if blood levels fall too low and are not replaced by dietary calcium, however, this can leave the bones deficient and cause loss of density. The balance of calcium to phosphorus in the diet is very important when feeding your dog; it’s usually ideally balanced at a ratio of around 2:1, depending on the life stage of the dog. 


Sodium is utilised in fluid balance, muscle (including cardiac) function and nervous system health. 


This micromineral helps to maintain fluid balance alongside sodium and chloride. It’s also necessary for nerve and muscle function, including the heart.


Important for bone and muscle form and function, magnesium assists with a dog’s ability to absorb calcium (hence its role in bone health). Magnesium also plays a role in nervous system function, and in some species (like horses) has been identified as supporting anxiety, although limited evidence exists for this in canines.


Along with sodium, chloride also plays a key part in fluid balance within a dog’s body and assists with nervous system function (helping to transmit electrical impulses around the body’s nervous system). 

Did you know?

Macrominerals such as sodium, chloride and potassium are the body’s major electrolytes. These support the generation of electrical impulses, known as action potentials, around the body’s nervous system. These impulses are the lightning-quick signals which send messages around the body.

Trace Minerals (Microminerals) for Dogs


Zinc plays an important part in the function of many enzymatic reactions in a dog’s body, as well as supporting a dog’s immune system and skin and coat health. Zinc deficiency in a diet can impact a dog’s fertility and the body’s ability to repair wounds. 


As in human health, the iron in a dog’s diet supports blood function within the body. It’s used in both haemoglobin and myoglobin, which are oxygen-carrying proteins in the blood and muscles, respectively. Lack of iron in a diet can cause anaemia and fatigue, alongside poor growth and several other states associated with the body’s failure to thrive (e.g. bone, ligament and joint issues). 


Many vitamins and minerals rely on one another for absorption and efficient utilisation by the mammalian body. Copper is one example of a mineral which assists in the body’s utilisation of another mineral, in this case, iron. A deficiency of copper can therefore also cause an issue with iron levels in the body. Copper has many roles in the dog’s body, including the formation of red blood cells and pigmentation in the coat. 

Did you know? In some breeds of dog (e.g. the Bedlington terrier) liver disease can be caused by a mutant gene that results in abnormally high amounts of copper accumulating within liver tissue, leading to potential liver failure. Surveys carried out in the ’90s showed that 30-60% of Bedlington terriers were affected, however responsible breeding has helped to reduce the prevalence of this disease in the breed (a test is available to identify dogs that have the gene).


Iodine is an essential trace mineral in a dog’s diet and is important in the formation of thyroid hormones and for metabolic control. A deficiency of iodine in the diet can cause metabolic changes that can lead to weight fluctuations and a lack of energy.


Chromium is an essential trace mineral in the dog’s diet which is involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. It is needed on a cellular level for the uptake of glucose and therefore deficiency can sometimes lead to insulin resistance.


Selenium works with vitamin E to help support immune system function. It’s also an essential component of the antioxidant glutathione peroxidase, which helps prevent premature ageing and inflammation. Only very small amounts of selenium are required in the dog’s diet, meaning it is easy to over-supplement. However, deficiency can result in muscle cramps, poor immunity and stress intolerance. 


Manganese (not to be confused with Magnesium) is needed for bone growth and thyroid hormone production. Deficiency can cause reproductive issues and development problems with bones and cartilage around joints, alongside poor skin and hair health. Manganese is associated with the utilisation of vitamins B1, B7, C and E so a deficiency can impact the body’s uptake of these nutrients too.

Other Trace Minerals

Some of the other trace minerals that exist include Nickel, Molybdenum, Silicon, Boron, Cobalt, Fluorine and Vanadium. At present, there’s still a lack of information and research on these trace minerals for scientists to make any recommendations regarding their allowances in dogs’ diets. However, it is likely that a balanced diet provides these trace nutrients in some form to maintain your dog in a healthy state.


Types of Mineral Supplement

Finally, there are three main types of the mineral supplement:

Whichever form your dog receives in their diet, make sure they are a part of a balanced diet to ensure that your pet has all the nutritional components they need to thrive.

National Research Council (2006) Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/10668.
Schachter, S., Nelson, R. W., & Kirk, C. A. (2001). Oral chromium picolinate and control of glycemia in insulin‐treated diabetic dogs. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 15(4), 379-384.
Ubbink GJ, Van den Ingh TS, Yuzbasiyan-Gurkan V, Teske E, Van de Broek J and Rothuizen J (2000) Population dynamics of inherited copper toxicosis in Dutch Bedlington terriers (1977-1997).Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 14: 172-6
Universities Federation of Animal Welfare (2012) Genetic Welfare Problems of Companion Animals [Online]. Available at: https://www.ufaw.org.uk/dogs/bedlington-terrier-copper-storage-hepatopathy