Vitamins and Minerals – Supplementation and Overdoing It

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Vitamins and minerals supplementation is a precise science as it depends upon a delicate balance between appropriate amounts versus the potential for deficiency or toxicity. This is particularly important regarding calcium and phosphorus, which Diana Laverdure and I discuss at length in our book, Canine Nutrigenomics: The New Science of Feeding Your Dog for Optimum Health. It definitely requires a comprehensive discussion that a simple blog post cannot fully explore. However, I decided to give you my perspective on the topic.

Reference and History

Nutrification is a general word for the addition of nutrients to a food. Under this umbrella, the addition of nutrients to diets involves three terms:

1. Enrichment – addition of one or more nutrients (naturally present in the food in lesser amounts) in order to increase their consumption.

2. Restoration – addition of nutrients to a processed food to replace nutrients lost during processing.

3. Fortification – addition of nutrients that may or may not be naturally present in the food in order to increase their consumption by some or all of the general population.

The movement for product enrichment and fortification is not new and has been around since the beginning of the 20th century. Salt is usually fortified with iodine to stave off goiter. Some toothpastes are fortified with fluoride to combat cavities. Vitamin D is added to milk. Cereal grains are often enriched and/or fortified with thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and iron. This particular effort was started in the 1940’s to combat deficiency diseases such as pellagra and beriberi. Pellagra was prevalent in the impoverished areas of the Southern United States during the early 20th century. It is a niacin deficiency, caused by the 3M (Maize, Molasses, Meat [salt pork]) Diet, and results in the 3D’s of Dermatitis, Diarrhea and Dementia. Cereal is shelf-stable, easy to transport, and low cost. Thus, it made sense to fortify and enrich human cereal foods with these necessary vitamins and minerals.

Pet Food and Supplementation

The majority of commercial pet foods are enriched, fortified or restored with additional vitamins and minerals. This is particularly important for pets on limited ingredient diets to help control food sensitivities. Proponents of prey-model diets will argue that additional supplementation is not necessary and that it is all the hype of pet food manufacturers. Some truth lies in the latter part of that statement but Steve Brown and Karen Becker, DVM, and I disagree with the former assertion as those diets can be dangerous and imbalanced with long term feeding.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) – which is an independent body consisting of pet food manufacturers – sets the minimum standards for supplementation in pet foods (not treats). While most of us have concerns with AAFCO standards and the organization, I agree with Steve and Karen that at least minimums exist between all of the commercial pet food manufacturers. Of course, your companion animal may need additional supplements depending on the food, its level of absorbability, and the animal’s activity level and age.

With that being said, Steve has adroitly observed the opposite as a potential problem: while minimums exist; a scarier thought is that AAFCO maximum standards do not exist. As more raw pet food manufacturers add organs to their foods, because of their rich source of vitamins and minerals, they may also be blindly throwing in a vitamin pack without considering the potential health risks such as copper accumulation. A good example of copper toxicity is a dog diet that includes beef liver and is also enriched with copper. And, yes; I do prefer organ meats as sources of vitamins and minerals instead of the added supplementation. However, if a balance is not achieved, a companion animal’s health is at risk.

Side note: many homemade diets and my liver and kidney cleansing diets often call for an additional multivitamin supplement. These diets refer to lean meats that are not as rich in essential vitamins and minerals but are easier to obtain at local grocery stores.


If you would like reference materials to enhance your pet’s diet for optimum nutrition, I suggest the following as staples in any library.

The latest edition of Karen Becker’s book, Dr. Becker’s Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats: Simple Homemade Food.

My book coauthored with Diana Laverdure, Canine Nutrigenomics: The New Science of Feeding Your Dog for Optimum Health.

W. Jean Dodds, DVM
Hemopet / NutriScan
11561 Salinaz Avenue
Garden Grove, CA 92843

Dodds, Jean, DVM, and Diana Laverdure, MS. Canine Nutrigenomics: The New Science of Feeding Your Dog for Optimum Health. Wenatchee: Dogwise, 2015. Print.

Steve Brown and Karen Becker Seminar, sponsored by Raw Bistro Pet Fare, May 2015.

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