Manganese: Trace Mineral

Manganese is essential for the proper use of proteins and carbohydrates, for reproductive health, and the action of enzymes responsible for energy production and the creation of vital fatty acids. In dogs, most ligament injuries, especially cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) disease, can be traced back to a deficiency in the vital trace mineral manganese. A dog has a fairly high requirement of this trace nutrient and it is unfortunately far too low in many homemade raw meals. Manganese is especially low in commercial kibbles that do not contain bioavailable forms of this nutrient. If we are examining homemade diets for a medium size dog, many analyzed diets are coming in at an incredibly low 0.25 mg or less per day. A medium sized dog needs at least 7 times that amount per day, and that is a conservative minimum. Goat hair, chicken feathers (notably the red feathers from pullets), red fur, and lamb’s wool contain large amount of manganese, as well as organs and bone marrow which provide a fair amount. These are the manganese sources for wild canines. Unfortunately, not many of us are providing hair and feathers. I am one of the few who actually does raise chickens and ducks, so my dogs do receive feathers (red feathers from pullets) in their meals.

When it comes to feeding our pets, liver and bone contain a fair amount of highly bioavailable manganese, but at a yield of 0.2 mg/100 g in bone and 0.4 mg/100 g in liver, it is not sufficient to meet daily needs because liver and bone are not fed in large amounts. Green tripe provides ten times the manganese of liver, mussels provide sixteen times, and hemp seeds nineteen times the manganese! And, comparingly manganese in lean beef to spinach, spinach contains 40 times the amount of manganese than lean ground beef. You would need to feed almost 17,000 calories of beef or 418 calories of beef liver to meet the same manganese level as a mere 23 calories of spinach. Mussels, green tripe, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, spinach, blackberries, turmeric, ginger, and lettuce are all excellent sources of manganese that are bioavailable to dogs. If you are not one to feed green tripe because of the smell or lack of sourcing-availability, adding a scoop of green lipped mussel powder will meet daily manganese requirements, along with other minerals. If you are adding seeds to boost manganese needs (and other nutrients), add Vitamin C rich foods. Seeds contain anti-nutrients that bind with minerals in the gut. One such anti-nutrient is phytic acid. Since seeds are fed in such small quantities (teaspoons), the small amount of phytic acid can be “deactivated” by adding Vitamin C rich foods. Vitamin C will also increases iron absorption as an added bonus!

If your dog’s meals are lacking in vital manganese and you absolutely cannot add enough food sources of this nutrient, a supplement would be wise to consider or your dog’s health may suffer. But not all supplements are created equally! Do not supplement with this or any nutrient until you first research the antagonistic nutrients and the partner nutrients. Read my post entitled Commonly Deficient Nutrients and Supplementation before purchasing a supplement.

©2019 Kimberly Lloyd, PhD, BCHHP, Cert Raw Dog Nutritionist

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a vitally important nutrient that can often be deficient in a dog’s homemade diet. Unlike us humans and many other animals, dogs do not convert the sun’s radiation into adequate Vitamin D needs. This is likely because wild dogs can easily receive Vitamin D through the skin and organs of their wild prey. Our domestic dogs do not generally feast on wild prey or whole animals at meal time. This can pose a problem with meeting Vitamin D needs. Without an adequate source of this essential fat-soluble vitamin, dogs are at risk for heart disease, bone disease (especially puppies who have rapidly growing bones), osteomalacia, bone fractures, dental problems including broken teeth, and periodontal disease. A dog’s muscles and nerves require Vitamin D to function properly. Vitamin D transports calcium and phosphorus across the intestinal wall and aids in regulating their absorption. It also prevents diabetes by stimulating the production of insulin, and regulates inflammation and immune function.

If you are in the habit of daily feeding your dog skin, fatty fish, beef liver, and/or pasture-raised chicken eggs, you are on the right track. However, if you are not providing these Vitamin D-rich foods, it’s time to start adding them to meals. A medium size dog requires at least 4.3 mcg (about 175 IU) of Vitamin D daily with a top shelf need of 25 mcg (1,000 IU). This lower requirement is not easy to meet if foods are not chosen specifically for their vitamin D content and added to daily meals. Because cod liver oil is an excellent source of Vitamin D, many people make the mistake of adding cod liver oil to a meal that also includes liver (and kidney!). Cod liver oil is a rich source of Vitamins A and D. Vitamin A is easily met by feeding liver and can raise to toxic levels when cod liver oil is also added. Vitamins A and D are fat-soluble and are stored in the liver. Too much can cause serious toxicities, a condition known as hypervitaminosis. You will want to avoid cod liver oil altogether if you feed organs daily.

Foods to add to meals that are rich in Vitamin D and meet a medium dog’s needs are 1-2 oz. wildcaught salmon, 2 oz. mackerel, or 2 oz. sardines in ADDITION to a pasture-raised egg yolk and beef liver. This will meet daily needs. Or, adding these foods in larger amounts (3-4 oz.) three times per week will still meet Vitamin D levels because D is stored in the liver.

Supplementation is needed if you cannot meet Vitamin D needs. Because Vitamin D is stored in the liver, you need only add a boost of vitamin D two to three times per week. Be aware, however, that while plants contain some Vitamin D know as ergocalciferol (D2), dogs cannot utilize this form and must receive the animal source of vitamin D known as cholecalciferol (D3). So if you’re purchasing a low dose supplement, make sure you purchase Vitamin D3!

©2018 Kimberly Lloyd, PhD, BCHHP, Cert Raw Dog Nutritionist


Carbohydrates or no carbohydrates? Commercial dog foods contain upwards of 64% carbohydrates. But is this healthy for a carnivore? While pet food companies would have you believe that dogs are omnivores, a dog’s anatomy and physiology certainly speaks otherwise. Carbohydrates such as wheat, corn, rice, quinoa, potatoes, oats, barley, soybeans, chick peas, lentils, bran, peas, peanut hulls, plant gums, and cellulose are actually quite dangerous. This does not mean that dogs cannot digest SOME carbohydrates. The truth is, they absolutely can and do. But for this article, we are discussing the issue with the high carbohydrate diets too many pets are consuming. So, when and where did feeding high carbohydrate diets to dogs begin? It began pre-World War II.

In 1860, a man named James Spratt happened upon dogs scavenging for food in a shipyard. What the dogs were eating was hardtack that Navy sailors threw from the ships into the shipyard. This one incident gave Spratt the idea to create dog cakes and sell them as pet food. He partnered with Charles Cruft, founder of Cruft’s Dog Shows, to market and promote his invention. And the rest is history. And still today, Purina, Pedigree, Hill’s, and others sponsor all major dog shows around the world. These dog food manufacturers also do a great job of convincing young veterinary students (who do not receive any or very little education in nutrition) that their commercially created foods are complete diets for dogs; in fact, they insist, the only diets a dog should recieve. Consider this: what if your child’s pediatrician told you to feed your precious kiddo a bag of human kibble, adding nothing else to the diet ever, for life? You would likely run. At least I hope you would! And yet, why do pet parents not do the same when processed dog food is recommended for their beloved pet, for life?

Not all carbohydrates are created equally. The problem with carbohydrates in the form of the above grains, legumes, and gums is that they block the gut absorption of calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron, critically and vitally important nutrients your dog must assimilate for cellular uptake and bodily function. These sources of carbs are not what are considered bioavailable, and as a result, bleeding bowels, colon and rectal problems and disease, gastrointestinal tumors, arthritis, allergies, skin conditions, hair loss, seizures, obsesity, joint destruction, and cancer are other conditions that develop in many dogs who consume too many of these inappropriate carbohydrates.

One way to check if your dog is consuming too many carbohydrates is to check his/her stools. If your dog’s stools are large, have a terrible odor, either too much moisture or are hard and look like bricks, and have not biodegraded in just over a week’s time, you can rest assured your dog’s digestive faculties are under stress and health crises may be just around the corner. We call these stools “big smelly dog logs.” These are the stools that must be picked up and disposed of because they spread disease and do not biodegrade quickly and cleanly like an animal’s feces on a biologically appropriate diet.

What do you do now? Remove 90% of the carbohydrates from your dog’s diet. Even better, remove 100% of all inappropriate carbohydrate sources and add fresh fruits and vegetables as a healthful alternative. If your dog is on a kibble diet, switching to a grain-free kibble will do little to reduce carbohydrates. In fact, grain-free kibbles contain higher amounts of inappropriate fibers and low-bioavailable legume proteins. It is no surprise that the incidence of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a deadly heart condition, has risen since the introduction of grain-free kibble. Rather consider that you are perfectly able to and capable of providing your dog a fresh, low-carb, whole food diet. You will see incredible results when you provide your dog what he/she needs in the form of fresh meat, organs, raw bones, fresh berries and vegetables, yogurt, and high quality fish and oils. Where do you begin? Right here! The Holistic Canine is your first source for canine nutrition. Let’s get your dog started on an incredible journey to health and healing.

©2018 Kimberly Lloyd, PhD, BCHHP, Cert Raw Dog Nutritionist

Iron: The Facts & Dangerous Truths

PART 2 Should You Supplement?

The trace mineral iron often comes up low when pet parents are diligent to analyze their dog’s homemade raw meals. This can be perplexing especially since raw meals consist of the most iron-rich foods we can offer: organs, meat, fish, and bone marrow. Let me start off by saying, true iron deficiencies are extremely rare in dogs. Iron deficiencies occur as secondary conditions to a primary health condition such as kidney disease, gastrointestinal hemorrhage, hemangiosarcoma (tumor), autoimmune conditions, and other cancers. In the rare instance iron-deficiency anemia does occur, it is nearly always caused by chronic blood loss, most notably from gastrointestinal tumors. When it comes to puppies, iron deficiency can occur in pups infested with bloodsucking fleas, ticks, and hookworms. Because dam’s milk is low in iron, puppies are most vulnerable to anemia. Should a pet parent be concerned if an analyzed diet is coming up low in iron despite a meal replete with iron-rich foods?  Is supplementation necessary? Let’s first take a look at some facts about iron and the dangers that surround it.   

Decades ago, Cambridge University’s Department of Medicine conducted a test entitled Iron Metabolism. The report written by Martin Hynes indicated the use of test dogs to determine iron absorption rates. Healthy dogs with normal blood iron levels (normal), dogs with high blood iron levels (plethoric), and dogs with iron-deficiency anemia were used in the study. The findings showed “a normal dog would absorb only very little of a test-dose [of iron] given by mouth, and a plethoric dog would absorb practically none, dogs suffering from chronic iron-deficiency anemia might utilize more than half of a small test-dose for hemoglobin production.” Why this is significant is the fact that iron, although an essential trace mineral, is also a very precarious metallic element that can be lethal. As a result, the bodies of humans and animals, as indicated in the test above, have a fail-safe that regulates and inhibits the absorption of iron in the presence of normal and high blood iron levels known as “free iron.” Even more, this test shows that even in the presence of anemia, iron absorption is not much better. Let’s consider this further.

A dog’s body, like ours, regulates iron levels by adjusting the rate of iron absorption from the digestive tract. The iron-regulatory hormone known as hepcidin is released by the liver to maintain safe iron levels in your pet’s body. Hepcidin’s main function is to suppress the intestinal absorption of iron. If iron stores are high, hepcidin levels increase to reduce dietary iron absorption and prevent the release of stored bodily iron into the blood. If iron stores are low, hepcidin decreases resulting in a drop in bodily iron stores (this is resultant of iron being released into the blood) and an increase in dietary iron absorption in the intestines. In a healthy dog, there are only small amounts of “free iron” circulating in the blood. The “free iron” is bound to a protein (body minerals are organic being safely bound to a nutrient) which keeps the iron from doing harm to the cells. When dietary iron intake is coupled with iron supplementation, “free iron” levels increase. Because “free iron” is a pro-oxidant (the opposite of an antioxidant), oxidation occurs causing damage to cells.

Excess iron is difficult for our pets to expel as dogs do not have a way to excrete or remove iron already stored in the body. Although a dog’s body will limit (and possibly prevent) the absorption of temporary high iron intake, continuous use of even low dose iron supplements will eventually lead to excessive iron levels. If “free iron” levels raise and remain consistent, the cellular damage can lead to death. To confirm my own studies, the article entitled Iron Toxicity in Dogs: Symptoms | Effects of Iron Poisoning in Pet Dog validates, “Iron toxicity is a form of metal poisoning in dogs. One’s pets are harmed more easily than the human owner by an iron overdose as these animals are not able to remove the excess iron easily from their bodies. Even if small doses of iron are given over a long time span, toxicity of iron can still develop in the body only because the body is not able to rid itself of the iron that is present already. Some of the main symptoms of iron poisoning in dogs is drowsiness, lethargy and listlessness and also vomiting. The dog may also suffer from bloody diarrhea.”

Quite literally, iron, when in a surplus, is a fatally destructive poison. Corrosive damage occurs to the stomach and intestinal linings; the liver, nervous system, and cardiovascular system are severely impaired and injured; and damage to and alteration of cellular function and metabolic processes occur. In the article Excess Iron in the Blood in Dogs found on PetMD we learn, “In the event that there is a high volume of iron present in the blood, damage can occur within the cells. While iron is an essential nutrient for the regular functioning of a dog’s body, when it is present in large quantities in the bloodstream, it can become lethal.” For this reason, when it comes to the consideration of adding iron supplements, I am opposed. Unless you have your dog’s blood iron (ferritin) levels tested, or have a Hair Mineral Tissue Analysis completed (a service provided by The Holistic Canine), even the consideration of adding an iron supplement is cautioned against. The best approach is to take steps to ensure your dog is receiving adequate iron from meals as well as optimizing absorption.

Increasing iron-rich foods is the safest way to ensure your dog receives adequate amounts of iron. Dogs require heme-iron which is found only in animal sources of food such as organs, meat, fish, blood, and bone marrow. Adding iron-rich vegetables will do little in the way of reaching iron requirements. If you are privy to a little secret, there is a nutrient that aids absorption of non-heme iron (plant sources of iron) that can give your dog’s diet a slight boost. Oddly enough, some of the highest plant-sources of iron contain oxalates and calcium both of which impair the absorption of iron in the gut. Dogs absorb anywhere from zero to minute amounts of iron from plant sources if it is not coupled with Vitamin C rich foods. Eggs contain an inhibitory phosphoprotein known as phosvitin that also binds iron. And feeding calcium-rich bone will also bind iron. Thankfully, Vitamin C has shown to reduce the inhibitory effect of egg proteins and calcium. One of the biggest hindrances to adequate iron absorption is phytic acid (phytates) found in grains and legumes, popular additions to commercial dog foods and some homemade meals. Seeds and nuts also contain phytic acid. Phytic acid binds with iron preventing its absorption. And guess what? Vitamin C saves the day again by increasing the absorption of iron in the presence of phytates. So bring on the Vitamin C! Incorporating fruits* and vegetables containing Vitamin C or a whole-food vitamin C supplement has proven to be an effective technique for boosting iron absorption when added to meals or even in between meals.

Now if all of this is not problematic enough, if you are supplementing with zinc and/or copper, you are likely to cause an iron deficiency especially if you have fallen for the “more is better” motto. Another culprit is high fiber, also found in many commercial foods and homemade meals containing grains, legumes, and high amounts of seeds. Keeping all this in mind, now let’s consider why AAFCO and the NRC have a rather difficult-to-reach iron requirement.

Iron requirements recommended by AAFCO and the NRC are reflective of the iron-binding issues of commercial dog foods. Raw feeding pet parents following AAFCO’s or the NRC’s recommendations may find their calculators or diet designer programs are suggesting their meals are hitting minimums for iron or are even coming up low. But as you have read above, as long as you are providing iron-rich organs, meats, fish, and bone marrow as well as Vitamin C rich vegetables and fruits* or a whole-food vitamin C supplement, you are providing adequate iron. Remember, your dog’s body will increase iron absorption by lowering hepcidin if iron levels are low. It is a delicate balance that is vital for preventing damage caused from high iron levels. Understand that iron is never absorbed anywhere near a rate of 100% where meals are provided regularly. This would be fatal. Iron is absorbed in the gut as an as-needed basis only. In the presence of lower dietary iron levels, absorption rate is highest. Alternately, the higher the iron intake the faster the absorption percentage falls. So in a nut shell, you CANNOT force iron absorption especially with iron supplements.

In the event your dog has become anemic due to cancer, a ruptured hemangiosarcoma, kidney disease, gastrointestinal hemorrhage, or another condition, understand that iron supplements do not increase hemoglobin. A blood transfusion is necessary or intramuscular injections (that are very painful) given only by a veterinarian. You cannot remedy anemia with supplements. In fact, according to Trace Elements laboratory where I send hair samples for mineral analysis, “Taken alone over prolonged periods, iron supplements can result in anemia. This is due to iron’s antagonism to copper. Copper is necessary for the utilization of iron and if deficient can cause excess iron accumulation within the tissues, thereby not allowing iron to be incorporated into the hemoglobin molecule.” Thus, I would like to discuss iron supplementation further.

All “natural” minerals are inorganic compounds found within the earth and sea. Humans and animals cannot utilize inorganic minerals and must obtain these vital nutrients from plants which convert inorganic minerals into organic nutrients that humans and animals require. Dogs obtain organic minerals by consuming herbivores and omnivores which eat the organic minerals contained in plants. The minerals within the organs, flesh, blood, and bones of prey are then absorbed by the canine’s body via the digestive processes and further utilized as needed.

When both we and our animals are lacking in vital nutrients, we often unwittingly turn immediately to bottled sources. The problem with most mineral supplements is the fact that they are inorganic minerals chelated to another mineral or acid, thus remaining inorganic. On the supplement label, the mineral description and dosage will reflect to what the mineral is chelated. Most often the mineral name is followed by another mineral such as chloride (chlorine with a salt) and iodide (iodine with a salt) or an acid that will end in -ate such as ascorbate, carbonate, picolinate, and aspartate. These are not food, or what are known as organic minerals. These industrial chemicals are literally plant food. For a mineral supplement to be organic, it must be chelated to a nutrient such as an amino acid and/or a peptide. However, the safest and most bioavailable minerals are whole food sourced nutrients. Thankfully, whole food supplements can also come in a bottle!

The most common iron supplements to blame for iron toxicity in dogs are ferrous fumarate, ferrous sulfate, ferrous carbonate, and ferrous phosphate (ferrous is a divalent iron compound).  A lethal single-dose of iron is an excess of 20 mg/kg. I cannot stress enough to avoid these and other iron supplements. So let’s recap:

The BEST and safest iron supplementation is to increase iron-rich organs, meat, fish, and bone marrow in the presence of Vitamin C. Period. As you have likely noted, nutrients work synergistically in a delicate balance of antagonism and partnership. The best way to avoid deficiencies and toxicities is to provide your dog’s essential nutrients through whole foods.

©2019 Kimberly Lloyd, PhD, BCHHP, Cert Raw Food Nutritionist

*I do not recommend adding fruit to meals. Fruit contains natural sugars and digests differently from proteins and fats. If consumed along with meat, organs, and fats, fruit may ferment within the stomach and gut causing digestive upset, stomach discomfort, intestinal irritation as well as increasing the risk for bloat. I recommend feeding fruit as treats between meals.

Commonly Deficient Nutrients and Supplementation


Most raw feeders who have educated themselves prior to beginning a raw nutrition plan know that certain nutrients tend to lack in a homemade raw diet. Vitamins D and E, two vital fat-soluble nutrients, top the list for nutrient-deficient vitamins. For minerals, the top most deficient is manganese, a trace mineral most people have either never heard of or mistake for magnesium, the macro-mineral. Following manganese are the trace minerals copper, iron, and zinc and the macro minerals magnesium and potassium. With a properly balanced diet, all of these nutrients can be fulfilled.

Vitamins D & E are fat-soluble vitamins requiring fat for absorption. Unlike water-soluble nutrients, these nutrients are stored in the body. Vitamin D is stored in the liver and fat tissues to be drawn upon when needed. Food sources of Vitamin D are almost never toxic; however, excessive supplemental Vitamin D can be, such as what is added to commercial dog foods. Although Vitamin D toxicity is rare, I still recommend supplemental D be used with caution if you are unable to provide adequate food-sourced Vitamin D through the diet.

Vitamin E is also stored in the fat tissues of the body. Despite being fat-soluble, I recommend that this vitamin be supplied daily. Vitamin E toxicity is an extremely difficult occurrence and near impossible through food sources. Vitamin E functions primarily as an antioxidant and prevents cellular damage from oxidized fat. This vitamin functions similar to the mineral selenium. An abundance of selenium in the diet will reduce the amount of Vitamin E required.  Because animal food sources do not supply adequate Vitamin E, alternative plant sources must be fed.

If you must supplement either or both of these vitamins, understand that science has shown that synthetic and nutrient isolates do not and cannot perform nor function in the same manner as naturally occurring food nutrients. Do not purchase a synthetic version of either of these vitamins, and do not be misled by the “natural” Vitamin E isolate d-alpha tocopherol. Vitamin E is a complex and needs to be consumed as a complex for optimal absorption and utilization. The synthetic, isolate, and non-bioavailable forms to avoid are:

  • Ergocalciferol (Synthetic Vitamin D)
  • Calciferol D2
  • dl-alpha tocopherol (Synthetic Vitamin E)
  • d-alpha tocopherol (Isolated alpha)

To supplement Vitamins D and E, use either a whole food source or a natural vitamin supplement such as:

  • Cholecalciferol (vitamin D3)
  • Mixed tocopherols (vitamin E complex)

I do NOT recommend cod liver oil for a Vitamin D supplement as this also contains Vitamin A. If you feed liver, this is a huge NO. This can cause hypervitaminosis A, a very serious vitamin A toxicity condition.

Wild dogs receive Vitamin D from the skin, organs, fat, and bone marrow of their prey. Vitamin E is needed in small amounts in the presence of selenium which wild dogs receive in plenty from flesh, organs, and bone.

Vitamin D: highest food sources

  • Mackerel  (547 IU [13.7 mcg] in 3 oz.)
  • Salmon (425 IU [10.6 mcg] in 3 oz.)
  • Canned Sardines (270 IU [6.75 mcg] per can)
  • Beef/Calf liver (42 IU [1 mcg]) in 3 oz.)
  • Egg yolk (41 IU [1 mcg] per egg)
  • Plain yogurt (90 IU [2.25 mcg] in 6 oz.)

Supplemental D: Cholecalciferol (D3) only Dose*: 100-200 IU (2.5-5 mcg) for medium dog  

*Because Vitamin D is stored in the body, I recommend these LOW doses especially when used in combination with Vitamin D rich foods. A low dose can be given daily.

Vitamin E: highest food sources  

  • Wheat germ oil (20 mg in 1 tbsp.)
  • Sunflower seeds (10 mg in 1 oz.)
  • Pumpkin seeds (10 mg in 1 oz.)
  • Hemp seed oil (10 mg in 1 tbsp.)
  • Almonds (7.4 mg in 1 oz.)
  • Avocado (2.1 mg in half the fruit)                  

Supplemental E: Use mixed tocopherols ONLY Dose: 10-15 mg for medium dog              

The trace minerals manganese, copper, iron, and zinc are not difficult to source if raw-feeding pet parents know how to source foods that contain these vital nutrients. Some simple adjustments or food additions is often all that is needed.

Manganese is the most difficult trace mineral to source. Wild dogs receive this nutrient from red fur and feathers, bone marrow, and blood. Pet parents do not always have access to whole prey, and some dogs want nothing to do with a whole animal plopped down for dinner. We often need to be creative to find alternative sources. Green lipped mussels and plants, however, provide adequate amounts and bioavailable (useable) forms of manganese.

Manganese: highest food sources

  • Green lipped mussels (5.8 mg in 3 oz.)
  • Turmeric (5.6 mg in 1 oz.)
  • Hemp seeds (2.2 mg in 1 oz.)
  • Pumpkin seeds (1.29 mg in 1 oz.)
  • Ginger, ground (0.58 mg in 1 tsp)
  • Raspberries & Blackberries (0.38 mg in 2 oz.)
  • Almonds (0.65 mg in 1 oz.)

Copper, iron, and zinc are not difficult to source if you choose your foods wisely. The problem stems from many pet parents relying heavily upon chicken and chicken liver for the majority of their meals. This is due to cost efficiency and ease of supplying RMBs.  By adding alternative food options, these minerals can be easily fulfilled.

Copper: highest food sources

  • Beef/Calf liver (4 mg in 1 oz.)*
  • Oysters (2.5 mg in 2 oz. canned)

*This one simple switch fulfills copper requirements!

Wild dogs receive their iron needs from blood, bone marrow, and organs.

Iron: highest food sources

  • Chicken hearts (5.96 mg in 3.5 oz.)
  • Beef heart (4.3 mg in 3.5 oz.)
  • Sardines (2.92 mg per can)
  • Goat (2.8 mg in 3.5 oz.)
  • Chicken liver (2.6 mg in 1 oz.)
  • Chicken gizzards (2.49 mg in 3.5 oz.)
  • Beef (2 mg in 3.5 oz.)
  • Rabbit (1.57 mg in 3.5 oz.)
  • Beef liver (1.4 mg in 1 oz.)
  • Beef kidney (1.3 mg in 1 oz.)
  • Egg, whole (0.6 mg in 1 egg)

Wild dogs receive zinc from bones, blood, flesh, skin, and organs.

Zinc: highest food sources

  • Oysters (51.57 mg in 2 oz. canned)*
  • Chicken hearts (7 mg in 3.5oz.)
  • Beef (4.55 mg in 3.5 oz.)
  • Chicken gizzards (4.3 mg in 3.5 oz.)

*This one simple addition fulfills zinc requirements!

When it comes to supplementing these three trace minerals, knowledge is essential or a variety of imbalances, deficiencies, and injury can occur. To begin, these three nutrients are antagonistic with each other and must be supplemented together. I never advise anyone to supplement with either zinc or copper. Although you can squeeze by with manganese as an individual addition to meals, my best professional opinion is to provide all three in the appropriate ratios. Supplementation is a whole different ball game compared with providing food-sourced organic minerals. Thus, there is another important factor that must be understood. Because this applies to all minerals, I will discuss supplementing at the end. Let’s first look at magnesium and potassium.

A seemingly difficult-to-source macro mineral is magnesium. This is because animal flesh and organs are very low in this essential mineral. Nevertheless, magnesium deficiency is extremely rare in dogs. Where it does occur, it is a condition in dogs fed low quality commercial kibbles and those who are badly malnourished. As of a recent data base search, there exists no recorded case of a magnesium-deficient raw fed dog who received bones. This is likely because bones provide magnesium, the most overlooked food source of this mineral, numerous other minerals, and fat-soluble vitamins. Because people do not consume bones, adequate and reliable nutrient profiles have not been determined on bone. As a result, many raw feeders relying upon nutritional data apps have a difficult time providing food sources of magnesium, and therefore, turn to inappropriate food sources such as oatmeal to “hypothetically” fulfill magnesium requirements. As long as you are feeding bones along with the following species-appropriate foods, magnesium requirements will be adequately met.

Magnesium: highest food sources

  • Spinach, cooked (157 mg in 1 c.)
  • Swiss chard, cooked (150 mg in 1 c.)
  • Pumpkin seeds (92 mg in 1/8 c.)
  • Avocado (58 mg in 1 med.)
  • Salmon (53 mg in 3.5 oz.)
  • Mackerel (40 mg. in 3.5 oz.)
  • Oysters (30.6 mg in 2 oz. canned)
  • Banana (30 mg in 1 med.)
  • Spinach, raw (24 mg in 1 c.)
  • Yogurt, low-fat (23.5 mg in ½ c.)

Surprisingly, potassium often comes up low on analyzed raw food recipes. This macro mineral has the body’s highest mineral requirement along with calcium and phosphorus. Most foods contain potassium, but because the need is so high, it can be a daunting task trying to provide adequate amounts. Nearly all meat, fish, and organs provide approximately 300-550 mg in every 3.5 ounces. Bone also provides potassium, however, the value (amount) is not known. The raw meals that come in with the highest potassium levels are those that include plants as “extras.”

Potassium: highest food sources

  • Beet greens, cooked (1309 mg in 1 c.)
  • Avocado (975 mg in 1 med.)
  • Swiss chard, cooked (961mg in 1 c.)
  • Spinach, cooked (839 mg in 1 c.)
  • Sweet Potato, cooked (536 mg in 1 c.)
  • Zucchini, raw (459 mg in 3.5 oz.)

Exact nutrient profiles for bone have not been completed; however, bone does provide:

Bone tissue:

Calcium                                               Phosphorus

Magnesium                                        Sodium

Potassium                                           Chloride

Sulfur                                                   Silica


Vitamin A                                            Vitamin K

Iron                                                       Zinc

Selenium                                             Manganese

Boron                                                   Omega-3 fatty acids

Minerals and Mineral Supplementation: Natural minerals are inorganic compounds (rock) that are found in the earth. Animals (and humans) cannot synthesize minerals, nor can they directly utilize mineral salts from the earth or the sea. Rather, earth and sea mineral salts are absorbed by the roots of plants and following various metabolic processes, the absorbed minerals become complexed with carbohydrates, fats, and proteins within the plants. In other words, plants absorb the inorganic mineral salts and convert them into organic nutrients that humans and animals require. The only way that our pets and people can receive bioavailable (absorbable and useable) minerals is through the consumption of plants and the animals that ate the plants. Let me recap this again. Inorganic minerals are plant food. Organic minerals are food for people and animals. People and animals CANNOT utilize plant food. And yet, many mineral supplements are inorganic. It is these mineral supplements that cause an array of complications, including death.

Sadly, our soils are becoming increasingly more depleted of minerals. We are on the verge of a crisis. Organic farming practices are essential for increasing and maintaining soil-mineral levels in order that we and our pets do not become mineral deficient. When it comes to the raw diets we create and provide for our pets, there is a concern that I want to make pet parents aware of. The universal nutrient profiles that many pet parents are relying upon via nutrition apps and raw food calculators are mere “hypothetical” values based on averages and potentials which are then pooled into a data base. In reality, nutrient profiles and values vary immensely among the same food items being wholly dependent upon soil conditions, whether organically grown or raised, or conventionally grown or farmed, the weather throughout the growing season, environmental factors, the country or sea of origin, whether wild-caught or farmed, the diet feed-animals consumed, when and how the food is harvested, when and how an animal is slaughtered, preparation for packaging or shipment, the actual shipment process, travel-time, handling by grocers and market employees, and on and on. Even without knowing it, we are many times providing our pets with nutrient-deficient meals via our choice of ingredients. While nutrition apps and dog food designer programs are helpful, they are not based on reality. However, they are not completely useless albeit they are not accurate to give you a guaranteed nutrient profile for the foods in your pet’s bowl. Chosen food sources may be, and often are, deficient especially if the foods purchased are the cheapest cost available, especially from discount grocery stores and markets. Worse, pet parents who fall under the false notion that dogs should not or do not need plants in their daily meals are at the greatest risk for coming up short on numerous nutrient needs. To have a near guaranteed nutrient profile, purchase foods from farms that have their nutrient values analyzed for all the products they raise, grow, and sell. Since there exists very few farms that do just this, source the highest quality foods you are able to afford; foods that are naturally, organically, and/or ethically raised along with non-GMO, organically grown plant and supplemental “superfood” ingredients.

Keeping all this in mind, if you are unfamiliar with the potential nutrients found in common raw food ingredients, and especially, if you are sourcing cheap, lower quality ingredients, I recommend using a spreadsheet calculator or meal designer program that can analyze your dog’s meals. Calculators are available for free on many raw food websites. The Holistic Canine has calculators available in the Facebook group files section. Here is the best way to use the calculators and programs:

1) If you are purchasing the lowest quality ingredients, consider the nutrient values in your chosen ingredients slightly less than the program’s stored nutritional profiles. Most calculators have both AAFCO’s and the NRC’s minimum nutrient requirements. Use the NRC’s nutrient minimums and raise them 10%. Evaluate your meals and supplement where you are consistently hitting minimums or coming up short.

2) If you are using the highest quality ingredients, your nutrients are likely close to ideal. If an analysis program shows your ingredients are hitting minimums, add simple whole food supplement powders such as spirulina, wheatgrass, chlorella, alfalfa, kelp, and green lipped mussels and your levels will reach optimal. If the farm has provided a nutrient analysis on your purchased foods, use those values rather than the values in your app, calculator, or diet designer program. This may require paper, pen, and some math! Pay the closet attention to the nutrients that are often minimum or deficient. If a mineral or minerals is/are consistently low, you need to supplement.

Mineral supplements come in two types: 1) Inorganic– rock minerals known as mineral salts chelated (bound) to an acid or another mineral, and 2) Organic– mineral salts chelated to a nutrient such as an amino acid and a peptide. Inorganic supplements are strongly cautioned against. They can be dangerous as the body does not utilize the minerals correctly often causing minerals to be displaced as seen in the example of calcium supplementation causing heart attacks and death in women. You will want to avoid inorganic supplements such as these popular industrial chemical examples:                               

  • Calcium carbonate, -citrate, -gluconate, -lactate, and -phosphate
  • Copper carbonate, -gluconate
  • Magnesium carbonate, -chloride, -citrate
  • Potassium chloride, -iodide, -sulfate
  • Zinc carbonate, -chloride, -citrate, -gluconate, -oxide, -picolinate, -sulfate

Ideally, you will want to purchase mineral supplements that are whole food sources, and if you cannot find or afford a whole food source, purchase organic* mineral chelates that are bound to a peptide and/or amino acid. Some examples of bioavailable supplements include:

  • Eggshell or bone meal for calcium
  • “Raw Organic* Whole Food” [mineral name] Ex: Raw Organic Whole Food Zinc
  • “Raw” [mineral name] Ex.: Raw Zinc
  • “Whole Food” [mineral name] Ex.: Whole Food Magnesium
  • [Mineral name] “Food Complex” Ex.: Zinc Food Complex
  • [Mineral name] “amino acid chelate” Ex.: Copper “amino acid chelate”
  • Magnesium L-Threonate
  • Zinc Biglycinate, L-Methionine, L-OptiZinc®
  • Any mineral with the Albion® and TRAACS® labels

*Keep in mind, organic means the mineral is not a salt or chemical, but bound to a nutrient making it bioavailable to people and animals

To supplement zinc, copper, and manganese, you can choose supplements that are whole food sources which will require that each mineral be purchased individually. This can be very expensive. Or, purchase organic amino acid chelate minerals.

1) Whole food sourced mineral supplements should have a ratio of approximately 15mg: 1mg (zinc to copper) with 2-5mg manganese. Whole food sourced minerals do not need to be an exact ratio, but it is recommended to stay near to the recommendation. This dose is perfect for dog’s receiving dietary zinc and copper that are coming in low, but not deficient along with a deficient manganese level (most common scenario). If dietary manganese is low, but not deficient, keep the manganese dose to 2mg. Increase or decrease the doses in this ratio dependent upon your dog’s nutrient requirements. This dose is adequate for a medium dog.

2) If using organic chelate minerals, supplementing in the correct ratio is necessary. Do not stray too far from these recommendations or imbalance may occur. I highly recommend purchasing a zinc and copper combination in a ratio of 15:1 or 30:2 (zinc to copper). Determine your dog’s nutrient requirements for zinc, copper, and manganese. I purchase a zinc, copper, and kelp combination containing a dose of 15 mg zinc amino chelate, 1 mg copper amino chelate, and 53 mcg of iodine from kelp (a whole food source). Purchase a manganese Albion® product in the lowest dose possible. I found a 10 mg dose in capsules. Choose capsules for their ease of opening for partial dosing and closing it back up for later meals. In a meal where you require extra zinc and/or copper, supplement with the zinc/copper combination, and if your manganese levels are just at or slightly below, add manganese as well. For example, if I add one capsule of 15 mg zinc and 1 mg copper, I will add ¼ to ½ a capsule of a 10 mg dose of manganese which will yield approximately 2.5 mg to 5 mg. (It doesn’t have to be exactly ¼ or ½ the capsule. It will balance out when the entire capsule has been used.) This dose is sufficient for a dog that is 25 – 50 pounds. This will be an appropriate balance that will not cause an imbalance with any of these three minerals. Because supplements are treated differently within the body, I strongly recommend adding all three together.

Purchasing green lipped mussels (such as Thrive brand) provides all three of these minerals; however, the nutrient amounts are quite low and expressed in mcg. Wheatgrass is another source of these minerals; however, the nutrient levels vary widely from product to product. Unless the company has the nutrient profiles clearly analyzed by an outside lab and labeled as a guaranteed analysis, I would use it as superfood ingredient added to every meal in addition to the organic mineral supplements that are lacking. If you are inclined to sprout and grow your own wheatgrass, understand that hydroponic (water) sprouting and growing does NOT provide minerals such as soil provides. Your mineral values will be far too low to meet your dog’s mineral requirements. Even in 3.5 oz. of home-sprouted wheatgrass, you will barely meet the manganese need for a medium dog. Zinc and copper are so low they are reflected in mcg.

The average medium adult dog requires these nutrient minimums daily:

  • Vitamin D: 4.3 mcg up to 20 mcg
  • Vitamin E: 10 mg
  • Manganese: 1.5 mg
  • Copper: 2 mg
  • Iron: 10 mg
  • Zinc: 20 mg
  • Magnesium: 190 mg
  • Potassium: 1,400 mg (1.4 g)

©2018 Kimberly Lloyd, PhD, BCHHP, Cert Raw Dog Nutritionist