Many of us went into the new year carrying a little extra holiday weight, that may also include our four-legged family members.
In a previous blog, we discussed why obesity is a health risk in dogs, as well as how to safely help your pup shed those extra pounds using evidence-based weight loss tips. But there is so much more to weight management than “calories in, calories out.”
While most literature about weight loss for dogs covers calories and fibre, often missing from the weight loss discussion are the micronutrients. Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals needed in the diet of all living organisms in small amounts.
Although your pet only needs a small amount of these nutrients, they can have a huge impact on overall health. Here we will highlight five micronutrients that you most likely had no idea related to weight health!
Iodine is found in fish, seaweed, dairy products, eggs, and other animal products. In pet foods, you can often find iodine included as potassium iodide, sodium iodide, calcium iodide, or potassium iodate.
Both you and your pet need iodine to synthesize thyroid hormones. These hormones are used to regulate your pet’s energy utilization. Adult dogs at maintenance require 220 mcg/1000 kcal ME, and adult cats at maintenance require 350 mcg/1000 kcal ME, according to the National Research Council (NRC).
Iodine deficiencies can result in hypothyroidism which can cause stunted growth, poor coat quality, and importantly, weight gain.
Medium to large-sized dogs, specifically Golden Retrievers, Great Danes, Boxers, Poodles, and Cocker Spaniels, may be more prone to an iodine deficiency.
Ensuring there’s enough iodine in your pet’s diet is critical to proper health and nutrition. However, too much iodine can cause hyperthyroidism. It’s a delicate balance, and exact levels of iodine (or any other nutrient) in food are impossible to measure outside of a lab. This is why it’s important to choose a pet food certified for nutritional balance by qualified animal nutritionists.
Zinc can be found in red meats, dark poultry meats, dairy, and legumes, or added to your pet’s food in its chelated, supplement form – meaning it is bound to amino acid proteinates.
Photo by Eiliv-Sonas Aceron
Zinc is an essential trace mineral, which means it is required in the diet in very small amounts, but its importance should not be underestimated. Zinc plays many crucial roles in the body, including the metabolism of carbohydrates, protein, and fats. It is essential for the proper functioning of DNA, proteins, and enzymes in the body.
A zinc deficiency can cause anorexia, poor skin and coat health, stunted growth, and reproductive issues, whereas too much zinc can cause deficiencies in calcium and copper by interfering with their absorption. This can result in lethargy, muscle weakness, osteoporosis, dental issues, and other health issues. The recommended allowance for zinc in adult cats and dogs is 18.5 mg/1000 kcal ME and 15 mg/1000 kcal ME, respectively.
During weight loss, appropriate zinc levels can help ensure proper metabolism. And due to its involvement in muscle maintenance and synthesis, zinc may help prevent muscle mass loss during weight loss - something to keep in mind if your pet is highly active.
Commonly found in vegetables, grains, and nuts, manganese is another micronutrient that is important for our pets. It is particularly prevalent in weight management, which is why our low-fat meals contain plenty of fresh veggies and fruits.
Manganese is involved in energy metabolism and blood sugar regulation. It is also an important part of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase. This enzyme has previously shown benefits for treating inflammatory disorders in humans.
So how is this relevant to weight loss?
Pets who are overweight or obese actually have higher rates of inflammation and are at greater risk of inflammatory diseases (i.e. osteoarthritis). Thus, manganese may be particularly important in the diet of an obese pet.
On the other hand, while manganese deficiency is rare in both cats and dogs, it can cause alterations and dysfunction of lipid metabolism, reduced growth, and reproductive issues. According to the NRC, adult cats and adult dogs require 1.2 mg/1000 kcal ME.
Often considered a B vitamin, choline and its derivative betaine are commonly found in organ meats, grains, and eggs.
Choline is involved in fat metabolism which has many downstream effects that can benefit weight loss and muscle maintenance. Choline supplementation in obese cats appeared to increase fat transport from the liver, thus maintaining liver health, which can be beneficial for obese cats undergoing weight loss and preventing fatty liver.
Choline deficiency is unlikely to occur in cats and dogs. However, it can cause fatty liver and eventual liver failure, which can be fatal. According to the NRC, adult dogs at maintenance require 425 mg/1000 kcal ME, and adult cats at maintenance require 627 mg/1000 kcal ME.
5. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that can help protect your pet from oxidative stress. Good sources of vitamin E include wheat germ, soybeans, bright, colourful vegetables, and sunflower seed oil!
Deficiencies in vitamin E can cause a weakened immune system, muscle weakness, and nerve and muscle damage. According to the NRC, adult dogs at maintenance require 7.5 mg/1000 kcal ME, and adult cats at maintenance require 10 mg/1000 kcal ME.
Pets that are overweight or obese may experience oxidative stress, inflammation, and a weakened immune system. Providing adequate vitamin E may help these conditions while undergoing weight loss.
Feeling a little overwhelmed by micronutrients? Don’t sweat. At Tom&Sawyer, our certified animal nutritionists take care of all the small details for you. All our meals are developed to perfectly fit your dog’s dietary needs, including weight loss requirements. Build your companion’s personalized meal plan here.
If you have any questions or concerns about weight loss or your pet’s diet, chat with our qualified animal nutritionist, Hannah Godfrey (BSc.H. | MSc. | Ph.D. Student in Animal Nutrition) email@example.com, or talk with your vet about safe weight loss for your pet.
Written by Hannah Godfrey
Case L.P. et al. Canine and Feline Nutrition: A resource for companion animal professionals 3rd ed. May 19, 2010.
Cummings J.E. & Kovacic J.P. The ubiquitous role of zinc in health and disease. J Vet Emerg Critical Care. 2009:19(3):215-240.
National Research Council. (2006). Nutrient requirements of dogs and cats. Washington, DC. The National Academies Press.
Verbrugghe et al. Serum lipid, amino acid and acylcarnitine profiles of obese cats supplemented with dietary choline and fed to maintenance energy requirements. Animals. 2021:11(8):2196.
Yasui K. & Baba A. Therapeutic potential of superoxide dismutase (SOD) for resolution of inflammation. Inflamm Res. 2006:55(9):359-363.
Zicker S. & Schoenherr B. The role of iodine in nutrition and metabolism. Compend Contin Educ Pract Vet. 2012:32:1-4