Immune defense starts in the doggie dish: Why minerals matter in pet food

  • Minerals are critical to immune function in pets.
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Like their owners, companion animals are living longer and are leading healthier lives. Better nutrition, regular health care and sanitary conditions are just three advantages of contemporary life for the modern cat and dog.
 
We also have a better understanding today of how our pets’ nutrition and immune defenses interact. As a result, pet owners can choose foods with nutrition that more directly supports animal health.
 

Why does your dog or cat need minerals?

 
A great example of this interaction between diet and health is trace minerals and the forms in which we add them to foods.
 
Trace minerals are important nutrients that are added in small, or “trace,” amounts to complete diets like dry dog food. They include copper, manganese, zinc and selenium. These minerals must be included in the diet because animals cannot synthesize them or obtain sufficient amounts in any other way. 
 
Trace elements are on the front lines of immune defense. Innate immune cells, such as macrophages and neutrophils, race to the site of infection or injury. These first responders engulf pathogens and kill them by producing free radicals, which is why a full complement of antioxidants must be present. In response to immune challenges, tissue reserves of minerals are mobilized for duty.
 
Minerals such as copper, manganese, zinc and selenium are all at the active site of antioxidant enzymes, which neutralize oxygen free radicals. The free radicals are part of immune defense but must be quickly neutralized to prevent damage to host cells.
 

Inorganic or organic: Why does the mineral form matter in pet food?

 
Tissue reserves and contaminant prevention are primary reasons why the form of trace minerals added to pet foods matters.
 
Commercially available minerals come in inorganic and organic forms.
 
Inorganic trace minerals are metal salts mined primarily for construction and electronics. Human and animal foods, even added together, are a very small fraction of total trace mineral usage. Construction does not need to worry about heavy metal contaminants like cadmium in zinc or PCBs in copper. People, pets and other animals do.
 
In contrast, biocomplexed organic trace mineral producers look to the food chain to identify the forms in which minerals are present. This helps to provide the most easily digested and stored nutrients.
 
Trace minerals in plants and animals are both in antioxidant enzymes. This means that the copper, manganese and zinc are chelated, or firmly attached, to the protein parts of enzymes to ensure that the minerals maintain their integrity in the digestive system and are more bioavailable to the animal. Bioplex® minerals are as close to nature as we can make them — minerals chelated to protein fragments, otherwise known as mineral proteinates.
 
Selenium is a bit different. As opposed to enzyme chelation, plants put selenium in proteins. Animals cannot do this, but, fortunately, we can use yeast to deliver this form in animal diets. This means that Sel-Plex® selenium yeast mirrors nature’s form.
 
Biocomplexed organic minerals are the forms animals best digest, absorb and store. They offer better availability to dogs and cats, meaning that more minerals are stored in tissues and are ready to be used when they are needed most: rushing to the front lines of an immunity challenge.
 
The ingredient label on your pet’s food matters. Check the list: Are your minerals organic?