Bioavailability: Unlocking the Power of Nutrients

In our quest to provide the best possible nutrition for our canine companions, it’s essential to understand the role of vitamins and minerals in their diet. These micro-nutrients, though required in small amounts, play a significant role in your dog’s overall health and well-being. In this blog, we’ll delve into the fascinating world of dog nutrition, exploring the functions of essential vitamins and minerals, and the factors affecting nutrient bioavailability.

Vitamins and Minerals: Tiny Warriors with Mighty Roles

Vitamins and minerals are the unsung heroes of your dog’s diet. Just like in humans, these micro-nutrients have vital functions within your dog’s body. From supporting the immune system to maintaining healthy bones and coat, these tiny warriors play an indispensable role in keeping your dog in top shape.

For instance, vitamin A is crucial for maintaining good vision and a healthy immune system, while vitamin B12 is essential for proper brain and nervous system function. Minerals like calcium and phosphorus work in synergy to build strong bones and teeth.

See the table below for a break down of some essential minerals and vitamins dogs require. (Words in red are defined in glossary at the end of this post).

Minerals

Nutrient

Role in your dog’s body 

Whole Food Sources 

Iron (Fe)

Fe is a component of haemoglobin,
involved in oxygen transportation and the production of cellular energy. Fe is also involved in the regulation of neurotransmitters and myelination of spinal cord and brain.

Red meat, organ meats (such as spleen, heart, liver, kidney), fish, hemp seeds, egg yolk, nuts.

Copper (Cu)

Cu is a constituent of several enzymes involved in the absorption of nutrients. Cu is also needed for the growth and formation of bone and myelin sheaths.

All types of liver, other organ meats, shellfish
and other seafoods, hemp seeds.

Magnesium (Mg)

Mg is involved in cellular energy production and is a cofactor for several enzymes involved in carbohydrate metabolism and cellular energy homeostasis. Mg is also a constituent of bones and teeth.

Meat, organ meat especially liver, brewer’s yeast, lentils, hemp seeds, soya beans.

Zinc (Zn)

Zinc functions as a cofactor of many enzymes involved in macronutrient
metabolism and cell replication. Involved in tissue repair and epithelial cell division preventing parakeratosis

Red meat, liver, other organ meats, oysters,
crabmeat.

Selenium (Se)

Se protects cells against oxidative damage from free radicals, particularly through destroying hydrogen peroxide. It also enhances the activity of enzymes involved in protein synthesis and inhibiting protein degradation in muscle tissue.

Crab, lobster, other shellfish, all kidneys, rabbit, turkey, egg yolks

Vitamins

Vitamin D

Regulates absorption, utilisation, and metabolism of calcium and phosphorus; stimulates osteoblasts; regulates muscle excitation; influences the activity of immune cells and has influence on gene expression and cellular signalling.

Cod liver oil, sardines and other small fish, eggs

Vitamin E

Defence against oxidative damage; supports the production and activity of immune cells; aids in the production and maintenance of myelin and has influence on gene expression and cellular signalling.

Shellfish, most oils, sunflower seeds, nuts.

Thiamine (Vitamin B1)

An essential coenzyme involved in energy and carbohydrate metabolism; regulates appetite and digestion; has a role in maintaining cellular function, growth and division; involved in the production and maintenance of myelin and neurotransmitters.

Beef and lamb hearts, all pork meat, some flours, nuts

Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)

Component of enzymes involved in energy metabolism. Involved in defence against oxidative damage; necessary for the growth and maintenance of body tissues; maintenance of eye health; involved in the proper functioning of the nervous system.

All animal livers, duck and goose meat, turkey giblets, oily fish, eggs 

Biotin (Vitamin B7)

Involved in the production of
keratin; acts as a coenzyme involved in metabolism of macronutrients, aids in the synthesis of neurotransmitters; maintenance of blood sugar levels; supports the proper functioning of the immune system.

Most animal livers, lamb and pork kidneys, white fish such as plaice or basa, nuts and seeds

Bioavailability: The Key to Effective Nutrient Utilization

While food sources are abundant with essential nutrients, their bioavailability is critical for proper utilisation in the body. Bioavailability refers to the proportion of a nutrient that is absorbed and reaches the bloodstream.

Several factors can affect the bioavailability of nutrients in food, including the mineral concentration in raw ingredients, the location where plant-based foods are grown, and the cooking methods employed.

Minerals in plant-based foods can be influenced by the location’s soil characteristics, such as pH and mineral composition. Many plant-based foods also contain anti-nutritional factors like phytic acid and oxalic acid, which can hinder the absorption of essential minerals such as magnesium, iron, phosphorus, calcium, and zinc.

Additionally, the form in which nutrients are stored in the plant, as well as where they are stored within the plant, also impacts their bioavailability.

Food Example: Green leafy vegetables such as spinach are rich in vitamin K1 and pro vitamins such as beta-carotene. However, only between 5-10% of beta-carotene and less than 5% of vitamin k1 is available for absorption as these nutrients are stored in chloroplasts which are hard to break down. Carrots are also rich in beta carotene, however in crystallised form, which is not easy to absorb, whereas papayas contain beta carotene as lipid droplets which are more bioavailable. For fruits and vegetables, the conversion efficiency of beta carotene is low with an estimated 10 -28µg of beta carotene needed to form 1µg of vitamin A.

Processes which soften the vegetal matrix can improve the bioavailability of plant foods such as soaking, grinding, pulping and cooking. While high-temperature cooking methods like boiling, steaming, and frying can lead to significant mineral losses in plant-based foods it also drastically improves the bioavailability of the nutrients in these foods.

The Meat vs. Plant Debate

When it comes to bioavailability, meat takes the crown!

Meat contains higher bioavailability of many micronutrients, including vitamin A, vitamin B12, heme iron (more bioavailable than non-heme iron found in plants), folate, and zinc. Organ meats, such as liver, are especially nutrient-rich, containing a plethora of micronutrients.

When it comes to cooking meat for dogs, high temperatures should be avoided. Temperatures of 140°C and above induces the Maillard reaction which reduces the bioavailability of amino acids, you can read more about that here. Additionally high temperature cooking such as boiling, steaming and frying can lead to the loss of certain nutrients, like iron.

That is why we prepare our Proper Dog Food meals through a gentle sous-vide cooking method. We place all the raw ingredients into the pouch, vacuum-seal it, and then slow-cook it in a water bath set at 90 degrees Celsius. This process not only prevents the Maillard reaction but also preserves all the essential vitamins and minerals within the pouch, preventing the loss of nutrient-rich cooking juices.

Commercial Dog Food: A Complex Landscape

Many pet owners rely on commercial dog food for their pets’ nutrition, and these products often contain synthetic vitamins and minerals. The reason? High processing methods and low-quality ingredients in commercial dog food can degrade nutrients to the point where additional supplementation is necessary to meet minimum guidelines.

However, the quality of synthetic additives varies. Organic mineral supplements, which are those bound to carbon or chelated to amino acids, tend to have higher bioavailability than inorganic supplements not bound to carbon. The cost-effectiveness of inorganic additives often leads to their use, but they can result in nutrient non-compliance, imbalances, and poor absorption in pet foods.

 

The Dangers of Over-Supplementation

Over-supplementation of synthetic nutrients in dog food is a real concern. Pereira et al. (2018) found that between 40-55% of essential minerals in many commercial dog foods were from synthetic mineral additives, leading to oversupply of macro and trace elements. Excess intake of certain minerals such as calcium, sodium, copper, and iron, over time can lead to health issues ranging from bone abnormalities to hypertension, liver problems and even death.

Due to the potential risks of over-supplementing dog food. precise recipe formulation and careful monitoring during manufacturing is crucial. Unfortunately, missteps can occur. In 2019, the FDA initiated recalls for certain Hill’s prescription and Science canned dog foods due to alarming reports of vitamin D toxicity, leading to the heartbreaking loss of beloved dogs. Likewise, as recently as March of this year, Nestlé Purina recalled their Pro Plan Veterinary Diets, having identified dangerously elevated vitamin D levels in their products.

The easiest way to completely avoid these risks, is for your dog to get all the nutrients they require from real whole food ingredients. That is exactly what you get if you feed Proper Dog Food. No synthetic nutrients, just real food, perfectly balanced.

Key Takeaways:

  • Vitamins and minerals are essential for your dog’s health, playing roles in several important biological processes vital for overall well-being.

  • Bioavailability is the measure of a nutrient’s absorption and utilization within the body. When evaluating ingredients for your dog’s food, it’s crucial to prioritize the bioavailability of nutrients over their mere presence in different foods.

  • Meat-based sources often have higher nutrient bioavailability compared to plant sources.

  • Highly processed, cheap commercial pet foods may require synthetic nutrient supplementation due to nutrient degradation during processing and/or poor-quality ingredients.

  • The quality of synthetic additives can vary, and organic mineral supplements (those bound to carbon, or chelated to amino acids) are generally more bioavailable.

  • Over-supplementation in commercial pet foods can lead to health issues, making whole-food nutrition a preferred choice.

  • In our commitment to providing optimal nutrition, we steer clear of synthetic nutrients. Proper Dog Food is crafted from real, whole food ingredients, meticulously balanced to meet your dog’s nutritional needs without the risks associated with over-supplementation of synthetic nutrients.

Glossary

Cellular Energy: This is the energy that cells in your body use to carry out their various functions. Just like your body needs food for energy, your cells need a molecule called ATP (adenosine triphosphate) to power their activities.
Neurotransmitters: neurotransmitters are like messengers in your brain and nervous system. They’re special chemicals that help different parts of your body communicate with your brain by delivering signals between nerve cells. They play a crucial role in controlling your thoughts, feelings, and physical actions.
Myelin Sheath: The myelin sheath is like the protective covering around a wire. It’s a layer that wraps around nerve fibres in your body, and it helps messages travel quickly and smoothly through your nervous system.
Myelination: Myelination is the process of adding a protective, insulating layer (myelin) around nerve fibres in your body.
Parakeratosis: This is a skin condition where the top layer of the skin doesn’t shed its old cells properly. Normally, skin sheds these old cells to make way for new ones. When parakeratosis happens, the old cells stick around, and this can lead to dry, scaly, or thickened skin.
Osteoblast: An osteoblast is a type of cell in your body that is responsible for creating new bone tissue. It helps in the formation and repair of bones by producing the substances necessary for bone growth.
Free radicals: These are molecules with an unpaired electron, which makes them unstable and causes them to steal electrons from other molecules. This theft can damage healthy cells and is linked to various health problems, like aging and diseases.
Oxidative Damage: Oxidative damage in cells is a process where highly reactive molecules known as “free radicals” can cause harm to important components within the cells. When free radicals react with other molecules in the cell this causes damage which can disrupt the normal functions of the cells and may lead to various health issues in dogs, such as aging-related problems, inflammation, and the development of diseases like cancer, heart disease, and neurodegenerative conditions.
Gene Expression: Gene expression is the process by which information in your DNA is used to make specific proteins or perform functions in your body. It’s like a recipe in a cookbook where the instructions (genes) are followed to create a dish (protein or function).
Beta Carotene: Beta-carotene is a natural pigment and antioxidant found in many colourful fruits and vegetables, like carrots and sweet potatoes. It’s what gives them their vibrant orange and yellow colours. In the body, beta-carotene can be converted into vitamin A, though the conversion rate is low needing between 10 -28µg of beta carotene to form 1µg of vitamin A. Additionally the proportion of beta carotene absorbed from cooked vegetables is between 1 – 3.5%; from fruits this increases to approximately 8%.

References

  • Soetan, K., Olaiya, C.O. and Oyewole, O.E. (2010) ‘The importance of mineral elements for humans, domestic animals and plants: A review’, African Journal of Food Science, 4(5).
  • Tomar, P., Virginia, P. and Sana, A. (2022) ‘Mineral Interactions with Other Nutrients’, International Journal of Research in Engineering and Science (IJRES), 10(4).
  • Feuer, D. (2006) Your dog’s nutritional needs: based on a report by NRC on Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats. . National Academy of Sciences.
  • Pereira, A.M. et al. (2021) ‘Zinc in dog nutrition, Health and Disease: A Review’, Animals, 11(4),978. doi:10.3390/ani11040978.
  • Neyestani, M. et al. (2021) ‘The effect of food processing on the amount of trace elements and their bioavailability: A Review’, Journal of Food Safety and Hygiene [Preprint]. doi:10.18502/jfsh.v6i2.6520.
  • Melse-Boonstra, A. (2020) ‘Bioavailability of micronutrients from nutrient-dense whole foods: Zooming in on dairy, vegetables, and fruits’, Frontiers in Nutrition, 7. doi:10.3389/fnut.2020.00101.
  • Molteni, C., La Motta, C. and Valoppi, F. (2022) ‘Improving the bioaccessibility and bioavailability of carotenoids by means of nanostructured delivery systems: A comprehensive review’, Antioxidants, 11(10), p. 1931. doi:10.3390/antiox11101931.
  • Castenmiller, J.J.M. et al. (1999) ‘The food matrix of spinach is a limiting factor in determining the bioavailability of β-carotene and to a lesser extent of lutein in humans’, The Journal of Nutrition, 129(2), pp. 349–355. doi:10.1093/jn/129.2.349.
  • Hedrén, E., Diaz, V. and Svanberg, U. (2002) ‘Estimation of carotenoid accessibility from carrots determined by an in vitro digestion method’, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 56(5), pp. 425–430. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601329.
  • Nohr, D. and Biesalski, H.K. (2007) ‘“mealthy” food: Meat as a healthy and valuable source of micronutrients’, Animal, 1(2), pp. 309–316. doi:10.1017/s1751731107657796.
  • Karava, N.B. and Mahoney, R.R. (2011) “Heating chicken breast muscle reduces the amount of dialyzable iron after extraction and digestion,” International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 63(3), pp. 332–337. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3109/09637486.2011.627845.
  • Wedekind, K.J. and Lowry, S.R. (1998) “Are organic zinc sources efficacious in puppies? ,” The Journal of Nutrition, 128(12). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/128.12.2593s.
  • Byrne, L. and Murphy, R.A. (2022) ‘Relative bioavailability of trace minerals in Production Animal Nutrition: A Review’, Animals, 12(15), p. 1981. doi:10.3390/ani12151981.
  • Kastenmayer, P., Czarnecki-Maulden, G.L. and King, W. (2002) ‘Mineral and trace element absorption from dry dog food by dogs, determined using stable isotopes’, The Journal of Nutrition, 132(6). doi:10.1093/jn/132.6.1670s.
  • Dodd, S.A. et al. (2021) ‘A comparison of key essential nutrients in commercial plant-based pet foods sold in Canada to American and European canine and feline dietary recommendations’, Animals, 11(8), p. 2348. doi:10.3390/ani11082348.
  • Kępińska-Pacelik, J. et al. (2023) ‘Mineral and heavy metal content in dry dog foods with different main animal components’, Scientific Reports, 13(1). doi:10.1038/s41598-023-33224w.
  • Mack, J.K. et al. (2015) ‘Demonstration of uniformity of calcium absorption in adult dogs and cats’, Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition, 99(5), pp. 801–809. doi:10.1111/jpn.12294.
  • Jacobs, D.R., Gross, M.D. and Tapsell, L.C. (2009) ‘Food synergy: An operational concept for understanding nutrition’, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 89(5). doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.26736b.
  • FDA (2019) Recall: Potentially toxic vit. D levels in Hill’s Canned Dog Food, U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/outbreaks-andadvisories/fda-alerts-pet-owners-and-veterinarians-about-potentially-toxic-levels-vitamin-d33-varietieshills#:~:text=Vitamin%20D%20is%20 an%20essential,their%20pets%20these%20 recalled%20products. (Accessed: 17 July 2023).
  • FDA (2023) Nestlé Purina Petcare Company expands voluntary recall of Purina pro plan veterinary diets elemental dry dog food in the U.S. due to potentially elevated vitamin D, U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/safety/recalls-marketwithdrawals-safety-alerts/nestle-purina-petcare-company-expands-voluntary-recall-purinapro-plan-veterinary-diets-el-elemental (Accessed: 17 July 2023).

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Minerals

Iron (Fe)

Role in your Dog’s body: Fe is a component of haemoglobin,
involved in oxygen transportation and the production of cellular energy. Fe is also involved in the regulation of neurotransmitters and myelination of spinal cord and brain.

Whole Food Sources: Red meat, organ meats (such as spleen, heart, liver, kidney), fish, hemp seeds, egg yolk, nuts.

Copper (Cu)

Role in your dog’s body: Cu is a constituent of several enzymes involved in the absorption of nutrients. Cu is also needed for the growth and formation of bone and myelin sheaths.

Whole Food Sources: All types of liver, other organ meats, shellfish
and other seafoods, hemp seeds.

Magnesium (Mg)

Role in your dog’s body: Mg is involved in cellular energy production and is a cofactor for several enzymes involved in carbohydrate metabolism and cellular energy homeostasis. Mg is also a constituent of bones and teeth.

Whole Food Sources: Meat, organ meat especially liver, brewer’s yeast, lentils, hemp seeds, soya beans.

Zinc (Zn)

Role in your dog’s body: Zinc functions as a cofactor of many enzymes involved in macronutrient
metabolism and cell replication. Involved in tissue repair and epithelial cell division preventing parakeratosis

Whole Food Sources: Red meat, liver, other organ meats, oysters,
crabmeat.

Selenium (Se)

Role in your dog’s body: Se protects cells against oxidative damage from free radicals, particularly through destroying hydrogen peroxide. It also enhances the activity of the alpha ketoglutarate oxidase system involved in protein synthesis and inhibiting protein degradation in muscle tissue.

Whole Food Sources: Crab, lobster, other shellfish, all kidneys, rabbit, turkey, egg yolks

Vitamins

Vitamin D

Role in your dog’s body: Regulates absorption, utilisation, and metabolism of calcium and phosphorus; stimulates osteoblasts; regulates muscle excitation; influences the activity of immune cells and has influence on gene expression and cellular signalling.

Whole Food Sources: Cod liver oil, sardines and other small fish, eggs

Vitamin E

Role in your dog’s body: Defence against oxidative damage; supports the production and activity of immune cells; aids in the production and maintenance of myelin and has influence on gene expression and cellular signalling.

Whole Food Sources: Shellfish, most oils, sunflower seeds, nuts.

Thiamine (Vitamin B1)

Role in your dog’s body: An essential coenzyme involved in energy and carbohydrate metabolism; regulates appetite and digestion; has a role in maintaining cellular function, growth and division; involved in the production and maintenance of myelin and neurotransmitters.

Whole Food Sources: Beef and lamb hearts, all pork meat, some flours, nuts

Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)

Role in your dog’s body: Component of enzymes involved in energy metabolism. Involved in defence against oxidative damage; necessary for the growth and maintenance of body tissues; maintenance of eye health; involved in the proper functioning of the nervous system.

Whole Food Sources: All animal livers, duck and goose meat, turkey giblets, oily fish, eggs 

Biotin (Vitamin B7)

Role in your dog’s body: Involved in the production of keratin; acts as a coenzyme involved in metabolism of macronutrients, aids in the synthesis of neurotransmitters; maintenance of blood sugar levels; supports the proper functioning of the immune system.

Whole Food Sources: Most animal livers, lamb and pork kidneys, white fish such as plaice or basa, nuts and seeds

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EC1A, EC1M, EC1N, EC1P, EC1R, EC1V, EC1Y, EC2A, EC2M, EC2N, EC2P, EC2R, EC2V, EC2Y, EC3A, EC3M, EC3N, EC3P, EC3R, EC3V, EC4A, EC4M, EC4N, EC4P, EC4R, EC4V, EC4Y
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N1, N2, N3, N4, N5, N6, N7, N8, N9, N10, N11, N12, N13, N14, N15, N16, N17, N18, N19, N20, N21, N22
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SW1A, SW1E, SW1H, SW1P, SW1V, SW1W, SW1X, SW1Y, SW2, SW3, SW4, SW5, SW6, SW7, SW8, SW9, SW10, SW11, SW12, SW13, SW14, SW15, SW16, SW17, SW18, SW19, SW20
West End (W) Postcode Area:
W1B, W1C, W1D, W1F, W1G, W1H, W1J, W1K, W1S, W1T, W1U, W1W, W2, W3, W4, W5, W6, W7, W8, W9, W10, W11, W12, W13, W14
Bone Broth - Proper Dog Food - Natural Ingredients, No additives

Proper Bone Broth
with probiotcs

To purchase our products head to our 'Order Now!' page and provide us with a few details about your dog. Each meal is made to order and tailored to suit your dog.

One week supply minimum order. Subscribe and save options available.

The one with lamb

To purchase our products head to our 'Order Now!' page and provide us with a few details about your dog. Each meal is made to order and tailored to suit your dog.

One week supply minimum order. Subscribe and save options available.

The one with beef

To purchase our products head to our order now page and provide us with a few details about your dog. Each meal is made to order and tailored to suit your dog.

One week supply minimum order. Subscribe and save options available.