Published in PET AGE Magazine / November 1985

Mineral Supplements May Be the Answer

By Alfred J. Plechner, D.V.M.

MENTION NUTRITION to most people and they automatically think of vitamins. However, they really ignore the role of minerals.

Minerals really deserve better. After all, there are 96 times more minerals, by weight, in a body than vitamins. There could be no life without them and any body cell lacking in a single mineral cannot function properly.

Minerals are present in soil, in water, and even in air, and help minute vitamins to form enzymes. They help transport oxygen into the bloodstream. They are the building materials of strong bones, tissue, teeth, nails and the hair coat.

Minerals are present in the soil, in water and even in air. In minute amounts they are absorbed from the soil by plants. Herbivorous animals eat plants and drink the water and in this way obtain the bulk of their mineral nutrients. Carnivores get their quota through the mineral content of the flesh they eat, the water they drink and the sporadic greens they chew.

Much more is known about vitamin requirements than about mineral needs. This is true for both humans and animals. That's because nutritional science only recently has developed the technology with which to study minerals.

Veterinary science has determined that certain minerals are required for animals. For cats, the vital minerals are calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, magnesium, iron copper and iodine. Chlorine, manganese, zinc, sulfur, cobalt, selenium, molybdenum, fluorine, chromium, silicon and perhaps tin, nickel and vanadium are also assumed to be essential. For dogs, mineral needs include calcium, phosphorus, iron, copper, potassium, magnesium, sodium, chlorine, iodine, manganese, zinc, selenium, and perhaps molybdenum, fluorine, tin, silicon, cobalt, nickel, vanadium and chromium.

Such minerals should be included in the minimum standards for the maintenance of adequate health. If a product claims to be "complete and balanced", the suggested serving for an animal must meet all daily minimum requirements.

It is important to keep the word "minimum" in mind at all times. The Required Daily Amount suggestion and "complete and balanced" claims are nothing more than minimal requirements. They are not optimal in any sense. We haven't evolved so far as food mavens to design the best possible food diet for our animals. Look how poorly we do for our own nutritional needs! At any rate, veterinary science is doing its best, but has a long way to go.


In my practice, I have used both vitamins and mineral supplementation as methods for preventing skin problems and aiding in therapeutic programs. By far my best success has been with the use of minerals rather than vitamins.

Generally speaking, I do not find allergic skin conditions to be very responsive to vitamins. In fact, I have found supplementation with B - complex vitamins frequently causing the allergy to become worse because yeast is used as the most common commercial sources of natural B vitamins, and yeast is a leading allergen.

Using minerals, I have experienced consistently good results. I believe this may relate to inadequate mineral levels in commercial pet foods. A deficiency of minerals has been involved in at least 10 % of all allergy cases I have treated.

The pet food industry might lack knowledge as to what constitutes good mineral levels for daily animal needs. Also, depletion of minerals in the soil is a problem. According to the 1981 Ford Foundation report on nutrition in America, modern farming methods alone account for much lost nutritional content of food.

"Through intensive farming, poor crop management, increasing use of pesticides, erosion and other abusive factors, the soil in which are crops are raised has been seriously depleted of nutrients," the report said.

Such practices rob the food chain of naturally-occurring essential vitamins and minerals. Thus the food you and your animal eat is "short- changed". Illness, from these deficiencies may be from subtle to catastrophic.

Over the years, veterinarians have linked deficiency diseases with a wide number of minerals. They include nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, magnesium, sodium, iron, chlorine, copper, manganese, zinc, molybdenum, cobalt, iodine and selenium.

Mineral research is a dynamic, rapidly developing science. Sophisticated techniques are being honed to probe the biological roll of so called "trace minerals", (micronutrients), present in infinitesimal amounts in the environment. These include dozens of lesser-known minerals with such exotic names as yttrium, niobium, ruthenium, tellurium, scandium, osmium, dysprosium, gadolinium and praseodymium.

Any of these unheralded elements could be a vital missing link in deficient soils and may mean the difference good health or disease, even at one part per million or less, which is the level at which these minerals need to be in the food.

The body's immune system is a particularly complex network that relies on optimal nutrition for good function. If all the ingredients are not present, the system will not work as well. A shortage of minerals can affect the body's enzyme systems, that are responsible for countless numbers of biochemical reactions. Allergy or allergy like conditions can occur when either of these systems do not receive proper nutrition.

Mineral deficiencies may be involved with many common disorders suffered by dogs and cats. I did not reach this conclusion through sophisticated analysis or electronic gadgetry but through the simple medium of supplementing the diets of animals with a trace mineral formula containing all the micronutrients.

Based upon observations involving approximately 3700 dogs and 900 cats, I found the trace mineral compound added to their food or water for over a six-month period, the skin and hair coat of these animals showed the following:

-Darker, thicker hair coat, with increased luster.

-Reduced itching and scratching.

-Reduced flaky skin.

-In geriatric dogs and cats, increased activity, weight gain and improved condition of the hair coat.

-Animals with heavy flea and fly infestations appear less attractive to insects after three weeks of supplementation.

-Plus, improvement in overall general health.

Supplementation with a multiple nutrient of this sort is clearly a "shot gun" approach. Attempting to determine individual deficiencies is not within the realm of a clinician (It is the reserve of the academic researcher). Never the less, the trace mineral approach has been effective alone or in conjunction with other dietary modifications. It also enhances standard therapy while treating many conditions.

In dogs, mineral supplements have been helpful in controlling food allergies, flea-allergy dermatitis, exocrine pancreatic deficiency (digestive enzyme deficiencies), endocrine immune imbalances, chronic active hepatitis and inhalant allergies.

In cats, it has helped control milliary dermatitis, food allergies, flea allergy dermatitis, chronic active hepatitis, leukemia and feline infectious peritonitis.

In quite a few cases, vitamin supplements, special diets and standard medication did not work satisfactorily until I included TRACE MINERALS.

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