Vitamins and minerals are vital for a broad array of functions in the body and necessary for healthy, thriving, long-living pets. Each vitamin and mineral plays a unique function in the body, so it is important that the right balance of these nutrients is found in all complete and balanced pet foods.
How are vitamins and minerals added to pet food?
In pet food, vitamins and minerals are usually added as a “premix”. Premixes help ensure the correct level of nutrients are evenly distributed in the finished product. With a premix, the micronutrients are mixed twice – once when the premix is made and again when the premix is added to the food. Premixes are a lot more complex than just a simple blend of nutrients. Many factors are taken into consideration when designing a vitamin or mineral premix, including the nutrient quality, bioavailability, stability, and physical characteristics.
Whether it is a vitamin, mineral or other nutritional supplement, strict quality control must be in place to ensure consistency and safety. Vitamins and minerals are added in very small amounts to pet foods, and while a little goes a long way, more is not necessarily better and can even cause harm. It is vital that quality is maintained to ensure correct inclusion rates in the final product.
Bioavailability is the degree and rate in which a substance is absorbed by an animal. If a vitamin or mineral cannot be absorbed, then it cannot play its essential role in the body.
Nutrients need to be in a form that protects the nutrient from breaking down during cooking and food storage, but is released via digestion for usage by the pet.
Many nutrients react with the environment, specifically oxygen, moisture, and heat. Adequate stabilization protects the nutrient from degradation and is critical to ensuring correct nutrient levels in the food through to the end of its shelf life.
Vitamins and minerals are only needed in very small quantities, so it is critical to ensure even distribution of the premix into the food. Differences in particle size and structure can result in uneven distribution of nutrients when mixing. Imagine mixing magnetized metal balls with non-magnetized wooden balls – no matter how long the balls are mixed they would not be evenly distributed. Particle size, shape, and density play roles in creating an even mixture and ensure stability until the food is enjoyed by your pet.
The importance of vitamins and minerals for your pet
While the vitamin and mineral list on a bag of pet food can seem a bit daunting, they are vital components for the well-being of our pets. Vitamin and mineral supplementation is used in kibble and canned pet foods to balance the nutrient composition and to ensure the healthiest pet foods possible. These supplements are used to provide essential nutrients in the correct ratios required by dogs and cats. While our goal is to use nutrient-rich ingredients to minimize the need for supplementation, nutrition and food science tells us that optimal nutrition cannot always be achieved by natural food sources alone, making supplementation of pet food necessary.
This blog was originally published on October 2, 2015. Last revised June 2021.