Minerals and Ash in the Diet?

Minerals and Ash for Cats and Dogs

The most commonly misunderstood term in pet food ..

‘Ash’ is one of the most commonly misunderstood terms in pet food. Contrary to the images it conjures, ash is simply a measure of the mineral content of a food. When calculating the food’s calorific content, it is incinerated and the energy released is measured. All of the carbohydrate, fat and protein burn off leaving only the minerals. This is known as the ash content.

In general, foods based on red meat meals have higher ash contents because they contain more mineral-rich bone.

Dogs and cats need a wide variety of minerals to stay fit and healthy, all of which have to be in sufficient quantities in any complete diet. For this reason, for most dog owners, the mineral content of the food is fairly unimportant. Two exceptions are dogs with kidney or urinary problems, who benefit from lower ash diets, and growing puppies which need sufficient minerals for healthy bone development.

Minerals are involved in every process in the dog’s body. Here’s a list of some of the most important minerals and the roles they perform:

  • Calcium: Necessary for the formation of bone and teeth, nerve transmission, muscle contractions;
  • Phosphorus: Required for skeletal structure, DNA, RNA structure; energy metabolism;
  • Magnesium: Needed to allow enzymes to function; hormone secretions; nerve cell membrane interface;
  • Potassium: Required for healthy nerve function; enzyme reactions; energy metabolism;
  • Iron: Integral part of haemoglobin and myoglobin; energy metabolism; enzymes in respiration;
  • Copper: Connective tissue; iron metabolism; blood cell formation and defence against oxidation;
  • Zinc: Enzyme function; protein and carbohydrate metabolism; skin function and wound healing;
  • Manganese: Enzyme reactions; bone development; cartilage formation; neurological function and metabolism;
  • Selenium: Important in the immune system and protection against oxidisation.

Mineral deficiencies rarely occur in pets. In dogs, fed cheap generic diets, zinc deficiency commonly occurs, causing crusting skin lesions, often prominent around the mouth and nose.

Mineral excess can also occur by overzealous administration of minerals by pet parents, specifically calcium and phosphorus. This may cause future health issues specifically in dogs. Many pet parents give their growing puppies calcium pills, thinking this will help with skeletal growth. Too much calcium can actually cause problems, including hip dysplasia in bigger breeds. Excessive iron given to dogs and cats (which can happen if huuman vitamin products containing iron are given to the fur kids) can be fatal.

Minerals commonly found in plants include calcium, phosphorus and magnesium. These minerals are also typically found in bone, and are provided in our pets’ diet through the addition of bone meal or fooding raw chicken necks and / or wings. Minerals commonly found in animals (in muscle tissue), include potassium, sodium, and chlorine.

Zinc is one of the minerals in food that has received the most attention for its ability to support immune function. Zinc is a potent immunostimulant, and its deficiency can result in profound suppression of T-cell function. Children with severe zinc deficiencies show signs of growth retardation and susceptibility to infections. However, an excess of zinc has also shown negative effects on immune function and can inhibit the phagocytic cells (macrophages and neutrophils). So, maintaining adequate but not excessive levels of zinc is important. This is one reason food is such an excellent source of obtaining nutrition versus supplementation; food contains a balanced variety of the micronutrients whereas supplementation with individual nutrients can lead to too much of some and not enough of others.

Many other minerals are important in supporting immune function. Clinical research studies have shown that iron deficiency results in impaired response to antibodies, and defective phagocytic cell functioning. Copper deficiency is associated with an increase in infections and may impair development of immune cells such as T-cells and the phagocytic cells. Selenium and manganese are important for supporting healing from inflammation and may be immunostimulants.

Mineral Requirements For Growing and Adult Cats and Dogs

(minimum amounts per kilogram body weight per day)

MineralGrowing CatAdult CatGrowing DogAdult Dog
Calcium400 mg128 mg320 mg119 mg
Phosphorus300 mg96 mg240 mg89 mg
Sodium25 mg8 mg30 mg11 mg
Potassium200 mg64 mg240 mg89 mg
Chloride95 mg30 mg46 mg17 mg
Magnesium20 mg6.4 mg22 mg8 mg
Iron4 mg1.28 mg1.74 mg0.65 mg
Copper0.25 mg0.08 mg0.16 mg0.06 mg
Manganese0.25 mg0.08 mg0.28 mg0.10 mg
Zinc2.5 mg0.8 mg1.94 mg0.72 mg
Iodine0.017 mg0.006 mg0.032 mg0.012 mg
Selenium5 µg1.6 µg6 µg2.2 µg

(Source: https://dogcathomeprepareddiet.com/minerals.html)

Did You Know? Vitamins and Minerals are freely available in real and raw pet cuisine. The table below demonstrate which vitamins and minerals are found in which raw produce.

Nutrient / Vitamin / MineralPresent in:
Vitamin A (Retinol)chicken, pork, egg, salmon, halibut, haddock, sardines, liver, kidney, brain, tuna
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)liver, rabbit, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, goat, ostrich, buffalo, egg, beef, salmon, halibut, haddock, sardine
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)liver, heart, kidney, rabbit, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, goat, ostrich, buffalo, egg, beef, salmon, halibut, haddock, sardine
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)rabbit, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, goat, ostrich, buffalo, egg, beef, salmon, halibut, haddock, sardine, tuna
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)liver, heart, kidney, rabbit, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, goat, ostrich, buffalo, egg, beef, salmon, halibut, haddock, sardine
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)liver, heart, kidney, rabbit, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, goat, ostrich, buffalo, egg, beef, salmon, halibut, haddock, sardine
Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)liver, rabbit, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, goat, ostrich, buffalo, egg, beef, salmon, halibut, haddock, sardine
Vitamin B12 (cobalt/choline)liver, heart, kidney, rabbit, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, goat, ostrich, buffalo, egg, beef, salmon, halibut, haddock, sardine
Vitamin Cliver, kidney, heart, fish
Vitamin Degg, sardine, liver, kidney, salmon, tuna
Vitamin Eostrich, buffalo, egg, halibut, haddock, sardine, kidney, liver, brain
Vitamin Kegg, halibut, haddock, sardine, liver
Calciumrabbit, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, goat, ostrich, buffalo, egg, beef, salmon, halibut, haddock, sardine
Chlorineegg, salmon, tuna
Copperchicken, turkey, pork, lamb, goat, ostrich, buffalo, egg, beef, salmon, halibut, haddock, sardine
Iodinesalmon, haddock, seafood, egg
Ironrabbit, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, goat, ostrich, buffalo, egg, beef, salmon, halibut, haddock, sardine
Magnesiumrabbit, chicken, turkey, pork, goat, ostrich, buffalo, egg, beef, salmon, halibut, haddock, sardine
Manganeserabbit, chicken, turkey, pork, goat, ostrich, buffalo, egg, beef, salmon, haddock, halibut, sardine
Phosphorusrabbit, turkey, pork, lamb, goat, ostrich, buffalo, egg, beef, salmon, halibut, haddock, sardine
Potassiumrabbit, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, goat, ostrich, buffalo, egg, beef, salmon, halibut, haddock, sardine
Seleniumrabbit, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, goat, ostrich, buffalo, egg, beef, salmon, halibut, haddock, sardine
Zincrabbit, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, goat, ostrich, buffalo, egg, beef, salmon, halibut, haddock, sardine

(Source: USDA Database – (USDA))

Articles and Videos

Good reference articles and videos further reading available at:

  • F.E.D.I.A.F. Canine and Feline Nutritional Guidelines (FEDIAF Nutritional Guidelines);
  • The Merck Veterinary Manual, Nutritional Requirements and Related Diseases of Small Animals (Merck);
  • The Merck Veterinary Manual, Disorders Associated with Calcium, Phosphorus, and Vitamin D in Dogs (Merck);
  • AAFCO Dog and Cat Food Nutrient Profiles (AAFCO) (requires Adobe PDF Reader).

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