First off, what is iodine & why should I care about it? Iodine is a trace mineral, it is essential & necessary for many functions in the body but most notably the thyroid. Iodine is essential for healthy thyroid function. Low levels can even contribute to behavioral issues like sudden aggression. Here's the thing though, too little iodine in the diet...causes problems. Too much iodine in the diet...again, causes problems. Both scenarios will likely lead to thyroid gland disfunction. If you feed a commercial diet (kibble/canned), then iodine has likely been added in sufficient amounts in the form of : potassium iodide, potassium iodate, sodium iodide, or calcium iodide,. Do not add more.
Here's the deal. MOST homemade diets are low in iodine if specific foods are not fed to include iodine. For example if you feed a strict prey model diet (80/10/5/5) with nothing else added, your probably, no, your going to be low. The exception is if you feed whole prey, meaning you feed whole animals in their entirety. If you are regularly feeding whole prey to your dog/cat then iodine isn't going to be an issue....it's in there! Not surprisingly, the thyroid gland in an animal is rich with, you guessed it, iodine! Now understandably most people aren't doing this.
So, if you don't feed whole animals where can you get iodine in adequate amounts into your diet?
The most iodine rich foods come from the sea. Seaweeds, fish, shrimp & oysters are good sources. Also a large chicken egg contains somewhere around 24mcg, actual amount is of course dependent on the hens diet. Now things like shrimp aren't going to hurt your pet if they eat them but it's not something you want included regularly or in the daily diet. Fish, well the amounts can vary quite a bit and well there are a lot of factors...is the fish whole? Is it an iodine rich species such as cod which contains 90mcg in a 3oz portion. With fish it can turn into a bit of a guessing game. Don't get me wrong you should feed fish, just don't rely on it solely for iodine. So what's left & easy.....seaweed.
Seaweed, specifically Kelp!
Kelp is the food where we can turn to easily & naturally meet iodine needs. Kelp is a large brown seaweed that is most notably rich in iodine. (Side note: Do NOT add kelp if your pet knowingly suffers with thyroid problems, consult a holistic vet.) You can easily add kelp to your homemade diets with the use of a quality, measurable kelp powder.
Now, if your wondering how do you know what your dogs iodine requirement is? Do a quick math calculation once & then write the number down so you don't have to do it again:
You take your dogs weight in kilograms to the power of .75 (the ^ button on your calculator), this number is your dogs metabolic weight. Now you multiply this number by 29.6. The result is your individual dogs iodine needs.
Or if you prefer based on calories:
Recommended allowance per 1000kcal is as follows:
Adult dog & puppies: 220mcg
Adult cat: 350mcg
FYI: The Now brand I have recommended is 450mcg in one scoop.
Now this is important. Don't assume your diet has zero iodine in it, as discussed earlier foods like fish & eggs have measurable amounts and meat has some (very minimal), so take this into consideration when dosing kelp. For example if your dogs requirement is 300mcg iodine you don't need to feed this all in kelp if the meal has oysters or fish & egg in it. Just scale the amount back a bit. Your better off to not over do it!
As important as fulfilling nutritional needs is don't let it become too technical, or stressful. Nothing in nature needs "perfect" measurable amounts of anything in every meal of every day. It just doesn't work like that, despite what some people will lead you to believe. Having the knowledge to know where & what may be coming up short in your dog or cats diet gives you the power to intelligently make some additions or changes in how you feed. Ultimately giving them a better shot at longer, healthier lives with you!
Sources: NRC Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats 2006
USDA database food search , FDA.gov tyroid/safety
Fat, one of the single most overlooked aspects of the diet. Fat can be a good thing & fat can be a bad thing. Lets take a closer look at the effects of fats & what impact they could have in the diet.
First off, fat is an essential part of the diet. Fats are critical to every single cell in your pets body. Fat is used as a source of energy, it is necessary for neurological development, and adequate amounts of the right fats are needed for absorption of fat soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E & K).
Where the fats come from is important.
A quick look at the ancestral diet of our dogs and cats will reveal something very important. Meat high in fat was not part of the diet. Wild game, which as we know is the most nutrient dense & "gold standard" of meats is quite low in fat (approx. 10%). Wild prey animals are lean. They are lean, red meat.
Now understandably most of us are not feeding a diet of all wild game meats. We are relying on meats from animals that us humans are responsible for feeding. What goes wrong here is that we basically create animals that have a much higher fat content than anything in the wild ever would. So this is where you need to be careful when selecting your pets meat.
We know red meats are very important in the raw diet. The diet really needs to incorporate at bare minimum 50% red meat, really the more the better. Here's the part where people often go wrong. The fat content of the meat you choose is really important! Why? Because as the fat content of the meat increases, the protein & mineral/vitamin content of the meat decreases. There is a direct relationship here that should not be ignored!
Take a look at ground beef. Its probably one of the first things many people grab when looking to add red meat. Now ground beef can be purchased in varying fat contents. Usually from 70% -93% lean.
Lets look at just protein content first.
The 70% lean beef would give you 43g of protein per 1000kcal.
The 90% lean beef would give you 118g of protein per 1000kcal.
The beef with the lower fat content contains more than 2 times the protein! This is important considering the recommended minimum amount of protein for a growing puppy is 56.3grams, and even an adults minimum recommendation is 45grams. That's bare minimum needed. The fattier beef isn't looking so good already.
Now lets look at the comparison of some minerals.
The 70% lean beef would give you 10.7g of zinc per 1000kcal
The 90% lean beef would give you 27g of zinc per 1000kcal
Again, less than half the zinc in the fattier beef!
How about iron?
The 70% lean beef would give you 4.9g iron per 1000kcal
The 90% lean beef would give you 12.7g iron per 1000kcal
That's quite a difference!
Now can you see the emerging trend here? You can take most any vitamin or mineral and compare them in the two and you will see the fattier beef will always contain significantly less nutrition. In most cases about half. If you'd like to compare nutrition yourself head to: https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list and search for the foods you'd like to compare.
As a general rule if your meat is over 10% fat, the bulk of your calories will come from fat. Now fat is needed but it's one of those "too much of a good thing" scenarios because as you can see the higher the fat content of your meat the less nutrients your going to get.
It really all makes sense when you look at the composition of the ancestral diet.....10% fat & 20% protein is the average composition of your wild game. You can talk about nutrition as technical and scientific as you want but the simplicity of it is we optimally are looking for the solution that would match what these animals would naturally eat...the whole wild prey animal.
If your interested in learning more about the ancestral diet I'd highly recommend this book:
So hopefully if you never considered how the fat content of your meat affected the diet you now have a little bit better understanding of a simple change you can be mindful of when selecting the meat you feed your pets..... and just how much of a difference a little fat can make!