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Copper in Dog Food Plays an Essential Role in Canine Health 

Written by Dr. Laura Amundson and Dr. Brent Kirn

When it comes to the health and wellbeing of dogs, nutrition plays a critical role. A dog’s quality of life requires a strategically balanced diet, which includes essential nutrients like copper. While copper levels in canine nutrition have recently come under scrutiny, it is still important to understand the role copper plays in maintaining critical physiological functions of dogs, including: 

  • Skin and coat quality: Copper is essential in supporting skin health and improves coat color and quality.  
  • Mobility: Copper is a key factor in bone, cartilage and joint maintenance, supporting proper skeletal formation and joint health. 
  • Paw pad integrity: Copper is an essential nutrient for keratin synthesis, which promotes paw pad integrity and durability. 
  • Energy metabolism: Copper aids in cellular energy metabolism, which gives canines optimum energy to be physically fit, active, and playful. 
  • Blood homeostasis: Copper helps maintain normal blood iron concentrations and aids in preventing anemia. 
  • Immunity: Copper supports and enhances the body’s immune function and antioxidant defense by protecting cell membranes. 

The Need for Better Trace Mineral Balance in the Diet

The level of copper that dogs consume is receiving increased attention. Due to the reported potential for copper toxicity in dogs by industry members, like veterinarians, it is important to account for the total amount of copper in their diet – not just the supplemented amount. Total copper intake accounts for all foods, supplements and/or treats given on a daily basis. Proper balanced nutrition and awareness is key as copper accumulation, particularly in the liver, is increased over time and with the total amount of total copper consumed. As additional research needs to be conducted on the ideal amount of copper for dogs, it is critical that industry experts and petfood companies collaborate and determine the optimal amount of this essential nutrient, rather than limiting or eliminating it from canine diets.  

Don’t forget – both copper toxicity and copper deficiency occur over an extended period, taking weeks or even months to show symptoms. It’s important to understand the difference, and how both can damage canine health.  

  • Copper toxicity results in decreased liver function, cellular tissue decay and red blood cell rupture. Added immune and environmental stress can trigger liver protein turnover resulting in more tissue damage. 
  • Copper deficiency results in copper-induced anemia, poor coat quality and pigmentation and increased leg and lameness issues from collagen and elastin breakdown. 

To protect against copper toxicity, or any trace mineral toxicity, it is important to be aware of what food types and nutrient sources the dog is consuming. Veterinarians can consult with concerned pet owners about their dog’s overall diet, including food, supplements and treats the dog regularly receives. Some dog breeds, like Beddington terriers, Dobermans and some Labrador retrievers are at higher risk for copper toxicity and veterinarians can build custom nutrition plans to ensure a healthy outcome for your canine companion.  

Preventing Copper Toxicity and Still Providing Essential Nutrients to Dogs

It is important that petfood companies and their customers feel confident and knowledgeable about their decisions on feeding their dogs a well-balanced diet.  

The current Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) recommends feeding 7.3 parts per million (ppm) of total copper in the diet. We can reliably meet the canine’s requirement for copper without exceeding it when we pay close attention to overall total daily intake of copper containing foods.  

When formulating dog diets, it is important to consider the base ingredients being used. Different ingredients have different copper levels with varying bioavailability. Dogs fed Zinpro® Performance Minerals® experienced improvement in their wellbeing and appearance. When formulating pet food, supplements or treats, choosing Zinpro’s proven pet nutrition with unrivaled mineral absorption will help your dog live a healthier, happier and more active life. 

Contact our team to receive more information, including research, resources and insights, that can ensure you provide the essential trace minerals for your pet through all stages of life. Our team of Zinpro companion animal specialists are ready to partner with you.

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