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Magnesium and your dog

Magnesium is all the buzz at the moment for us humans, a cure all by all accounts. But do our dogs need it and should we be worried about them getting enough?



Credit: BBC Good Food


Magnesium is an essential mineral for dogs, playing a crucial role in various functions within their body. It is called an “essential” mineral because your dog cannot manufacture it himself, so it has to be provided typically through their diet. And it must be given in sufficient amounts to avoid deficiencies.


Here are some reasons why magnesium is important:


  • Bone Health: Magnesium is a vital component in maintaining bone health. It works in conjunction with other minerals like calcium and phosphorus to support strong and healthy bones.

  • Muscle Function: Magnesium is involved in the contraction and relaxation of muscles. It helps regulate neuromuscular signals and contributes to the overall function of muscles, including the heart. So, yep pretty important.


  • Energy Metabolism: It plays a role in converting food into energy, which is essential for the proper functioning of a dog's body, and in regulating blood glucose levels.


  • Nervous System Function: Magnesium is crucial for the proper functioning of the nervous system. It helps in the transmission of nerve signals and supports normal nerve function.


  • Electrolyte Balance: Magnesium is an electrolyte that works in conjunction with other electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and calcium to maintain proper fluid balance in cells and tissues.


It also supports a healthy immune system and helps with the absorption and metabolism of other key minerals.


A deficiency of magnesium in your dog can cause a wide range of issues, but can include:


  • Lethargy

  • Irregular heartbeat

  • Disorientation

  • Tremors

  • Loss of appetite and tummy upset

  • Muscle cramps

  • Seizures

  • Nervousness & Anxiety, even depression


That said, most dogs do get sufficient magnesium from their diets as there is a required (minimum) amount that has to be included in any commercially produced food. However, dogs who have severe/ongoing health conditions, including diabetes, epilepsy, and heart disease and senior dogs, can be prone to having deficiencies in magnesium.


Worryingly, some medications can actually deplete your dog’s levels of magnesium. These include antibiotics (notably Tetracyclines and Fluroquinolones), Gabapentin, Corticosteroids, Heart Meds, Diuretics, and blood pressure medications.





Low Magnesium Levels


Malnourished dogs should also be given magnesium supplements to help with recovery. If you suspect that your dog may have low magnesium levels, you should discuss this with your vet. You can request a simple blood test, however, blood tests only measure magnesium in the blood, and this is not a true measure of magnesium stored in the body, as a result it can be misleading since they often state normal magnesium levels.


To ensure your dog is getting magnesium in his diet, or if your dog falls into one of the above categories and would benefit from additional magnesium look to up their magnesium intake with food first, before reaching for a supplement.


Most forms of magnesium supplements are poorly absorbed, as a result you need to give more than you need which can cause unwelcome GI upset and can interfere with absorption and use of other minerals if not managed correctly. They are also more likely to contain fillers to make them into powders or tablets.


Foods that are good sources of magnesium include:


  • Meat: Meat, such as beef and chicken, contains moderate amounts of magnesium. Organ meats like liver and kidney are particularly rich in magnesium.


  • Fish: Fish, including salmon and mackerel, are good sources of magnesium. Additionally, fish provides other beneficial nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids.


  • Green Leafy Vegetables: Vegetables like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are rich in magnesium. However, it's important to note that these should be prepared (blended/chopped well) and fed in moderation, to enable your dog to get the nutritional benefit.


  • Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, peanuts, and sunflower seeds are examples of nuts and seeds that contain magnesium. These can be provided in small quantities as treats.


  • Whole Grains: Whole grains such as brown rice and quinoa contain magnesium. When included in a balanced diet, these grains contribute not only magnesium but also other essential nutrients.


  • Dairy Products: Some dairy products, like yogurt and cheese, contain magnesium. However, it's essential to consider a dog's tolerance to lactose, as not all dogs can easily digest dairy.


  • Legumes: Beans and lentils are sources of magnesium and a small amount can be included in a dog's diet. Ensure that they are properly cooked to make them easily digestible.





Another option for dogs with chronically low magnesium levels, you can try using transdermal magnesium sprays which are applied topically, and allow the magnesium to enter the bloodstream through the skin, bypassing the digestive system.


Any excess magnesium will pass through the urine of a dog with healthy kidneys. If you have a dog with chronic kidney failure however, you will need to monitor his magnesium levels as their kidneys won’t be able to dispose of it and could lead to high levels of magnesium in the body.


About these posts...


Well, a sea change is taking place in the world of pet nutrition. More and more owners are moving away from processed dry and tinned foods towards more natural, healthy diets for their pets. With this shift comes considerable confusion and misinformation. Are blackberries poisonous? Is garlic good or bad for dogs? What about avocado?


There is an important distinction between what dogs can eat and what dogs should eat. As with humans, dogs need a balanced diet to thrive. These posts will hopefully give you a steer in the right direction!

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