Chelated Minerals in Dog Food


What are chelated minerals and why are they only used in some dog foods and not others?

chelated-minerals-dog-foodMinerals are inorganic compounds that come from the earth and are naturally absorbed by plants.

Animals and humans get minerals from the plants or the plant-eating animals they consume.

Minerals are essential nutrients that a dog’s body needs to grow and function normally.

Here are a few familiar examples of common minerals…

  • Calcium
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Zinc

By themselves, some minerals can be more difficult than others for a dog to absorb.

So, at least some of these minerals can pass through a dog’s digestive tract — wasted in the stools.

However, some minerals can be chemically combined with organic molecules — molecules like amino acids or complex sugars (polysaccharides).

This process of attaching an inorganic mineral with an organic compound is known as chelation.

Chelated minerals can usually be identified by the suffixes added to their chemical names. For example:

  • Copper chelate
  • Zinc proteinate
  • Iron glycinate (amino acid, glycine)
  • Magnesium polysaccharide (not a true chelate)

Chelated Minerals Can Be
Easier to Absorb

Now, not all minerals are difficult to absorb — or even need to be chelated.

Yet chelation can improve the absorption of certain minerals by a notable amount. For example, chelated trace minerals possess an increased bioavailability of about 5 to 15 percent.1

Unfortunately, they can also cost more than five times the price of non-chelated minerals.1

The Bottom Line

Chelated minerals should be considered a welcome addition to any dog food product. And their presence on an ingredients list can also be a tip-off you’re considering a better quality dog food.


  1. Aldrich G, “Are Chelated Minerals Worth It?“, April 2008
  2. Aldrich G, “Are Chelated Minerals Worth It?“, April 2008
  • Pitlove

    You may want to consider using a theraputic diet from your vet. Dispite whatever way you feel about ingredients, those diets are specifically designed with appropriate levels of minerals, proteins & vitamins for a dog with kidney damage. They are feed trialed and there is years of research backing them. Also it takes all the guess work out of knowing which companies have correct diets or not.

    But yes, like I said, you should consult your vet before making any more changes to the dogs diet. Another thing to consider would be to consult a veterinary nutritionist and have them formulate a homemade cooked diet appropriate for your dogs health concerns. and would be a good place to start with that.

  • LunaLove

    i know what the low levels need to be so i guess im just overly concerned. but as aimee pointed out these problems it made me wonder if i wasnt doing the right thing or enough research and thats becuase i was considering natures logic and in no way thought to check every single thing over. as some recipes i could use bc the ash phos mag were lower but i didnt look into much else. THOUGHT they were a good company. so im always worried now if they are balanced appropriately with the low levels of ash mag. and phos. with all the other levels. so when i find a food that is what i need and meets my dogs requirements i need to take that to the vet and see what they say and if the rest of the levels are balanced. but as long as the food is aafco then i shouldnt worry should i?. but i am always worried there are so many added vitamins and minerals. after all i did hear and am in no way saying its true but the vitamins humans take are actually bad for you. i just hate seeing so many added things at the end of the ingredient that i dont know what they are. thank you for your help!!

  • Pitlove

    In order to be in legal compliance with AAFCO, companies are required to provide foods that are complete and balanced. They are also on top of that required to be complete and balanced for every single meal because the assumption is that most dogs will eat the same food throughout their life. To do this extra vitamins and minerals are added in the form of the long list of vitamins and minerals you see towards the end of the ingredient list. These are synthetic made vitamins, similar to multi vitamins we take.

    Some companies like Natures Logic have attempted to meet AAFCO mineral requirements through whole foods only. However, as Aimee has proven here time and time again NL falls very short of multiple key nutrients and therefore short of AAFCO requirements.

    If you want to use Honest Kitchen print out their nutrient analysis that I believe is on their website and bring it to your vet. Ask them if the phos, mag, and protein levels in whichever formula you are interested in is appropriate for the level of kidney and liver damage your dog has.

  • LunaLove

    thank you for your reply! yes i try to look for low level foods of such also low ash. but i dont know much about the vitamin and minerals. wasnt sure if it was better to have fewer or not since people keep commenting how large some vitamin packs in the honest kitchen food i was interested in looking at that but im not sure what it means to have a large vitamin pack.

  • Pitlove

    Hi LunaLove-

    If your dog has kidney and liver issues, not having a lot of vitamins and minerals is not what you want. You simply want to feed a food designed for kidney issues that has low levels of certain minerals (phos, magnesium). Also depending on whether or not the dog has been diagnosed with kidney failure and what stage he/she is in, protein restriction may be necesssary as well.

    Also please do not forget that just because some people do not “like” synthetic vitamin and mineral supplements it does not mean they are harmful or bad. It’s just their personal opinion. The body does not care whether it gets its vitamin and mineral requirement from whole foods or synthetic sources so long as they are bioavailable.

  • LunaLove

    can someone recommend a dog food that doesnt have to many vitamins and minerals? i heard on here that the honest kitchen has a large vitamin pack that some people dont like. then theres natures logic that doesnt use synthetic..would that be better or worse for a dog that has kidney or lover problems?

  • InkedMarie

    I use that and Soul Food, too!

  • Norm

    Green Min people. From Dr. Dobias up in Canada. Great vet.

  • Kris Fortner

    My 2 year old German Shepard is eating Fromm large breed puppy food. I’m concerned about the minerals in the food particularly zinc. He is experiencing hair loss on muzzel and tips of ears and the vet is puzzeled. Could it be from his food should I switch to something with more zinc?

  • Jennifer Ward

    you can mix the foods, but there will be no benefit in aiding the absorbtion of the non-chelated minerals. It’s the minerals themselves that have been chelated

  • Ronn Torrente

    Im selling Mega Antioxidant and Chelated Minerals. Kindly email me here – [email protected]

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  • Hound Dog Mom

    There’s no reason you can’t mix any dog foods. Although based on what I’ve read, I think any benefits chelated minerals provide over non-chelated is minimal. The bioavailibilty is only increased 5 – 15% by using chelated minerals so I think the most benefit would be for dogs experiencing absorption issues or dogs that are extreme performance dogs or under high levels of stress. Most better quality foods to tend to use chelated though, so if you’re feeding a high quality food odds are the minerals are chelated.

  • Jennifer

    Can you mix a dog food that contains chelated minerals with one that does not to get the benefits of absorption of the minerals in the dog food that does not contain chelated minerals?

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  • Hound Dog Mom
  • guest

    where can we find the AAFCO requirments for “complete and balanced” dog food?

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Copper is an essential trace mineral. The AAFCO requires dog foods that are labeled as “complete and balanced” to contain between 7.30 and 250.00 mg. copper per kg of food. If a food doesn’t contain enough naturally occuring copper it is necessary to supplement the food with synthetic copper. Copper consumed in excess of the upper level established by the AAFCO maximum could potentially result in toxicity.

  • can copper in dog food do any harm ?

  • Deb

    ~Any ideas for a Grain Free Dry that has no or low levels of glucosamine? We have a neuro JRT that we’ve been feeding NOW, but our doggy Neurologist told us to NOT give her any glucosamine supplements & we just now noticed that the NOW has 400iu of glucosamine. *It makes her ataxic tremors worse. Would appreciate any input.
    Thank you!~

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  • PremiumNaturalPetFood

    If you want to know about commercial foods then:
    Watch this video

  • Deb

    I don’t feel anyone is trying to get rich off people here.  I know myself that I love pets and want them to have the best nutrition possible.  I feel everyone should do their homework and make their own choice of food they buy but it does help to have input from others and how they came to their decision.  [email protected]

  • monkey

    Or maybe it has to do with you spamming your own site trying to make money off us. We are here to help people and their dogs, not get rich off them. Go elsewhere. 

  • Deb

    That’s why I use Life’s Abundance. never been recalled, freshest, safest, most nutritional food on the market.  Delivered to my door within 6 weeks of being made.

  • Shawna

    “In the metric system ppm can be expressed in terms of milligram versus kg where   1 mg/kg = 1 part per million”

    The AAFCO guidelines for iron is 80 mg/kg as the minimum for puppy and adult and 3000 mg/kg (or PPM) is the maximum.

    AAFCO standards for complete and balanced can be found here 🙂

  • Tdharness

    Can someone tell me what the normal levels of (ppm) there should be in puppy food? I had some food tested but not sure what I am reading since I have an as sent statement and a dry weight statement. It says as sent there is 277 ppm iron, 44 ppm manganese, 30 copper ppm and 159 ppm zinc. Then Dry weight is 299 ppm iron, 47 ppm manganese, 43 ppm copper and 172 ppm zinc. If anyone can give me an idea on these levels I would greatly appreciate it.

  • sandy


    Is your raw and cooked both homemade or is the raw a commercial prepared raw? That makes a big difference. Commercial prepared raw is complete and balanced. As long as you don’t feed more than 20% homemade with that, they should be ok.

    But if it’s all homemade, I would definitely consult with a recipe book for homemade feeders. This is the one I have, but I’m sure there are others.

    Unbalanced homemade is the worst food you can feed due to the fact that undernutrition can lead to malnutrition which can lead to organ failure.

  • Emily Riley

    I feed my two 15 lbs Cavaliers a raw and a cooked diet. One of my dogs are allergic to many many foods. Are they getting enough minerals through feeding them fresh and raw foods or should I be adding chelated minerals to their food? If so where do you buy them?

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  • jana c

    His stools are very firm he just goes alot throughout the day. 5-8 times a day. is it because hes a puppy

  • Hi Jana… Excessively soft stools and frequent defecation can be a problem. And although these symptoms can be related to a new food, they can also be a sign of another health issue. If things don’t clear up soon, you may wish to contact your vet.

  • jana c

    Hello, my 12 week old male golden ret. is on Fromm’s LBP formula. He had loose stools and pooping 4 times a day. his stools are FINALLY nice and firm but yest he pooped 7 times. is it ok he is going this often. today he has gone 4 times so far and it’s only 10 am.. please help

  • Hi Ryan… Since we don’t track each individual micronutrient in every dog food, it would be impossible for me to accurately respond to your question. Our reviews routinely assume products meeting AAFCO nutrient profiles contain safe and appropriate amounts of each mineral (including zinc).

  • Ryan S.

    What five star dry kibbles would you recommend would be high in Zinc ?Besides the Natura line who just sold out last year to P and G and will probably go down the tubes in quality .

  • Hi Kimba… Since each dog responds to a particular food in its own unique way, it would be impossible for me to assure you feeding her Verus (or any other specific product) would satisfy her appetite. Hunger is usually more related to caloric intake and your dog’s energy needs than almost anything else. So, you may want to compare the calories per cup on the Verus package with the number of calories per cup with your old dog food (information you may be able to find at the company’s website). If the calories per cup is lower on the newer food, you’ll probably need to increase the measured amount of serving. Also, your dog’s weight is remaining constant over a reasonable period of time, it’s unlikely there’s any problem at all (other than the food might not be as filling). Hope this helps.

  • kimba

    Mike – I recently switched my large mixed breed dog (who tends to be quite lean to begin with) to Verus Adult Chicken Dog food (from Calif Natural) …. her stools are much larger and spongier, (feeding too much?) yet she seems hungry (becoming rather insistent in her begging) and looks a bit skinnier. A friend also just switched her dogs, and says they are begging more as well— have you heard any complaints like this about Verus? I’m concerned she isn’t absorbing the nutrients in this food- and have added a scoop of plain yogurt to it, but it doesn’t seem to be helping– any suggestions or comments? I hate to switch again if I am just over-reacting.

  • Hi David… Copper is an essential mineral. Whenever you see the word “essential” associated with any nutrient, it means it must be supplied in the diet. Any mineral (or fat soluble vitamins) can become toxic if they exceed a certain level.

    In any case, I cannot assure you chelated copper is any safer in preventing the diseased condition your dog experienced with non-chelated copper. However, chelated minerals can be more readily absorbed from a dog’s intestinal gut wall. So, they are more “nutritious” and we tend to favor products made with these better ingredients.

    Bu the way, even though you may not see copper on a dog food ingredients list, it is still there. Sometimes you’ll just see the phrase “vitamin and mineral supplement”. Most of these “micro” nutrients are purchased as ready-made mixes by the pet food manufacturer. Although we do not track these ingredients, most pet food labels do list all of them on their labels. Hope this helps.

  • My Black Lab recently died of Copper-Storage Hepatopathy (Liver Disease brought on by copper binding to certain proteins in the liver rather than being passed in the bile.) Several articles on the disease I read in trying to save my dog mentioned commercial foods having a lot of copper. So naturally I wanted to get on top of this subject in my care decisions for the new pup. (I fed my first Lab Iams every day of her life, and thought I was doing right by her.) I haven’t found copper as a listed ingredient on any dog food label. I wanted to get away from copper! Bad stuff…killed my dog! But from what you are saying I’m giving copper a bad rap, pretty much blaming the mineral the liver stored rather than the disease that made the liver store it? Makes sense. So the key here, if I understand correctly, is when I see a listed mineral on a dogfood label we want it accompanied by some ingredient to indicate they are chelated? And if it’s not on the label it isn’t there?
    By the way, my research in dogfood has been quite a journey but very enlightening. My NEW dog’s food cannot be purchased in Walmart or Albertson!

  • Hi Jonathan… By use of words and phrases (associated with minerals) like “copper chelate”, “magnesium proteinate”, “zinc amino acid complex”, etc.

  • Jonathan

    How do you tell by the ingredients that the food contains chelated minerals?

  • Hi Mark… Although small and medium breed dogs may be considered adults at about 6 months, large breeds usually aren’t classified as adults until about 12 months. You may want to look for a 4 or 5-star dog food on our website that’s specifically rated by AAFCO for growth or “all life stages”. You can safely switch to an adult product at about one year. Hope this helps.

  • Mark Laford

    Hello Mike,

    Thank You for making a big difference for our four legged friends! I have a 6 month old Dutch Shepherd puppy “Kane,”
    whom I have been feeding a raw diet of chicken quarters 4-5 days/week and Iams large breed puppy (chicken) for all other meals. He will be a large dog 90lbs +/- and he is 55lbs now. Can you make any recommendations for what you would feed him that is reasonably priced, easily available and best for his breed? I would greatly appreciate your advice and expertise.

    Thank You,

    Mark Laford

  • Hi Steven… These days, I feel the whole issue of protein may have been greatly exaggerated. I plan to cover the subject of puppy nutrition in more detail in a future post (after I’ve completed my “first pass” of most of the reviews).

    Until then, I think you’ll find the white paper published by Champion Petfoods (makers of Orijen and Acana Dog Foods) very informative… a real eye-opener. When it comes to canine nutrition, this report is one of my personal favorites.

  • steven M

    i’ve found your website to be a great source of info. one thing i haven’t seen on here is the subject of large breed puppy food. from what i’ve read on food project, they need low calcium & phosphorous. good ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 and lower proteins. is there any suggestions you can make

  • Hi Bridgette… the Blue Buffalo Weight Loss product you speak of already contains chelated minerals. So, there’s no need to add more. Too many minerals can actually be dangerous. Remember, with all supplements… too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Now, it would probably be OK to feed additional enzymes, though. His weight loss issue may simply be a matter of reducing his daily calorie intake below what he “burns”. Try using my dog food calculator on this website to estimate an appropriate serving size. By the way, you’ll need to look on the bag of dog food to get the “calories per cup” figure. You may be feeding him too much. Hope this helps.

  • Bridgette

    Thanks for your explanation, Mike. Could a dog use chelated minerals in addition to digestive enzymes? I have an overweight Lab (6 years old) with hip dysplasia… so many suggestions have been made to me and they all kind of buzz through my head simultaneously. It gets confusing… especially when I try to do them ALL!

    He’s not losing weight. Exercise is minimal. His weight loss is going to have to happen through diet. He’s been on Blue Buffalo Weight Management… 1 cup 3 times a day. I need is to feel like all the good stuff in his food and all the stuff (Ascenta Canine Omega 3, Joint MAX Triple Strength, ProZyme Plus, Deramaxx 75mg) he takes is being absorbed.

    Any advise? Could chelated minerals help in our goals?

    Thanks for doing what you do with this website… it’s a great tool!!

  • Hi Bridgette… the product you mention is a popular food supplement containing four enzymes. It’s designed to help in digesting carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Chelated minerals (on the other hand) are minerals that have been bonded to proteins to help make them easier to absorb. So, if your goal is to help your dog absorb the minerals in her food, you won’t get the results you’re looking for with an enzyme supplement.

  • Bridgette

    Would this stuff do what you’re suggesting could be beneficial for my dog?

    I keep hearing that my dogs food (Blue Buffalo LP Weight Management) is only as good as what is absorbed… I researched absorption stuff all morning and ended up on the ProZyme Plus. By your standards, does it look like it’ll get the job done?