Iron for Dogs

picture of a young dog in the forest

Iron is an extremely important mineral that all mammals, including dogs and people, need for their cardiovascular system. This nutrient has other functions, which we will talk about in today’s article.

So, if you want to find out if dogs can suffer from iron poisoning, what the symptoms of iron deficiency in this species are, and whether you should give your dog iron supplements, keep on reading!

Why Is Iron Important for Dogs?

Iron is the major component in red blood cells. And if you did not know, red blood cells are in charge of transporting essential nutrients to and from your dog’s internal organs.

They also have the role of transporting oxygen from the lungs (alveoli) to wherever it is needed. Iron is the most important nutrient in the production of hemoglobin, the core substance that red blood cells are composed of.

Iron is also involved in the production of myoglobin, a protein that ensures that your pet’s muscles get the oxygen that they need, too.

Since it is a mineral, this nutrient is also involved in a number of enzymatic functions, but all in all, it is extremely important for the nourishment of your dog’s body.

Natural Sources of Iron for Dogs

First of all, it’s important to note that most dog food manufacturing companies enrich their recipes with minerals these days, so chances are that your dog is getting all the iron he or she needs without you having to add any human foods to your pet’s diet.

However, if you prefer a more natural approach or you actually cook your dog’s food at home, here are some natural sources of iron:

Increasing the amount of iron that your dog gets through food is much safer than doing the same by giving your pooch a supplement.

Besides, some of the iron gets eliminated into the outside world through your dog’s kidney function, so it’s practically impossible for you to cause iron poisoning in your pet by giving them foods richer in this nutrient.

Iron Deficiency in Dogs

First of all, primary iron deficiency in dogs is very rare and so is anemia caused by it. However, it can happen when an animal sustains trauma and loses a lot of blood.

This type of health issue can also be caused by gastrointestinal tumors, where the animal also loses blood or doesn’t absorb the nutrients from food as he/she is supposed to (this is called malabsorption).

Iron deficiency seems to affect dogs that have chronic kidney dysfunctions more than it does their healthy counterparts. Also, anemia due to iron deficiency can also appear in cats and dogs that have severe internal and external parasite infestations.

In puppies, for example, severe flea infestations can not only cause other health issues, but they can lead to severe anemia. Make sure your dog is dewormed and treated for external parasites on a regular basis.

Some signs of iron deficiency in dogs are listed below.

  • Pale visible mucous membranes (sides of the eyes and gums)
  • Lack of energy
  • Lethargy
  • Fatigue when exercising (even climbing the stairs can be difficult for an anemic dog)
  • Blood in the feces
  • Respiratory distress (with panting being the most common symptom)
  • Arrhythmias and fainting

Fortunately, if the health issue is not severe and if it is not associated with other complications, iron deficiency in dogs can be treated successfully. It does take time for your dog’s system to produce more red blood cells if they have sustained trauma, so they might have to be hospitalized for a number of days.

Iron can be administered both orally and intravenously so that your dog’s blood iron levels are stabilized once again. If your pet was involved in a very bad accident and has lost a lot of blood as a result, the veterinarian might have to give your dog a transfusion.

Iron Poisoning in Dogs

As we have previously mentioned, the instances where the dog eats too much spinach and develops iron poisoning are extremely rare, if not impossible.

However, iron is a common ingredient of dietary supplements, especially those made for humans. Besides, if your vet recommended a pet-safe iron supplement and it’s one of those tasty chewable varieties, if your dog manages to open the container and eats all the pills, that could be a little dangerous.

Other sources of iron range from fertilizers to oxygen absorbers (such as the tiny sachets you’d find in some food varieties, made specifically for the purpose of keeping the preservation environment safe).

If your dog accidentally ingests fertilizer or another substance that has massive amounts of iron, he or she could develop iron poisoning. Here are some symptoms that you might notice in this case:

  • Panting and shaking
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, blood in the feces
  • Tummy aches
  • Significant changes in the dog’s heart rhythm
  • Lethargy
  • Shock/collapse

Very large amounts of iron can have long-lasting effects on your dog’s health, such as by causing gastrointestinal issues, including ulcers.

If you take your dog to the vet right after you’ve realized that your dog ingested fertilizer, for example, it’s quite likely that they will induce vomiting and put your dog on anti-toxic medication right away. They’ll also administer a number of substances so as to counteract the iron absorption process, such as calcium carbonate.

Should You Give Your Pet Iron Supplements?

You should never give your dog vitamin or mineral supplements if your veterinarian hasn’t specifically instructed you to do so.

Dogs that are generally healthy and that eat the right kind of diet (a species-appropriate one) shouldn’t have an iron deficiency, so there is no need for you to give your pooch a supplement.

Instead, what you can do is to take them to the animal hospital twice a year to have their blood tested so that such deficiencies are diagnosed and treated as early as possible.

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