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Our Glossary of Terms is designed to give you a more detailed explanation of each component of breakthrough.

We’ve tried to include as much information within this glossary as possible. However, if you have a question that’s not answered, get in touch and we’ll do our best to help.

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Glossary of terms used for breakthrough dog food
A
Amino Acid Amino acids are the building blocks of the proteins, the biological workhorses of nearly every structural component of the body (see protein). Proteins are found in all living things including animals, plants and fungi. In animals, 23 amino acids are utilised, and of these 10 are essential amino acids in cats and dogs because they can only be provided by the protein in the diet. The essential amino acids are arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. In addition, taurine is an essential amino acid in cats. The remaining amino acids are non-essential because they can be synthesised in the body from the essential amino acids. The non-essential amino acids are alanine, asparagine, aspartate, cysteine, glutamate, glutamine, glycine, hydroxylysine, hydroxyproline, proline, serine, tyrosine. In humans, arginine is a non-essential amino acid. As well as the biological building blocks of life, amino acids are also an important source of energy (see energy density). Obtaining the right balance of amino acids depends on the quality of protein in the diet (see protein).
Alpha-Tocopherol See tocopherol, vitamin E.
Antioxidants Antioxidants in the food work to ‘mop up’ free radicals, which are the waste by-products of oxidation reactions during normal cell metabolism. Free radicals are also produced when the body’s cells are damaged by disease and external factors such as toxins and radiation, and are thought to be a contributing factors in ageing, cancer, arthritis and many other degenerative diseases. Vitamin E (see tocopherol, vitamin E) and pro-vitamin A (see beta carotene, vitamin A), vitamin C (see vitamin C) and flavonoids (see flavonoids) are all good examples of powerful antioxidants found naturally in fruit and vegetables. Other antioxidants include selenium (see selenium) and zinc (see zinc). In the environment, oxidation reactions are also responsible for the corrosion and rust seen on metals such as iron. All dry pet foods require an antioxidant in order to prevent the fat components in the formula from becoming rancid on exposure to air. breakthrough is preserved naturally using tocopherols derived from fruit and vegetables. breakthrough do not use any artificial colourings, flavourings or preservatives (see preservatives).
Arachidonic Acid Arachidonic acid (AA) is an essential omega-6 fatty acid (see essential fatty acids).
Ash See Inorganic Matter
B
Barley Barley is an excellent source starch (see carbohydrate)
Beet Pulp Beet pulp is the dried residue from the production of sugar from the sugar beet plant. It is a good source of both soluble and insoluble fibre (see fibre). breakthrough use an un-molassed beet pulp from Holland.
C
Calcium Calcium (see minerals) is required to maintain the bones and teeth, the nervous system and the clotting ability of the blood. Growing and nursing animals require higher levels of calcium in the diet. Calcium levels in the body are critically linked to the levels of phosphorus (see phosphorus). Too high phosphorus and too low calcium will lead to brittle bones that are easily fractured. Growing animals are particularly sensitive to excess amounts of calcium which can lead to bone and joint deformities. Calcium is found in eggs, milk, cheese, green vegetables and whole grain foods.
Calcium Carbonate Calcium carbonate is used as a source of dietary calcium (see calcium). Egg shells provide a superior, more environmentally friendly source of calcium carbonate compared with limestone.
Calcium Iodate Anhydrous Calcium iodate anhydrous is a dietary source of the mineral iodine (see iodine).
Carbohydrate Carbohydrates are the primary energy-storage constituents of plants, and they are divided into 3 groups, the monosaccharides, the disaccharides and the polysaccharides. The monosaccharides are the simplest form of carbohydrate and include the sugars such as glucose (blood sugar), fructose (fruit sugar) and galactose. The disaccharides are more complex and include the sugars lactose (milk sugar) and sucrose (common table sugar). Polysaccharides are the most complex and include starch and dietary fibre. Dietary fibre is further divided into soluble fibre and insoluble fibre (see fibre).
Chelated Zinc See zinc chelate
Chicken Chicken is an excellent source of protein, very palatable and easy to digest for most dogs. It is rich in tryptophan and vitamin B6 and contributes to the mood stabilising effect of breakthrough™. In addition chicken provides a natural source of glucosamine and is rich in the minerals phosphorous, calcium and magnesium.
Chicken Stock Chicken stock (digest) is a commercially produced powder or liquid made by taking clean chicken liver and breaking it down into small particles, a process called hydrolysis. The digest does not contain heads, feet or feathers except in trace amounts which are unavoidable. Digest names must accurately describe their contents, so chicken digest must be made from chicken and beef digest must be made from beef. Homogenised meats, are very palatable for all animals and this is why they are used to feed critically ill and hospitalised humans, dogs and cats. We use digests to improve flavour. They are sourced from a world-leading company based in France.
Chicken Fat See poultry fat
Chloride Chloride (see minerals) is the main negative ion (cation) in the body and is paired with sodium, the main positive ion (anion) to maintain electrolyte balance (see sodium). Chloride helps maintain acid-bae balance, for example in the stomach, where it helps maintain the acidity which is required for proper digestion. Sources of chloride include meat, fish, dairy products and some cereals. Chloride is generally supplied in the diet with sodium as sodium chloride, which is common table salt (see sodium).
Copper Sulphate Copper (see minerals) is an essential trace mineral which is closely tied to iron in terms of functionality (see iron). Copper is necessary for normal absorption and transport of dietary iron. Along with iron, copper is essential for the normal formation of haemoglobin. Copper deficiency results in disorders similar to that seen with iron deficiency. For example, anaemia, de-pigmentation of coloured hair coat and impaired skeletal growth in young animals. Although copper deficiency is not common in dogs and cats, an inherited disorder of copper metabolism that results in copper toxicosis occurs in several different breeds of dogs. Copper is found in meat, especially liver and some cereal grains.
Crude Fibre See fibre and beet pulp. Crude fibre is the term used in the list of ingredients on the label of a foodstuff and it includes both soluble and insoluble fibre (see fibre).
Cupric Sulphate See copper sulphate.
D
Dicalcium Phosphate Calcium and phosphorous are both essential macro minerals as part of a daily balanced diet. See calcium and phosphorous.
Digest See Chicken Stock
E
Egg Egg yolk is a good source of fat (see fat), whilst egg whites contain the purest form of protein found in whole foods (see protein). Eggs are also a valuable source of vitamins (see vitamins) and minerals (see minerals). breakthrough source dried egg powder from Yorkshire.
Energy Density All living cells require a constant source of energy in order to function. This energy is provided in the protein, carbohydrate and fat in the diet. The energy density of a diet is the total energy per unit weight in grams or kilograms of a portion of the diet. Energy density can also be used to describe individual nutrients, so fat has twice the energy density of carbohydrate or protein.
Essential Fatty Acids Essential fatty acids (EFA) include the omega-3 and the omega-6 families of fatty acids. While dogs and cats can synthesise some EFA from other fats in the diet, they cannot synthesise them all, hence the term ‘essential’, because of a dietary requirement for some EFA. The ‘parent’ EFA of the omega-3 family is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), from which eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are synthesised. The ‘parent’ EFA of the omega-6 family is linoleic acid (LA), from which the arachidonic acid (AA) is synthesised. When diets are supplemented with EFA, either the parent compounds (ALA, LA) can be used, or their derivatives (EPA, DHA, AA). Addition of the parent compounds to the diet requires their conversion to the biologically active forms, while providing the active EFA directly does not. Cats are special in this regard because they cannot convert ALA to EPA or DHA, nor can they convert LA to AA, therefore they require diets already containing AA, EPA and DHA. When EFA are supplemented in the diet, great care must be taken in the formulation in order to get the balance of omega-3 and omega-6 correct. This is because some of these compounds share common enzyme systems in the body and therefore compete with each other. A good example is ALA and LA where the ratio needs to be about 2.6:1 in order to prevent LA interfering with the utilisation of ALA. In other words, feeding an animal EFA supplements that are not balanced may well have the opposite effect of that intended because an excess of either omega-3 or omega-6 will interfere with the biological activity of the other. The EFA can be arranged into 3 broad functional groups: (1) Skin, Hair and Coat: LA (omega-3) and ALA (omega-6) work together to maintain a healthy skin and coat. A deficiency can lead to dry, scaly skin, damaged foot pad and a course coat with hair loss. A deficiency of dietary AA in pregnant cats can lead to foetal abnormalities, and the kittens of these cats may have difficulty in having kittens themselves. (2) Inflammatory Moderators: The right balance of EPA (omega-3) and AA (omega-6) in the diet plays an important role in moderating chronic inflammatory processes all over the body such as the dermatitis, osteoarthritis, gastrointestinal health, kidney disease and even cancer. (3) Nervous System and Eyes: DHA (omega-3) is a vital EFA for normal development of the brain and the retina at the back of the eyes. Puppies and kittens that are deficient in DHA during gestation and lactation, because the diet of their mothers was deficient, have poorer eyesight and are less able to learn as they grow older. Different groups of EFA come from different foodstuffs and some dietary sources are better than others. Sources of ALA (omega-3) include flax seed (linseed) oil (good), rapeseed oil, some nuts (poor), muscle, organ meet and eggs from land animals (poor). Sources of DHA and EPA (omega-3) include oily fish (e.g. herring) and seafood such as krill (good). There are no good sources of DHA or EPA found in plant-based foodstuffs. Sources of LA (omega-6) include corn, cottonseed and soy oil (good), flax seed (linseed) oil (poor) muscle, organ meet and eggs from land animals (variable, depending on what the animals were fed). Some seed oils such as sunflower have traditionally been high in LA, but in modern crops this has been significantly reduced by genetic modification because of concerns over human health. Sources of AA (omega-6) include animal fats (good). As noted above, cats cannot convert ALA to EPA or DHA, nor can they convert LA to AA, so they must be fed diets supplemented with these omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
F
Fat Fats found in food come in 2 forms at room temperature, solid fats and liquid oils, which is determined by the degree of saturation of the fat. In saturated fats the molecules are packed tightly together which prevents fluid movement, making them more solid. In unsaturated fats the molecules are less tightly packed together which allows more freedom of movement between them, making them more fluid. Polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) are nutritionally very important because they include the omega-3 and the omega-6 essential fatty acids (see essential fatty acids). Fats contain twice the amount of energy compared to carbohydrates or proteins, so one major function of dietary fats is to provide energy in the most concentrated form (see energy density). Fats also serve as a carrier for the fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K (see vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K).
Fat Content See fat
Ferrous Sulphate Monohydrate See iron
Fibre Fibre in the diet is a carbohydrate (see carbohydrate) which is important for maintaining normal gastrointestinal transit time and motility. There are 2 kinds of fibre, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre is a good food source for the ‘friendly bacteria’ in the large intestine, which is why it is called a prebiotic (see prebiotic). Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), derived from the chicory plant, favour the growth of beneficial bacterial colonies while reducing the colonies of potentially harmful bacteria in the small intestines. Mannan-oligosaccharides (MOS), derived from the cell walls of yeasts, have similar effects on the intestinal flora. Soluble fibre also slows the rate of food passage through the gut which helps ensure the maximum digestion and absorption of nutrients. Insoluble fibre increases peristalsis, helps an animal to feel satisfactorily full and provides a crunchy texture to the kibbles that can help with oral hygiene. A quality fibre source in the correct proportion may help to reduce the incidence of conditions such as diabetes mellitus and obesity. It may also help to prevent constipation and diarrhoea. Beet pulp is a good source of both types of fibre (see beet pulp). breakthrough use an unmolassed beet pulp from Holland.
Fish Oil Oily fish such as herring are a rich source of the omega-3 essential fatty acids (see essential fatty acids).
Flax Seed Flax seed is another name for linseed which is a good source of fibre. In dogs, but not in cats, the oil of this plant seed is a reasonable source of the omega-3 essential fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (see essential fatty acids).
Fructo-oligosaccharide See fibre
G
Gluten Gluten, or specifically gliadin, is the protein responsible for causing gluten-sensitive gastrointestinal diseases in humans and dogs. Gliadins are present in wheat, barley, rye, buckwheat and oat flour grains. Gliadin-free foodstuffs include other sources of grains such as corn and rice.
H
Hydrolysed Protein Hydrolysed proteins (see chicken and protein) are broken down into smaller chains of amino acids (see amino acid) in order to make the end product more digestible and nutritious. The hydrolysis of proteins in hypoallergenic diets can help minimise dietary intolerances in cats and dogs.
Hypoallergenic Hypoallergenic is a general term used to describe foodstuffs that are less likely to induce dietary-related allergic responses in cats and dogs with specific food sensitivities. Hypoallergenic diets often contain hydrolysed protein (see hydrolysed protein).
I
Inorganic Matter Historically referred to as Ash, Inorganic Matter is a food-labelling term for the inorganic residue remaining after a sample of the food has been incinerated, and it generally represents the mineral content of the food (see minerals). The composition of a pet food is declared on the label as protein, fat/oil, carbohydrate, fibre, moisture/water and inorganic matter.
Iodine Iodine (see minerals) is required for the production of the thyroid hormones (T3 and T4). T4 is the active form of thyroid hormone which controls the growth and development of all living cells, and the rate of their ongoing metabolic processes. Sources of iodine include seaweed (see kelp, seaweed) and some oily seeds, but this depends on the levels of iodine in the soil.
Iron Iron is an essential trace mineral which is closely tied to copper in terms of functionality (see copper). Iron is needed for the formation of haemoglobin, the molecule within red blood cells responsible for carrying oxygen around the body which fuels every living cell. Low levels of iron affect the formation of red blood cells, leading to anaemia. The best sources of iron are organ meats, such as liver and kidney; other meats such as fish and whole grains are also adequate sources.
K
Kelp Kelp is derived from seaweed and is a rich source of iodine (see iodine).
L
L-Tryptophan L-Tryptophan is one of the essential amino acids (see amino acids). Along with its role in the synthesis of proteins in the body, it is also used to synthesise melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin is a hormone that plays a role in daily sleep-wake cycles and serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in the regulation of mood states and emotions. Low levels of available serotonin in the brain is associated with reduced feelings of well-being, anxiety, depression and aggression.
Limestone See calcium
Linoleic Acid Linoleic acid (LA) is an essential omega-6 fatty acid (see essential fatty acids).
Linseed Linseed is another name for flax seed (see flax seed). breakthrough use pressed Linseed cake produced in the UK.
M
Magnesium Magnesium (see minerals) is an important cofactor for many metabolic enzyme systems. It is a key element for the conduction of nerve impulses along nerves and for the electrical activity of heart muscle that controls the beating of the heart. Magnesium also plays a role in maintaining the structural matrix of bone as magnesium carbonate and magnesium phosphate. Magnesium is found in meat, fish, bone meal, soya beans and cereals.
Manganous Oxide Manganous Oxide is a dietary source of the mineral manganese (see manganese).
Manganese Manganese (see minerals) is required in many metabolic processes such as the conversion of amino acids and glycerol to glucose, fat metabolism and in the formation of bone. It is also required in the nervous system. manganese is also associated with free-radical scavenging by antioxidants (see antioxidants). Sources of manganese include meat and meat by-products, and some cereal grains.
Mannan-oligosaccharide See fibre.
Meal Meal is a general manufacturing term for raw meat material that has been ground through a sieve. The finer the meal particles, the more palatable the material is and the better it performs as an extruded nugget. For example, chicken meal includes the whole bird after removing bones, head, feet, feathers etc. What is left is then sterilised, cooked, dried and ground, then stabilised with natural antioxidants (see antioxidants). The resulting meal has a high digestibility value of over 90%. All meat meals must be from animals that have been certified as fit for human consumption. The inclusion of meat products into pet foods that has not been inspected by Government-registered veterinarians is not permitted.
Methionine Methionine is a sulphur-containing (see sulphur) essential amino acid (see amino acid) and is an important component of structural proteins found in many tissues such as the skin and hair.
Minerals Minerals are inorganic compounds used for many different metabolic processes in the body such as the formation of bones and teeth, the conduction of nerve impulses, the activation of enzymes and the maintenance of electrolyte balance. There are 2 categories of minerals based on the quantities found in the body. Macro minerals are present in significant amounts and include calcium, chloride, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and sulphur. Trace minerals are present only in tiny amounts and include chromium, copper, cobalt, iodine, manganese, selenium and zinc. The mineral requirements of cats and dogs varies depending on age, and also to some extent on breed and gender.
MK-7 See vitamin K
Moisture Moisture is a legal term used on food packaging that indicates the relative water content of the food as a percent of all the main ingredients, namely protein, fat, fibre, ash, moisture and carbohydrate.
Monosaccharide See carbohydrate
N
Naked Oats Naked oats are a variety of oats bred to grow without the outer husk. Naked oats have a lower fibre content (see fibre) and a higher tryptophan content (see L-tryptophan) than standard oats.
Niacin See vitamin B3
Nutraceutical The term ‘nutraceutical’ is an ambiguous and poorly defined one used to describe a number of products, including variously refined dietary supplements, plant extracts and phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals, whole-foods etc. Although the term is often misused, a nutraceutical is a food substance that renders some tangible health benefits beyond its immediate described nutritional value.
O
Oats Oats are an excellent source of starch (see carbohydrate, starch). Oats have a lower glycaemic index than other starch sources such as potato or rice. Glycaemic index is an indicator of how quickly a carbohydrate source is absorbed and metabolised in the body, and lower glycaemic index carbohydrates are a more sustained energy source than higher glycaemic index carbohydrates.
Oil See fat
Omega-3 Omega 3 is group of essential fatty acids (see essential fatty acids).
Omega-6 Omega 6 is group of essential fatty acids (see essential fatty acids).
P
Pantothenic Acid See vitamin B5
Potassium Potassium (see minerals) is one of the most important macro minerals because, along with sodium (see sodium) and chloride (see chloride), it is responsible for the conduction of nerve impulses within the brain and nervous system and for the maintenance of acid-base electrolyte balance in all the bodily fluids. Potassium is found in meat and fish, dairy products, some cereal grains, peas and potatoes.
Potato Potatoes are an excellent source starch (see carbohydrate) which, when cooked are highly digestible and therefore ideal for dogs with sensitive digestion. Potatoes are gluten-free (see gluten). breakthrough source a top-quality potato starch from Denmark.
Poultry Fat Chicken oil has a high and consistent level of the essential fatty acids (see essential fatty acids) that are necessary for a healthy skin and coat, and is considered to be the highest quality fat source available. breakthrough use only pure chicken oil purchased from a supplier to the human food industry. Its digestibility is superior over the cheaper beef tallow, lamb and blended fats used in many other pet foods, and it is an excellent source of energy (see energy density).
Poultry Meal Poultry meal is a dry, sterile product derived from processing poultry meat such as chicken (see chicken).
Prebiotic See fibre
Preservatives Preservatives are required in all dry pet foods as antioxidants to prevent the fat components in the diet from becoming rancid on exposure to air. breakthrough is preserved naturally using a tocopherol (see tocopherol) blend of fruits and vegetables in addition to Vitamin E. We do not use any artificial colourings, flavourings or preservatives.
Protein Protein is made up of chains of amino acids and it provides the body with these amino acids (see amino acid) and also with nitrogen. The amino acids and nitrogen in the protein consumed in the diet are quickly used up in the constant turnover and regeneration of tissue (muscles, organs, skin etc.), so protein is not stored in the body like carbohydrates and fats. Proteins are the biological workhorses of nearly every structural component of the body where they serve numerous functions, including muscle growth and tissue repair along with enzyme, blood, immune system and hormone activity. The amino acids in protein are also an important source of energy (see energy density). The quality of protein in the diet is very important because of the amino acids they contain. High quality proteins include egg (see eggs), herring (see herring), chicken and chicken meal (see chicken, chicken meal). Poorer quality proteins include soya bean and some wheats.
PUFA See polyunsaturated fatty acid.
Pyridoxine See vitamin B6.
R
Retinol See vitamin A
Riboflavin See vitamin B2.
S
Salt See sodium and minerals
Selenium Selenium (see minerals) is required for the activation of thyroid hormone from its precursors. It also supports the immune system and is involved with vitamin E as an antioxidant (see vitamin E, antioxidants). Sources of selenium include meat and fish and some cereal grains.
Sodium Sodium (see minerals) is one of the most important macro minerals because, along with potassium (see potassium) and chloride (see chloride), it is responsible for the conduction of nerve impulses within the brain and nervous system and for the maintenance of acid-base electrolyte balance in all the bodily fluids. Sodium is constantly being excreted by the kidneys into the urine so a constant supply is needed in the diet, usually in the form of sodium chloride (common table salt), or in some other form such as sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). Sodium chloride, or common table salt, is not added to pet foods as a palatability enhancer, but it may be added to some foods where there is insufficient present naturally in the other ingredients. Sodium is found in meat, fish, bone and blood meal.
Sodium Selenite Sodium Selenite is a dietary source of the mineral selenium (see selenium).
Starch See carbohydrate.
Sulphur Sulphur (see minerals) is an integral structural element in many compounds including mucopolysaccharides (see chondroitin, mussel extract, sea cucumber), insulin and the sulphur-containing amino acids cysteine and methionine (see amino acids). Sources of sulphur include meat and fish.
Sweet Potato Sweet Potato is an excellent source of gluten-free starch (see potato). Sweet potato also contains beta-carotene, an antioxidant, giving the flesh its orangey colour (see beta-carotene, gluten).
T
Tapioca Tapioca is a source of gluten-free carbohydrate (see carbohydrate, gluten, starch).
Thiamine See vitamin B1.
Tocopherol The Tocopherols are antioxidants (see antioxidants) and are a type of vitamin E (see vitamin E) derived from fruit and vegetable extracts of natural origin. breakthrough is preserved naturally using a tocopherol blend of fruits and vegetables, in addition to Vitamin E. All dry pet foods require an antioxidant in order to prevent the fat components in the diet from becoming rancid on exposure to air. breakthrough do not use any artificial colourings, flavourings or preservatives (see preservatives).
Tryptophan See L-tryptophan.
V
Vitamins Vitamins are a group of nutrients that are required for many metabolic process within the body. There are 2 categories of vitamins based on their solubility, the water-soluble vitamins (B and C) and the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K). For information on individual vitamins, see this glossary. Water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body so they must be readily available in the diet, ideally on a daily basis to avoid deficiencies. Fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in fat tissue and in the liver so a daily availability is not so crucial. However, young animals have a limited capacity to store fat-soluble vitamins and this needs to be taken into account in their diets.
Vitamin A Vitamin A is retinol, which is the active form of vitamin A and includes retinal and retinyl esters found in animal tissue. Other forms of vitamin found in plants (plant carotenoids) include beta-carotene (see beta-carotene), these must be converted to an active form of vitamin A in the body before they can be utilised. Retinol is required for the synthesis of rhodopsin, the compound in the retina of the eye that responds to light and enables vision. Retinal is also a powerful antioxidant (see antioxidants) and it is responsible for the formation of tissues and bones during growth and development. Retinal and retinyl esters are found in meat (liver is an excellent source) and eggs. Plant carotenoids are found in green leafy vegetables (broccoli, kale, spinach) and orange-coloured vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes). Pure carnivores, such as cats do not have the ability to convert plant carotenoids to vitamin A.
Vitamin B1 Vitamin B1 is thiamine, a member of the water-soluble B vitamins (see vitamin B). Thiamine is involved in many metabolic pathways such as amino acid (see amino acid) and glucose (see carbohydrate) metabolism. The daily requirements of thiamine in cats is about 3 times that of dogs. Thiamine is found in many foods, particularly good sources include muscle and organ meat, yeast, seeds nuts, beans and lentils.
Vitamin B2 Vitamin B2 is riboflavin, a member of the water-soluble B vitamins (see vitamin B). Thiamine is involved in many metabolic pathways in the body such as the conversion of tryptophan (see amino acid) to niacin (see vitamin B3) in dogs, but not cats. It is also involved in the synthesis of retinoic acid from retinol (see vitamin A). Riboflavin is found in many foods, particularly good sources include muscle and organ meat, dairy foods, eggs and green leafy vegetables (broccoli, kale, spinach).
Vitamin B3 Vitamin B3 is niacin, a member of the water-soluble B vitamins (see vitamin B). Niacin is involved in many metabolic pathways in the body such as amino acid (see amino acid), glucose (see carbohydrate) and fatty acid (see essential fatty acids) metabolism. In dogs, but not cats, niacin can also be synthesised from tryptophan (see Vitamin B2, vitamin B6, amino acid). Niacin is found in many foods, particularly good sources include muscle and organ meat, beans and lentils.
Vitamin B4 Vitamin B4 is choline, a member of the water-soluble B vitamins (see vitamin B). Choline is involved in many metabolic pathways in the body such as the synthesis of acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter in the brain, nervous system and the muscles. While dogs and cats can synthesise some choline from phospholipids (see fat), it is not enough for their daily requirements so additional choline is required in the diet. Choline is found in many foods, particularly good sources include liver, eggs, soya beans, cauliflower and green leafy vegetables (broccoli, kale, spinach).
Vitamin B5 Vitamin B5 is pantothenic acid, a member of the water-soluble B vitamins (see vitamin B). Pantothenic acid is a structural component of Coenzyme A, the ‘energy-driver’ involved in the synthesis of certain proteins (see amino acid, protein) and fatty acids (see essential fatty acids). Pantothenic acid is found in many foods, particularly good sources include muscle and organ meat, dairy foods, eggs, cereals, beans and lentils.
Vitamin B6 Vitamin B6 is pyridoxine, a member of the water-soluble B vitamins (see vitamin B). Pyridoxine is a cofactor in the metabolism of fatty acids (see essential fatty acids), the synthesis of glucose from amino acids (see amino acid) and glycerol (see fat), and for haemoglobin synthesis (also see iron, copper). Pyridoxine is also a cofactor in the synthesis of the neurotransmitters dopamine, histamine, noradrenaline and serotonin, and the amino acid taurine in dogs and other mammals, but not in cats (see amino acid). In dogs, but not cats, pyridoxine is also involved in the synthesis of niacin (see vitamin B3) from tryptophan (see amino acid). Pyridoxine is found in many foods, particularly good sources include muscle and organ meat, dairy foods, eggs and green leafy vegetables (broccoli, kale, spinach).
Vitamin B7 Vitamin B7 is biotin, a member of the water-soluble B vitamins (see vitamin B). Biotin is a structural component of Coenzyme A, the ‘energy-driver’ involved in the synthesis of certain proteins (see amino acid, protein) and fatty acids (see essential fatty acids). Biotin is synthesised in the gastrointestinal tract of cats and dogs by the normal bacterial flora (see fibre), so nutritional deficiencies are rare. However, in animals with chronic intestinal or liver disease, additional supplementation may be required. Biotin is found in yellow egg yolk (not the whites), liver and yeast. Biotin is also synthesised by the microflora (good bacteria) in the gastrointestinal tract (see fibre).
Vitamin B9 Vitamin B9 is folic acid, a member of the water-soluble B vitamins (see vitamin B). Folic acid is a cofactor in the synthesis of non-essential amino acids (see amino acid) such as glycine, serine (and in humans methionine, which is a non-essential amino acid). Folic acid is also a cofactor in the synthesis of thymine, one of the nucleotide bases of DNA (see nucleotides). Folic acid is found in many foods, particularly good sources include muscle and organ meat, dairy foods, eggs and green leafy vegetables (broccoli, kale, spinach).
Vitamin B12 Vitamin B12 is cobalamin, a member of the water-soluble B vitamins (see vitamin B). Cobalamin is a cofactor in the metabolism of fatty acids (see essential fatty acids), the synthesis of glucose from primarily amino acids (see amino acid) and glycerol (see fat), and for haemoglobin synthesis (also see iron, copper). Cobalamin is synthesised in the large intestine of cats and dogs by the normal bacterial flora (see fibre). However, this source of cobalamin is unavailable because it is too far down the gastrointestinal tract to be absorbed, so cobalamin is an essential dietary vitamin. Cobalamin is found in many foods, particularly good sources include muscle and organ meat and eggs. There is no cobalamin present in non-meat nutrients so in animals fed vegetarian diets, supplementation is especially important.
Vitamin C Vitamin C is ascorbic acid, which is structurally similar to the monosaccharide sugars (see carbohydrate). With the exception of humans and guinea pigs, most animals can synthesise ascorbic acid from glucose, so there is no dietary requirement for this vitamin. Ascorbic acid is a good antioxidant (see antioxidants), but there is little evidence that vitamin C supplements have any health benefits for dogs and cats. Sources of ascorbic acid include Vitamin fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and red and green peppers.
Vitamin D Vitamin D is cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) derived from animal sources and ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) derived from plant sources. Both forms are vitamin D are biologically active. The primary role of cholecalciferol is to control the balance of calcium (see calcium) and phosphorus (see phosphorus) between the bones, liver, kidneys and the gastrointestinal tract. That is, cholecalciferol ensures that bones develop properly and that they maintain their structural integrity and strength throughout life. The development of rickets is the classic example of a diet inadequate in vitamin D. Cholecalciferol is found in many foods, particularly good sources include liver and oily fish (herring, mackerel, salmon). There is some ergocalciferol present in green leafy vegetables (broccoli, kale, spinach), but not enough to meet daily needs, so for animals fed vegetarian diets, supplementation is especially important. Even though humans synthesise cholecalciferol in the skin when exposed to ultraviolet light (sunlight), it is such an important vitamin that in most Western countries, milk and other dairy products are fortified with vitamin D. Cats and dogs cannot synthesise cholecalciferol in the skin so supplementation in the diet is therefore essential.
Vitamin E Vitamin E is alpha-tocopherol, the most biologically active form of vitamin E. The other tocopherols in the vitamin E family are beta-tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol and delta-tocopherol. The primary role of the tocopherols in the body is as antioxidants (see antioxidants), where they prevent damage by free radicals to the essential fatty acids (see essential fatty acids), DNA (see nucleotides) and in many other tissues. Tocopherols also help prevent the inappropriate formation of blood clots within blood vessels by inhibiting the aggregation of blood platelets. Tocopherols are found in many foods, particularly good sources include nuts and seed oils.
Vitamin K Vitamin K is menaquinone-7 (MK-7), menaquinone-7 is a substrate for coagulation factors that are responsible for activating the blood clotting process that prevents excessive bleeding when tissue is injured. Menaquinone-7 is also responsible for activating the process that leads to bone formation. In healthy cats and dogs, adequate quantities of Menaquinone-7 are synthesised in the gastrointestinal tract by the normal bacterial flora (see fibre), so nutritional deficiencies are rare. However, in animals with chronic intestinal or liver disease, additional supplementation may be required. Cobalamin is found in many foods, particularly good sources include muscle and organ meat dairy foods, eggs, green leafy vegetables (broccoli, kale, spinach), beans and lentils.
W
Water Water (see Moisture) is the most important nutrient and it makes up approximately 70% of an animal’s live weight. An animal could lose almost all of its body fat and a quarter of its protein and still survive; yet a 15% loss of water is likely to result in death. Water within the cells is necessary for most metabolic processes and chemical reactions. It is important for temperature regulation and is an essential component of normal digestion. Elimination of waste products from the kidneys also requires a large amount of water. There are 2 main sources of water, ingested water in the food and water consumed, and metabolic water produced during the metabolism of protein, carbohydrates and fats. Water is labelled as Moisture in pet food packaging.
Whole Linseed See linseed.
Z
Zinc Zinc is an essential trace element required by over 200 enzyme systems in the body that control many metabolic processes such as carbohydrate and protein synthesis and metabolism, and tissue growth and repair. A zinc deficiency therefore has wide-ranging effects such as crusting of the skin and delayed wound healing, a brittle, damaged coat with hair loss, stunted growth and a weakened immune system. Chelated zinc supplements are more readily adsorbed into the body than any other form of zinc, therefore better supporting a pet’s zinc levels. Zinc supplements can help some dogs with chronic skin disease and excessive hair loss or shedding. Zinc is found in many foodstuffs including meats, cereals and seeds.
Zinc Chelate See zinc.

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