The Right Nutrition for Dogs
As a dog owner, you know it’s crucial that you provide your pet with the right nutrition to keep them happy and healthy. But it can be hard to know exactly what your dog’s nutrition needs are, especially since they can’t tell you how they’re feeling. Thankfully, there are a few very simple guidelines that can help you make sure your dog is getting the right nutrition.
What Main Nutrients Does Your Dog Need?
The main nutrients your dog needs are similar to those that a human needs:
Protein is essential to helping your dog build and maintain muscle tissue to remain strong and active throughout their life.
Fats such as linoleic acid, Omega-6, and Omega-3 are crucial for keeping your dog’s skin and hair healthy and providing energy.
Carbohydrates help provide further energy for tissues and to help your dog maintain a healthy digestive tract by providing fiber, sugar, and starches.
Vitamins and minerals are usually created naturally through the dog’s bodily processes. However, some must be supplemented through foods or other supplements, such as potassium.
The crucial vitamins and minerals your dog will need to consume in their diet include:
- Vitamin A (vision, growth, reproduction, Immunity)
- Vitamin D (intestinal and bone health)
- Vitamin E (antioxidant and immune-booster)
- Vitamin K (blood clotting and bone development)
- B-Complex Vitamins (nervous system health, growth, enzymatic and physiologic reactions, metabolism, DNA health, etc.)
- Calcium (teeth and bone health)
- Phosphorous (teeth, bone, RNA, DNA, and cell growth)
- Zinc (enzyme functions, protein and carbohydrate use, etc.)
- Selenium (immune health, thyroid function)
- Iodine (thyroid function)
- Magnesium (bone, muscle, and metabolism)
- Manganese (fat and carbohydrate metabolism, bone health, etc.)
- Sodium/Chloride (acid-base balance, osmotic pressure)
- Potassium (nerve regulation, muscle contraction, etc.)
- Iron (oxygen transport)
- Copper (oxygen use, immune, tissue, and bone health)
Most dog foods are made to provide enough of the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals your dog needs so that you don’t have to supplement. However, it’s always important to read the label on your dog food to determine if it provides enough nutrients for your pet.
Dog Food Requirements
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a group of professionals that determines what pet foods need to include. This organization requires that labels on dog foods include a “guaranteed analysis” specifying, at the very least, the minimum percentages of crude protein and crude fat and the maximum percentages of crude fiber and moisture.
A truly high-quality and nutrient-dense dog food is likely to be tested and approved by the AAFCO to determine that it includes the minimum or maximum amount of required nutrients. Make sure that the label on your dog food includes AAFCO approval.
An AAFCO-approved label will include the following:
- The brand and product name
- The name of the species the food is made for
- A statement of the total quantity
- The guaranteed analysis for protein, fat, fiber, moisture, and any other relevant ingredients
- An ingredient statement with each ingredient listed by weight
- A nutritional adequacy statement
- Feeding directions
- The name and address of the manufacturer or the distributor
Be sure and check the label on the dog food that you want to use to ensure that it contains all essential ingredients and follows the AAFCO labeling requirements.
How Much To Feed Your Dog
How much your dog needs to eat will vary depending on their size, age, and lifestyle. A larger dog will need to eat more than a smaller one. A puppy will need to eat much more than an older dog. Different breeds also have varying nutritional requirements.
Most dogs thrive on a high-protein diet that includes essential amino acids. In addition, most dogs do well with a variety of essential fatty acids, carbohydrates, soluble and insoluble fibers, and various vitamins and minerals.
Dog Food Caloric Requirements
Most pets that have been spayed or neutered and spend most of their time indoors or in an enclosed yard don’t have high caloric requirements. Of course, with so many variabilities, there isn’t an average caloric requirement, so it’s best to research what your breed and size of dog needs and talk to the vet to obtain a more individualized approach.
It’s also crucial to consider how many nutrients your dog needs and how effectively those requirements are met in their dog food. If you have an older dog who doesn’t eat as often, for example, you should feed them a higher-quailty dog food that contains lots of essential nutrients in small amounts.
Most dogs will need to eat at least twice a day. Puppies will need to eat more often—up to six times a day for some ages and breeds. It’s important to know your dog, read the feeding direction guidelines on your dog food, and speak to your vet to determine exactly how often and how much to feed your dog.
Water in Your Dog’s Diet
Water is essential in your dog’s diet. Without water, your pet will struggle to
- Regulate their body temperature
- Break down the nutrients they eat
- Lubricate their joints
- Maintain body shape and eye shape
- Protect their nervous system
Check the water content of any food you decide to give your dog. You also must make sure they have fresh, clean water available at all times so they can drink whenever they’re thirsty.
How To Pick the Best Dog Food
If you’re on the hunt for the best and most nutritious dog food, you’re going to have to dig around. Because the basic nutrition a dog needs varies depending on their breed, size, age, and other health factors, it’s important to speak to your vet if you have any concerns about what you’re feeding your dog.
In the end, it’s important to feed your individual dog. There is no significant difference between wet or dry food for dogs and many pets will need to change their diet at different times in their lives. Keep an eye on your own pet to determine what’s working best for them.
Here are a few tips for choosing the best and most nutritious dog food:
- Read the ingredients carefully. Each ingredient is listed by weight, meaning the first ingredient on the list makes up the majority of the dog food. Make sure the first ingredients are natural and healthy—meat is always a good first ingredient, for example.
- Check the vitamins and minerals. Check what vitamins and minerals your dog’s food has. If they aren’t getting the vitamins and minerals they need from their food, you may want to supplement their diet.
- Count the calories. You should speak with your vet about how many calories your dog needs. Once you’ve determined a baseline, try to pick a food with about the right amount of calories per serving—keep in mind that most dogs need to eat at least twice a day so they don’t get bloated from getting all their calories at once.
- Offer lots of water. Especially when it’s hot out or your dog is getting a lot of exercise, you want to make sure they have plenty of fresh water available.
If you follow these tips, you should be able to keep your dog in optimal nutritional health without trouble. If you have any lingering concerns, don’t hesitate to contact your vet.
Perhaps the only trouble with having a healthy dog is the amount of poop you’re likely to see pile up in your yard from your pet’s healthy bowel movements. If you’re seeing a lot of poop buildup and really don’t have time to clean it up, Idaho Poop Scoop is here for you.
Our team of dog lovers is dedicated to helping neighbors like you maintain clean and well-managed yards. If you’re in need of poop scooping services in the Treasure Valley, don’t hesitate to reach out!