All dog owners are well aware that a dog’s diet is no easy feat. You need to know how much to feed your dog, what to feed it and in what proportions each type of food should be given.
The food our dogs eat will have an impact on their fitness and well-being, as well as their mood. So it’s only normal to want the healthiest and yummiest possible option for our beloved pup.
But what do dogs really need in their diet? And how do we pick the best dog food?
If these are the questions running through your mind, then you’ve come to the right place. Keep on reading to get a basic idea of all the essentials of a dog’s diet!
The Basic Five
Nutrition for dogs, like humans, can be categorized into five major elements. Too much or too little of any of these elements is obviously bad for your dog.
Also, it’s important to note that each element has a specific role in your dog’s body and some are actually a little more important than the others.
Do you wonder how some dogs have such shiny and beautiful coats of fur? Well, it’s the protein!
I’m sure you’ve heard of amino acids. Proteins consist of 20 amino acids, half of which your dog’s body can produce naturally. The other 10 needs to be provided to your dog in the form of food, and are called ‘essential amino acids’.
All these amino acids are needed to make specific proteins which have a particular function in your dog’s body. Now, even if just one of the 10 amino acids is missing, your dog won’t be able to produce that protein, ultimately messing up some bodily function or the other.
Protein is also needed for tissue and muscle formation. So, it’s extremely important that your dog gets the right amount of protein in its diet. The primary source of protein for dogs is meat, which they can digest in the most efficient way.
Remember, the protein you feed your dog has to be digestible! Dog food might be high in protein, but it could be impossible to digest, and this would ultimately be useless for your dog.
Fats are needed by your dog for producing healthy cells and for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. It also doesn’t hurt that they make your dog’s food taste much better!
So, fats are definitely one of the key elements in your dog’s diet. Just make sure to keep in mind that your dog needs more omega 6 fatty acids than omega 3 fatty acids.
Carbohydrates aren’t an essential part of a dog’s diet. Dogs can actually get their required nutrients from proteins and fat only.
However, whole grain carbohydrates do contain important nutrients like iron, fiber, and minerals, while vegetables and fruits additionally contain phytochemicals and antioxidants.
If you plan on incorporating carbohydrates like starches and grains into your dog’s diet, it’s always best to cook them. This will make them easier to digest.
Like humans, dogs too need vitamins. They are extremely important to turn calories into energy for your dog.
Dogs need a minute proportion of vitamins in their diet. But even this petite amount is essential for its body to function properly.
Minerals are also needed in very tiny amounts. But don’t let that fool you! They still play a very important role in your dog’s health and help to develop their bones and teeth.
Minerals can either be macro or micro. Micro minerals are needed in trace amounts, while macro minerals are needed in larger amounts. The two most important macro minerals are calcium and phosphorus.
It is extremely important for these two macro minerals to be present in the right amounts. In fact, the preferable calcium: phosphorus ratio in a dog’s diet should actually be within 1:1 and 2:1 ratio.
Remember, minerals have to be given in the right balance! If there’s too much of a certain type of mineral, the absorption of another mineral will be affected as well.
Commercial Dog Food
A lot of us rely on the dog food found in stores. Although this the easiest and fastest option for us, we need to be aware of what is best for our dogs and what we are buying. Here are some things to look out for when buying commercial dog food:
- Expensive dog food is usually better in quality. While there’s no need to buy the priciest food on the shelf, don’t choose the cheapest option either!
- In a food bag, the ingredients should have animal protein as the first ingredient. In fact, it’s even better if the animal protein is stated more than once in the ingredients list.
- Remember, whole meat is 75 % water. Even if a whole meat is the first ingredient on the package, the weight of the meat might not be accurate. It’s more likely to be the weight stated if there’s another whole meat present.
- Steer clear of generic names of ingredients such as ‘meat’ or ‘animal fat’. The sources of the food should be specifically named.
- Always pick whole foods over refined foods.
- Sweeteners, artificial flavors, preservatives and added colors aren’t good for your dog and thus if you find them in the ingredients list, avoid them!
Treats make dogs insanely happy and motivate them to complete their tasks. However, it’s important that the treats are given in moderation. When looking for dog treats, try finding ones that can be easily broken into smaller pieces.
Treats can also have an impact on your dog’s health, so knowing the ingredients of those treats is also important. Just follow the same rules as you would for your store-bought pet food, like the ones stated above.
Remember, if you’re not careful, the calories will build up and make your dog overweight!
Another important thing to note is that treats should be kept fresh. Not only do they taste better that way, but it is a universal fact that stale food is never a healthy option for dogs or humans.
A tip for keeping unfastened treat packets fresh is by keeping them in bags that can be sealed. This will also make it difficult for your persistent dog to find the treat and devour it in one go!
Now that you know the basics of canine nutrition, it should be easy for you to choose the right food for your dog’s diet. However, definitely consult with your vet about what you should and shouldn’t feed your dog.
I am emphasizing this because every dog is different and has specific nutritional needs that only a vet can tell you about.
Also, always make sure to read the ingredients before you buy commercial food. By being aware of what you feed your dog, you are giving it a longer and happier life.
So, go on and use your new found knowledge to give your dog a better, more fruitful meal!
Shawn is a content writer at FeedFond. He’s a doting father not only to his two children but also to his two Golden Retrievers. Check out more of his articles at FeedFond.com.