Dog Nutrition: Essential Nutrients for Health and Feeding Basics
Let’s talk nutrients! Just like humans, dogs need an array of nutrients to keep them healthy and active. Water, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals are all necessary for your dog to survive. Carbohydrates are also included in this list because they are a large source of nutrients for most dogs but technically they could survive without them.
For an idea of what’s in your dog’s food, check out this article, From Factory to Dog Bowl
Essential Nutrients for Your Dog
Similar to humans, your dog’s body is 60-70% water and is needed for most functions of the body. Dry food contains around 10% water while wet food is considerably higher. No matter what you choose to feed them, your dog’s food does not contain nearly enough water to sustain them.
Water intake will actually vary depending on the health, age, amount of activity, and other qualities of your dog. Water should be made available to your dog at all times.
Dogs and other animals realize they need water themselves, so they will drink as much or as little as they need to.
Protein (and Amino Acids)
Protein contains amino acids and is the main ingredient needed for your dog to build, maintain and repair. As they say, proteins are the building blocks of life!
Proteins are extra awesome because if your dog is lacking in carbs or fats (used to make glucose), it can use protein to make up for it. However, protein is not continuously stored in your dog’s body so he or she needs a constant supply.
Only certain types of proteins can transition into amino acids. Essential
amino acids are required for you dog to survive but they cannot produce it themselves.
Because of that, you'll want to make sure your dog’s protein is easily digestible. For example, whole, cooked eggs are completely digestible, making it the best source of protein for your dog.
Your dog’s body will use carbs to create glucose which is converted to energy. Although carbs are not required in your dog’s diet, they are very important. The protein and fat that your dog consumes could
be providing them with the essential glucose they need but it probably isn’t.
It will depend on a few things, including the age, health, and activity level of your dog so carbs are a great backup.
Carbs contain various vitamins and minerals that your dog needs (more details below) and supplies your dog with fiber as well. As in humans, fiber is used in your dog’s body to regulate their stool. Without it, your dog may experience diarrhea.
Fat (and Fatty Acids)
Fats are an extremely important part of your pet’s diet. To start, they provide energy to your dog in the way that protein or carbs would, but fat is much
denser. Fats will give your dog twice the calories than either protein or carbs, therefore twice the energy! Too much fat can be a bad idea unless you have a dog that is particularly active.
Another important role that fats play is helping with the absorption of vitamins. What’s the point of feeding your little guy all those vitamins unless he can use them?
Lastly, fat keeps dogs warm. And just like amino acids, there are essential fatty acids
as well. They are also not produced by your dog and must be included in their diet via fat.
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins and minerals are both used for metabolism. Minerals specifically target bones and teeth health, but they have tons of other functions. Vitamins aide the immune system and with blood clots, among other jobs. Vitamins and minerals have to be provided because they are not produced by your dog at all.
Now that you know a little bit about the nutrients your dog should be receiving, let's discuss feeding habits.
Basics of Feeding Your Dog
Feeding is not going to be the same for every dog because every dog is not the same! Below are some general guidelines but you should speak with your vet for specific feeding instructions for your dog or puppy.
Wet or Dry Food?
As far as the nutrients your dog will be receiving, there is no difference in wet and dry food. Wet food will definitely contain more water, so your dog may drink less water but not enough to sustain him so make sure he still has plenty to drink. I think the best benefit of dry food is it is easier to store and maintain.
When choosing between wet and dry food you should go with whatever works best for your lifestyle.
Any dog can survive on dry food but if they have trouble eating, wet food may be your best option. My dog is elderly and has bad teeth, so I add water to his dry food because he would eat canned food until he's sick.
Puppies need to be fed much more often than adults, just like baby humans! There are a couple reasons for this.
One, your little guy is still growing and as you see above, there are lots of nutrients he needs to grow into a healthy adult dog. The second thing is, puppies are usually much more active, so they are burning more calories than your adult dog would. Their little bellies are so small that they can’t store much for later.
To be clear, just because you are feeding your puppy more often does not mean you are feeding him more food.
Find the daily recommended amount for your puppy and divide that by the amount of times you want to feed him daily.
Adults can be fed considerably less often than puppies - as little as twice or even once a day. While most dogs are okay with being fed once a day, that is a long time for your dog to go, especially if he is active or a small breed.
If you include treats in your puppy or dog's diet, be sure to include that as part of their daily intake. If you're trying to watch your dog’s weight, even a treat here or there will add up.
No matter the age of your dog, you should never change their food abruptly.
This can lead to a tummy ache and throwing up
. Give your dog’s belly time to adjust by mixing the foods together for a few days. Slowly wean your dog off its old food until only the new food remains.
To feed your dog the very best of foods, learn how to make your own dog food here
Water, protein, fats, carbs, vitamins and minerals are all necessary nutrients to sustain your little guy. Not only do they have their own functions, they work together to keep your dog alive and well!
As a dog owner, it's your job to ensure your dog receives everything he needs - don't let him down!
Comment below to share any feeding tips I haven't mentioned here. Also let me know how it turns out if you end up making your own food!!