Like people, dogs require a balanced diet to provide their body with the nutrients required to thrive. When thinking about animal nutrition as opposed to human nutrition, it can be a bit of a brain buster to sort out the components of a pet’s diet, however. This is because many dogs are either fed a single type of commercial dog food, leftover table scraps or homemade diets that are typically high in a particular ingredient, such as chicken or rice. The truth is that dogs require a wide variety of nutrients including proteins, fats, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, minerals and, of course, water. Here is a quick summary of the role that each play in a dog’s well being:
Provide amino acids that support muscle growth and maintenance. The body cannot make these amino acids, so they must be supplied by a food source. There are 10 recognized amino acids essential for dogs. Proteins are also critical for digestive enzyme production, antibodies to help fight disease and a healthy coat.
Fats have a negative connotation in our diet centric society, but they are vitally important. Fats are a super powerful means of the body storing energy – and provide a longer-term energy source that fast digesting carbohydrates (plus, they have twice the energy!). In additional to supplying energy, fats support brain function and development, help maintain healthy skin and hair, control inflammation and support the immune system, and best of all – make food taste delicious.
Carbohydrates are sugars and starches that are rapidly converted to energy (glucose) by the body. Different forms of carbohydrates and the amount of processing of a particular carbohydrate influences how quickly the body will convert the food to glucose for either immediate use or storage as fat. Carbohydrates are important because they provide energy quickly, maintain blood sugar levels (although too much or the wrong mix can cause blood sugar spiking) and influence healthy body weight.
In the simplest terms, fiber provides two main functions: transportation of nutrients and energy. In more detailed terms, it keeps cells in the intestine healthy so they can absorb nutrients better, transports nutrients and waste through the intestinal tract, promotes a firm stool, and regulates water absorption – all super important functions. Fiber comes from plant stems, leaves and seed coats.
Vitamins are important to keep the body healthy by helping to generate energy from other nutrients and helping the cells to use those nutrients efficiently. They are supplied in two basic forms: water-soluble vitamins that must be supplied daily because they are continually broken down and excreted and fat-soluble vitamins that are able to be stored by the body.
Minerals are essential for producing and using energy, healthy teeth and bones, nervous and digestive system health and cellular functions throughout the body. They are supplied in two basic forms: major minerals that are required in gram amounts each day and trace minerals that are required in milligrams or microgram amounts per day.
60 to 75% of a dog’s body is composed of water – that’s why it is critically important to make sure your dog always has a bowl of fresh, clean water available. Not only does H20 maintain hydration, it also cools the body, lubricates joints and internal organs, transports nutrients and removes waste.
Hopefully this overview of animal nutrition helps you to understand the major components that your dog requires to ensure a complete and balanced diet. Good diet translates directly to good health and life longevity. If you are concerned that your dog is lacking in vitamins or minerals, be sure to check out our multivitamins for puppies, adult dogs and senior dogs.