The proper balance of nutrients is important when feeding our canine friends. Like humans, dogs need a certain combination of carbohydrates, protein, fats, minerals, vitamins and water every day in order to sustain a healthy body.
Each and every nutrient in your dog’s food serves a purpose. A balanced diet is essential to your dogs's overall health. It's important to ensure your dog is getting the proper nutrition so he would be able to maintain muscle tone, build and repair muscles, bone and teeth, as well as to perform normal day-to-day activities with ease or fight-off infection.
Common nutrients, for example, protein and fats can be read off the ingredients list of any good dog food, but what do they actually do for your dog?
Protein is a macronutrient which supplies energy that is critical to life. Made up of amino acids, proteins are necessary for healthy growth and repair. Proteins are essential to make hormones, enzymes, neurotransmitters and antibodies that maintain the body functioning optimally. Since dogs cannot produce amino acids at the required levels, they must obtain the essential amino acids from diet. High-quality proteins have a good balance of all of the essential amino acids.
Dietary protein can come from many sources. For instance, good sources of protein include fish, meat and eggs. However, meat is an expensive ingredient and many pet food manufacturers minimize costs by substituting meat with cheaper protein sources such as maize gluten, potato protein, soya meal and vegetable protein. Non-meat proteins are harder for the dog's body to digest, thus they have a higher chance of causing dietary intolerance.
Generally, most adult dry pet foods have contained 20-30% protein, while wet foods have contained about 5-8%. It’s also important to keep in mind that the quality of the protein comes first.
Fat / Oil
Fat can help maintain healthy skin and hair. It also generates more than twice the energy of carbohydrates or protein. Commonly known as Omega 3 and 6 oils, essential fatty acids cannot be produced by the dog and therefore must be obtained from diet. These essential fatty acids are essential in controlling blood clotting, inflammation and brain development. Puppies fed low-fat diets develop coarse, dry hair and skin lesions that become vulnerable to infections, according to National Research Council of the National Academies. Deficiencies in Omega 3 may be associated with vision issues and impaired learning ability. In addition, Omega 6 has been shown to have positive physiologic effects in the body.
Oils can be beneficial for dogs when eaten in moderation. Too much of any fat can lead to obesity and other health issues. Most kibbles contain 9-14% fat, while wet foods contain about 2-4% fat. If your pet is prone to obesity, dry foods with no more than 10% fat (2.5% wet foods) are highly recommended.
Fibre is only found in plants. Although the fibre provides zero calories, it serves few very important roles.
Fibre absorbs water and serves a vital role in maintaining intestinal health. For example, during diarrhea, fibre will soak the excess water in the colon and help to produce firm stools. If there is too little water in the colon, it will draw water in from surrounding tissues and help to resolve the constipation problem.
Fibre serves as a pre-biotic - it provides a food source and a medium for 'friendly' intestinal bacteria. These bacteria help improve the digestion of food.
The diet of normal adult dogs, in general, contains between 2.5 and 4.5% fibre. However, the fibre content of some “diet” canine foods may be higher, according to National Research Council of the National Academies. This may allow the dog to feel full without consuming a lot of calories for effective weight control. High-fibre diets also may aid in the management of hyperglycemia (known as high blood sugar), and may improve large intestine function. Meanwhile, too much fibre in the diet can decrease the digestibility of other important nutrients and result in frequent defecation, loose stools and reduced palatability of the dog food. Wheat bran and barley products are generally high in fibre. Conversely, dog food ingredients high in starch, including rice and dried potatoes, contain less fibre.
Minerals / Ash (Essential Minerals For Dogs )
Ash is a measure of the mineral content of a food. It’s the final product of food combustion. In general, pet foods based on red meat meals contain higher ash contents as they have more mineral-rich bone.
Dogs require a wide variety of minerals to stay healthy and fit. For example, calcium is essential for the formation of teeth and bone. Phosphorus is necessary for DNA and RNA structure, skeletal structure and energy metabolism. Zinc can enhance wound healing, while coppers aid in blood cell formation.Deficiencies in magnesium may result in weight reduction, irritability and convulsions in puppies. Sodium and potassium aids in nerve impulse generation and transmission
Vitamins (Best Vitamins For Dogs)
Vitamins are a group of compounds that are required for keeping your dog healthy and fit. Since vitamins cannot be made in sufficient quantities by the dog’s body, they have to be taken in through diet. Here’s a list of important vitamins which serve a crucial role in your dog's health:
- Vitamin A: Deficiency in vitamin A can cause serious conditions such as blindness.
- Vitamin B: Helps regulate energy and carbohydrate metabolism.
- Vitamin C: Serves as an important antioxidant.
- Vitamin D: Helps balance minerals.
- Vitamin E: Improves your dog’s defenses against oxidative damage.
- Vitamin K: Activates your dog’s blood's ability to clot.