A balanced diet is of crucial importance for your dog’s growth and overall health. To provide energy and enable the body to function properly, your dog needs a combination of water, protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins and minerals.
Unless your furry companion has sensitivity for specific nutrition, you mustn’t skip any of them. And if you are compelled to do so, add other food supplements to fill the nutritional gap. Most of the commercial dog foods come with a label saying “complete and balanced nutrition” which promises that the food has the right mix of nutrients. And if you wish to prepare your dog food at home, make sure it combines all the nutrition for dogs.To remain in the safe zone you can use the recipes created by nutritionists to be “complete and balanced”.
Water is the most important requirement for any living creature to survive. Dogs are no different. Though water requirement varies from dog to dog based on their age, activity level, and environmental conditions. Generally, water makes up to 60-70% of an adult dog’s body weight. A deficiency of water may lead to serious illness, even death in some cases. A dog can survive even after losing all of its body fat and half of the protein. But an insufficiency of 15% of water can even take its life. Water helps to dissolve and transport nutrients to the body cells, maintain body temperature, hydrolyse other nutrients for digestion, regulates the organs and flush waste from the body.
Canned food contains a lot of water, so dogs fed on the same will need less water than kibble-fed ones. But the bottom line is all the dogs must have access to clean and freshwater.
Protein is one of the most essential nutrients for your dog to meet its complete nutritional requirements. Amino acids, which are the main ingredients for building solid muscles and bones, and repairing body tissues, come from protein. A dog’s body can produce only 13 of the 23 essential amino acids to keep the body functioning smoothly. So, you must provide the rest of the amino acids through protein-enriched foods.
Protein also provides energy if there is any shortage of carbohydrates or fat. Proteins can be found from common animal sources like chicken, beef, lamb, turkey; plant-based sources like beans and lentils and also from eggs and fish.
On average, a healthy fully-grown dog needs 18-25% of the protein in their dietary routine. But this requirement may vary depending on their age, body structure, and specific situation. For instance, growing puppies and pregnant and lactating dogs need twice as much protein as an adult dog needs. Therefore, the diet should be maintained keeping the requirements in mind.
Many of us think that fat is unhealthy, that’s not always true. Fat is harmful after a certain limit. Fat is the most intense form of food energy that provides more than double energy for your dog compared to protein or carbohydrates. It’s very essential for building cells, producing various hormones, consuming and utilizing certain vitamins. If your dog suffers from fat deficiency, it may hinder its growth or lead to skin and hair damage.
Some of the important fatty acids for your dog are
- Linoleic acid
As a dog’s body cannot produce the required amount of fatty acids on its own, you must supply them through it food. Interestingly, fatty acids add taste and flavor to foods and encourage the consumption of vitamins.
Common sources of fatty acids are animal fat like beef, lamb, chicken, pork; various oil like soybean oil, vegetable oil, flaxseed oil, fish oil, low-mercury fishes and many more. These fatty acids protect the internal organs, maintain a healthy nervous system and regulate body temperature altogether.
However, though fat is one of the most important nutrients in balanced food, it’s allowed to a certain limit. Consuming too much fat can result in digestion problems or pancreatitis, a disease caused by inflammation in the pancreas.
Carbohydrate is not essentially a vital nutrient in a dog’s balanced diet; because a dog’s body can receive the necessary amount of energy from protein and fat alone. But it’s also true that healthy carbohydrates supply important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to maintain optimum health. You can say, if there is any lack of protein or fat a dog faces, healthy carbohydrates can fill the void.
Dogs are said to be omnivores, and that’s why they can intake energy from carbohydrate sources also. Healthy carbohydrates help iron, minerals and other beneficial nutrients to get consumed easily. To keep your dog’s intestines healthy, fiber is one of the important ingredients, which is also a type of carbohydrate. But here one thing is to remember, to get the most benefits from fiber, the fiber source needs to be moderately fermentable; because researches have shown that moderately fermentable fibers like beet pulp and beans (rice, wheat, and corn) provide energy and improve intestine, without any side effects like excessive stool or gas. Fiber is also excellent in preventing obesity by keeping your dog feel full for longer.
So, we have seen, though carbohydrate is not a basic requirement in your dog’s healthy diet, it does provide several benefits for your dog.
Vitamin is also an important ingredient of a healthy diet for a dog. Different vitamins serve different purposes. For example, vitamin A aids in boosting the immune system, vitamin C & E serve as antioxidants, vitamin B12 improves the nervous system, vitamin D regulates calcium and phosphorus level in a dog’s body while vitamin K enables the blood to clot.
If you are providing a wholesome diet to your dog, it would be enough for it. Unless your dog is suffering from specific vitamin deficiency, don’t add additional vitamins to its diet. It is because, unnecessary vitamin supplements may result in bone and joint pain, dry skin and kidney failure to the extreme. In a nutshell, toxicity due to excess vitamins is more harmful to your dog’s overall health than suffering from vitamin deficiency.
Minerals are also a basic nutritional ingredient that helps the body function properly. But some of the minerals are needed at large amount while some other are needed less. Minerals needed in large amounts include calcium, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, sulfur, and magnesium. These minerals take part in constructing the bones and teeth in a dog’s body, regulating the nervous system and maintaining fluid balance. The minerals needed in a small quantity include zinc, iron, copper, iodine, selenium, etc. These minerals aid in healing wounds, carrying oxygen throughout the body and many more.
However, while feeding, you need to remember that the requirement of minerals is not the same for every dog. Such as, growing puppies need twice the amount of calcium compared to a fully grown dog.
Common food sources like meat, fish, eggs, grains, fruits, leafy vegetables, nuts, legumes, etc. are rich in different minerals. So, a balanced and nutritious diet will meet the requirement in general. You can provide additional mineral supplements only if your dog is diagnosed with specific mineral deficiencies by a veterinarian.
Some frequently asked questions about dog’s nutrition:
1. How many times should I feed my adult dog daily?
An adult dog can get all the nutrients from one meal daily. Despite that, most of the owners prefer giving two meals to their dogs in a day. It becomes easier for your dog to digest the food if it is given twice.
2. Is it healthy to feed dogs vegan diet?
Ans: If there no compulsion, dogs should not be fed the vegan diet. Although they can live on a vegan diet, there remains a lot of chances for miscalculation. But if you have ethical issues with an animal-based protein, you must make up for that with plant-based protein sources very carefully.
3. How often should I feed my nursing dog?
Ans: Nursing dogs need an increased amount of nutrients as they nee sufficient energy to feed itself and its pups. To ensure enough nutrients for your dog, you can provide puppy foods. Don’t forget to add a bunch of greens to help in the improved digestive system. And make sure it is taking plenty of pure water which is a must for producing enough milk for its pups.
In a nutshell, a well-balanced diet in the right amount is vital to maintain your dog’s overall health. And these dietary needs change at different stages of life. Now that you have adequate knowledge about essential nutrition for dog, you just need to follow accordingly.