Dogs, like any living being, need a good quality diet with the right balance of nutrients to support their physical and mental wellbeing. Without these they can suffer from a variety of problems related to poor nutrition. These range from poor coat condition and poor physical development to behavioural problems and even in the extreme, death.
Commercial dog foods
While meat makes up most of their diet, domestic dogs also get nutrients from grains, fruits, and vegetables. These non-meat foods are not just fillers but valuable sources of essential vitamins, minerals, and fibre. A good dog food will contain meat, vegetable, grains, and fruits. The best dog foods will contain high quality versions of these ingredients that are appropriate for the dog’s digestive system. All commercial dog foods must meet specific standards of nutritional content and must pass regulated feeding trials to make sure that they provide at least a basic level of the required nutrients for our dogs.
Essential elements of a healthy diet
Commercial maintenance diets contain anywhere between 30-70% carbohydrates and dogs use these carbohydrates as a source of energy. A dog can use both carbohydrates and proteins as a source of energy. Cereals such as wheat, corn, rice, barley and oats also give the processed food structure and once processed, they are easy for the dog to digest. Other sources of carbohydrate such as beet pulp are less digestible but help keep the dog « regular » and feeling full for longer. It is clear from the range of carbohydrate percentage acceptable in commercial dog feed that there is a big difference in the quality of diet provided by different manufacturers.
One of the most important components of a dog food is protein. Protein is made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks for creating strong muscles and repairing body tissues. Because the dog can only produce half of the amino acids he needs himself, the other amino acids (called essential amino acids) must come from their food.
Common ingredients such as chicken, egg, beef, turkey, lamb, soybeans and fish meal are used in dog foods to provide protein. Adult dogs in good health require about 18-25 percent protein in their diet, which can come from a variety of sources.
Dogs require a balance of certain fatty acids and these must be provided by their food. Fats provide energy, as well as taste and flavour, and encourage the absorption of certain vitamins. Fat provided by the diet also helps dogs maintain healthy skin and a shiny, healthy coat.
Common fats used in dog foods include chicken or pork fat, cottonseed oil, vegetable oil, soybean oil, fish oil, sunflower oil, and many more. A balanced diet that provides about 10-15 percent fat is vital for the health of adult dogs.
Essential vitamins and minerals must be included in a dog food to maintain good health. Vitamin E helps support the dog’s immune system, while Vitamin A is important for maintaining healthy skin and fur. Vitamins are found in many common foods, including fruits and vegetables, which is why these ingredients are found in many dog foods.
These help the body processes to function. Minerals needed in larger amounts include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, chloride, sulphur, and potassium. Minerals that are needed in much smaller quantities are called trace minerals. Important trace minerals include iron, zinc, copper, chromium, iodine, selenium, manganese and fluorine. Minerals in dog foods are provided by adding supplements, as well as from ingredients like legumes, grains, meats, fruits and vegetables.
Water is needed to carry and move important nutrients into and out of the cells of the body. It helps food digestion and helps the body to absorb nutrients. Water also cools the body down and works to maintain a normal body temperature. It lubricates and cushions joints and makes movement easier and it is needed to eliminate waste from the body through urination and bowel movements. Basically every important body function requires water and without adequate supply, your dog can become ill quickly and become dehydrated.
It is clear then that providing a balanced diet for your dog is not easy. It is not necessary to provide every single element of the balanced diet at each meal but over a relatively short time period, the balance needs to be achieved. If a well-balanced diet cannot be achieved, the results will be seen in the physical and mental health of the dog.
How Can The Woof Club Help You?
We hope that we’ve provided you with an informative guide on the basic elements of a balanced diet for your dog and also some food for thought. We would love to hear your comments !