If you are a new dog owner, you have probably looked into the usual questions of how many times a day do they need walking, what kind of toys are good for their development, and how much food should you be giving them?
While most people will know that how much food to give a dog will depend on their size and how active they are, not many people give much thought to what you should feed them and will simply pick up the most popular brand when grocery shopping. However, some of these foods are severely limited in the nutrition they provide, and a restricted diet can lead to all sorts of health problems including obesity, heart failure, and even cancer.
With this in mind, it is important to provide your dog with a diet that gives them everything they need. Here is an overview of what a good diet should include:
Just as humans need water every day to survive, so do dogs! Always make sure you put down a fresh supply of water each day, as it helps to regulate their temperature, flush waste from the body, transport nutrients to the cells, and hydrolyze fat, carbs, and protein for digestion. A dog will usually self-regulate their water intake, and those fed with a food high in moisture will typically drink less. However, they should still always have access to a clean, preferably filtered bowl of water.
Fat contains twice as many calories as carbohydrates and protein so it supplies a more concentrated source of energy. Healthy fats also provide essential omega fatty acids, which help to protect vital organs, regulate body temperature, and promote a healthy nervous system. However, too much fat in a dog’s diet can cause issues such as pancreatitis. Although it can be tempting to feed your dog your leftovers when they look at you from under the table with those puppy dog eyes, resist, and know that you will be doing more harm than good. Instead, they can get the fat they need from healthy options such as fish, plant-based foods, and flaxseed.
Protein is made up of amino acids, also known as the building blocks of life, which means it is a vital component of a dog’s diet. To keep the body functioning optimally, dogs need to receive these amino acids from their diet, as they cannot produce what they need by themselves. Protein will ensure a dog has a healthy coat, healthy skin, and strong bones and muscles. Dogs can receive protein from lean meats, fish, eggs and beans. Puppies and pregnant/lactating females will need double the amount. The best dog food according to research will contain a healthy amount of protein from a meat-based source.
To maintain proper metabolic functions, dogs require the right minerals to be included in their diet. They perform many important roles including assisting with wound healing, carrying oxygen throughout the body, regulating fluid balance, and they also make up a large part of their bones. Vital minerals include calcium, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and iodine. Dogs can get most minerals from meat, organ meat, shellfish, and bone. Note that puppies need twice the amount of calcium as fully-grown adults.
Vitamins are also vital to a dog’s health, but you should be careful not to overdo it. If you add fat-soluble vitamins to a food that is advertised as complete and balanced, you could cause toxicity. Water-soluble vitamins are fine, as any excess will be excreted in their urine. However, most vitamins can be found in plant-based dog foods as well as muscle and organ meats. They contribute to a healthy immune system, nervous system functioning, and improve the ability of the blood to clot.
There are obviously many more functions that these nutrients serve, as this has only touched the surface. However, hopefully, it has given you some idea of what to look for in your choice of dog food.