Dogs are amazing creatures with great personalities that make great pets. Dogs are fun and entertaining, and they do their best to share their fun & happiness with everyone around them.
For most dog owners, the most difficult struggle is usually about nutrition. It’s often very confusing and unclear as to what food you should exactly give to your dog, and in what quantities. Since this is a very confusing topic, let’s try to make it as simple as possible. In this article, we’ll cover the most important aspects of a dog’s nutrition to make sure you as a pet owner can provide your pet with only the best stuff.
We’ll also be answering some frequently asked questions such as:
- Canned vs Dry Food?
- Should You Feed Your Dog With Table Scraps?
- Should Diet Change Based On Your Pet’s Life Stage? (puppy, adult etc.)
Hang on and find out!
Importance of Proper Nutrition For Your Dog
First off, let’s talk about the importance of proper nutrition for your pet.
Most owners think they can get a pet and feed him just about anything. However, this is very wrong, and it’ll lead to severe consequences for their pets, and for them as well. Dogs need proper nutrition in order to grow fully without running into problems. This means that your pet will need a well-balanced diet that will allow him to develop fully and provide you with the best experience.
The last thing that dog owners want is to have a sick pet who requires their constant care and help. This is a very tiring process, and it takes up a lot of your time as well. Instead of spending all that time going to doctors, you could be playing with your pet and having fun, entertainment & overall just being happy. Proper nutrition is one of the things that will make sure you have only the best experience with your pet, so you should pay extra attention to it.
When it comes to nutrition, most dog owners are worried about food costs – and that’s absolutely okay.
But, the fact of that matter is – quality is often expensive. If you want to provide your dog with the best and most nutritious foods, it’s going to cost you a little bit more. It doesn’t mean it’ll cost you a ton more, but there will be some additional costs. But price alone shouldn’t turn you away from quality foods, if it does – you’ll have to pay for it later anyway with both your money & your time.
Importance of Quality in Nutrition
Quality matters, we all know that.
But when it comes to your pet, it’s crucial to pay attention to it. When it comes to commercial dog food and quality, the difference lies in its contents. The highest quality dry foods have more meat and less plant-based contents. Dogs are carnivores by nature, which means they require meat in order to thrive and fully develop. However, all-meat diet is very unbalanced, and your dog would struggle to meet all the nutritional requirements. This means your dog needs both meat & plant-based food to thrive. However, most food producers use a lot of low nutritional value food (such as grains) in order to make more profit for themselves.
And this is why it’s super important to buy quality food for your dog – with lots of meat and useful nutrients, but also in combination with plants that provide other types of nutrients like vitamins & minerals.
But what exactly does your pet dog need?
Energy Needs Of Your Dog
Dogs can often seem like lazy pets that lie around waiting for food, but they’re quite active, especially when off the leash, during play time. This means your dogs will need a lot of energy in order to function properly, and giving them the best food with making sure they have enough energy to grow & play. You want to make sure your pet has an ideal weight, not too skinny or overweight, so you’ll have to pay attention specifically to calories.
When it comes to counting calories, you should follow the standard formula:
25 calories X pound of weight
So a 30lb dog would need 25 x 30 = 750 calories per day to maintain an ideal weight. However, this formula is only semi-accurate in most cases. The reason for that is because pets have different activity levels, so dogs who are more active than average will require slightly more calories in order to keep the ideal weight. Even so, using the standard formula is an excellent starting point, and you will not run into problems by doing so.
Additionally, caloric intake also depends on the stage of your dogs life, such as :
- Puppies (Add 5 additional calories to the formula so your dog can grow and develop properly)
- Adults (This is the ideal stage since you just want to keep ideal weight by using the standard formula)
- Seniors (Will require less calories due to their age because they’re less active at that point)
- Pregnant Dogs (Your dog will need more food than usual as she carries a puppy inside of her, make sure you gradually increase the caloric intake, and give her as much food as she wants if she’s asking for it)
Most of the food should be high in protein, as it’s the most required nutrient for dogs to thrive. Let’s take a deeper look into essential nutrients for your pet.
Nutrients are substances that are essential for and used by an organism to survive, grow, provide energy, regulate chemical processes and reproduce.
Before we decide which foods should we give to our pets, we need to understand what are some of the essential nutrients for our dogs.
Dogs require 6 nutrients to live a healthy life:
Let’s take a closer look at each one of them to find out why exactly do they need them.
Water is the most essential nutrient for dogs, and is absolutely necessary in every diet. Dogs can go a very long time without food, but when it comes to water – not so much. Water makes up about 80% of adult dog’s body mass, so it’s absolutely crucial to provide your pet with enough water.
Water helps the body with a lot of things, including hydration, temperature regulation, digestion, flushing bacteria and other waste, strengthening muscle tissues and transporting oxygen & other nutrients throughout the body.
Have a full, clean water bowl available at all times for your dog and make sure you refill every now and then.
As for the quality, dogs are known to drink from ponds and puddles, but this is obviously not ideal – such water contains a lot of bacteria and parasites. Tap water is not the ideal solution as well since it contains a lot of chemical additives (like chlorine) that can harmful to your pet’s health. If possible, make sure you dog drinks only bottled or filtered water to get the best results.
Proteins are essential for every dog, and a heavy emphasis should be put on them. Proteins are a critical ingredient for a healthy life – they help build and maintain strong body structure (muscles, organs, bones, hair, skin, nails, etc.) and a healthy immune system. Proteins can be found in meats, animal products like eggs & plants such as beans. They are also used as an energy source if necessary. Your dog can’t store protein, so it’s important to feed your pet with protein-rich food on a daily basis.
Growing puppies and pregnant females require about twice as much protein as normal pets in order to function properly.
Not all proteins are the same for your dog, due to their specific digestive processes, some of them are digested easier than others. As dogs are carnivores, their digestive system is built to handle meats specifically, and for this reason, their primary food should always be meat-based in combination with plants. Try to stay away from hard to digest foods such as grains.
Fats are the best & main sources of energy for your dog, they contain twice as many calories compared to carbs & proteins, so you need to make sure your dog gets enough of them. They are necessary source energy for your pet with lots of other benefits such as organ protection, improving the health of the nervous system, regulating the temperature, etc. Good sources of fats are chicken & lamb fats, fish oils, plant-based oils.
Just make sure you don’t give too many fats to your dog as it can have negative effects, causing pancreatitis and gastrointestinal issues.
Contrary to popular belief – carbs aren’t necessarily useless for dogs.
Carbs are also major nutrients that are used to satisfy the energy needs of your pet. Although not as essential as proteins and fats, carbs are still used as more than 50% of dog diets, mostly due to their low costs. Dogs often can’t digest complex carbs such as raw grains, so in order to make it digestible, you need to cook it – preferably with meats as the main element.
In short, carbs are great in combination with meats & fats, but they should never be the primary source of food for your dog. They can be great if you have to make up for the lack of calories for example. Some good sources of carbs are rice, potatoes, corn, grains, even bread mixed with other food.
Vitamins are essential since a dog’s body cannot produce them naturally (except for Vitamin C). Vitamins are very important in order to maintain some of the basic body functions such as regulating Ca & P levels, boosting the immune system, serving as antioxidants and maintaining other functions.
Different kind of vitamins can be found in different foods, and all homemade meals usually require additional vitamin supplementation. Most commercial pet foods claim to be complete, balanced with vitamins & minerals, however, this is still uncertain information, and you should stick to some external supplementation.
Similar to vitamins, minerals are used to perform & boost many basic body functions, and this makes them necessary in the long run. Minerals are found in different foods, and your pet will require different amounts based on their stage in life. For example, puppies require twice as much calcium compared to adults, mainly to make sure their bone structure grows fully & optimally.
Best Foods To Give Your Dog
As mentioned earlier, dogs are carnivores who rely primarily on meats to fill up their nutritional needs. However, this doesn’t mean your dog should eat meats only. There are a lot of household human foods that your pet can eat and thrive with, as well as commercial foods that are also rich in nutrients.
The main goal with your foods of choice is to cover up all the nutritive needs, as well as to maintain that perfect caloric goal depending on your pet’s life stage. For this reason, there’s no need to go too deep into the specifics, but here are some of the foods that you should give to your dog:
- Raw Meats, especially organs can provide a lot of good nutrients for your dog
- Whole Eggs are also a great source of protein for your dog, as well as being healthy
- Commercial kibble, especially for puppies as they struggle with raw food
- Cooked meats & vegetables, as well as grains are also a good choice
There’s a lot of options you can choose from, but mainly you should focus on staying away from foods that are toxic & known to be bad for dogs, and the rest of it will usually be fine. These foods are:
- Chocolate / Sweets are a big no-no
- Onions / Garlic are also known to be very toxic to dogs
- Milk / Lactose foods (some dogs are lactose intolerant, causing several issues for your pet, if your dog is refusing to eat milk, this is the usual case)
- Too much fatty foods
- Salty foods can be bad for your dogs with kidney, liver or heart problems
This covers the basics of food choices for your pet and if you want to use something more specific, be sure to talk with your local veterinarian for more information and just to avoid trouble.
There are also some frequently asked questions about specific foods, so let’s go over them as well.
Canned vs Dry Food
Both of these are excellent options, but there are certain differences. Dry food like kibble is often the most convenient choice for many owners – it’s just cheap & simple to use, all you have to do is take it out and feed it to your dog. This convenience is a big plus when it comes to feeding your pets, and they also have other benefits, like for training your pet. However, dry food is often not the most nutritious choice.
Canned food can be much more nutritious, especially in proteins, fats, vitamins & minerals which is great for your pet’s overall health. Canned foods also have more moisture, which helps your dogs with digestion and water requirements as well.
Both foods have their benefits and when it comes to it – it’s all about the balance. Always make sure your dog’s diet is balanced and never rely on only dry or canned food for everyday use.
What About Bones?
Bones should not be used as food or to fill up nutritional needs for your pet. Cooked bones should be kept away from your pet at all times, especially since they can crack and cause choking and other serious damage to your dog’s mouth & internal organs. Make sure the food is clear of any small bones that can cause damage.
You should only give your dogs large bones that they can chew on without the possibility of swallowing them. Chewing on bones has a lot of benefits for dogs, such as stimulating saliva & preventing gum disease, so you should make sure to provide your dog with a large bone to play with.
Table scraps are generally fine, and your dogs will be fine with most of it. Professional veterinarians suggest that your pet’s diet should consist of about 10% of table scraps as it can provide them with some additional nutrients. Generally, you can give your dogs any leftover food, as long as it’s not on the toxic list that was mentioned above. The only thing to keep in mind here is: Keep the bones away. Remove all bones, especially small ones from the scraps, and your dog should be just fine!
How Often Should I Feed My Dog?
And finally, there’s the question of how often should you feed your dog.
This also depends on your dog’s life stage but a general use to feed your pet twice per day – once in the morning and once in the evening. Generally, you want to avoid feeding your dog only once as it can cause bloating and overfeeding, plus, it’s not healthy to digest so much food at once! Keeping it twice a day should do the trick in most cases.
As for the little puppies and pregnant females, they require slightly more food on average, and in more frequent intervals as well. They should be fed 4 or 5 times a day, with smaller meals to make sure digestion is as smooth as possible.
If your dog is picky or refusing to eat when given his food, you need to apply some basic training to make sure he eats at proper times and to save your time as well. Simply offer your pet some food in a bowl and leave it there for a few minutes and if he refuses to eat – remove it. Soon enough, your dog will learn that he needs to eat the food when he’s offered. Besides being a more convenient option, there’s a lot of other benefits that come with this routine, such as being able to monitor your pet more closely and keeping the predators away from your dog’s food.