It is undeniable that nutrition affects the quality of our dogs’ life. Good nutrition is key to developing their potentials whilst remaining healthy and active.
What are ‘nutrients’? Nutrients are substances acquired from food. It often serves as a source of energy taking a vital role in the maintenance and growth of animals. To achieve optimum health living, all animals require these nutrients: protein, fat, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, and water.
Dietary protein is composed of 10 amino acids which dogs cannot produce on their own. Proteins and amino acids function as building blocks of cells, antibodies, enzymes, hormones, organs, and tissues. Proteins are required nutrients for maintenance, repair, growth, and reproduction. This gives an impact to the growth development of puppies as well as sustenance and support for adult dogs to have normal healthy systems.
On a dry-matter basis, diets for adult dogs should be given at least 10 to 14 per cent protein whilst growing puppies require 22 to 25 per cent protein. Dogs during pregnancy and lactation may require a higher content of protein.
Note that high-quality proteins provide well-balanced amino acids. Dogs naturally desire a diet full of proteins. Some may fare well with a vegetarian diet so long as owners ensure that it contains adequate protein and well-supplemented with vitamin D.
In summary, proteins are fundamental to the following:
- Bone development
- Immune system development
- Healthy dog coat development
- Muscle development and repairs
- Organ development
Protein deficiency results to:
- Lack of growth
- Weight loss
- Poor quality of the coat
- Decreased reproductive performance
- Decreased milk production
Dietary fat is composed of fatty acids that include essential fatty acids (EFAs). Fats are mainly absorbed from animal fats and seed oils from various plants. This serves as the primary source of energy for the body. In fact, it is said that fats provide twice the energy from proteins and carbohydrates. Fatty acids significantly aid cell structure and function whilst food fats enhance the taste and texture of the dog food.
On a dry matter basis, diets for adult dogs should be given at least 5 to 15 per cent fats whilst growing puppies require 8 to 20 per cent fats. Fat contents are usually produced in various concentrated purposes: work, growth, and lactation.
In summary, fats are fundamental to the following:
- Immune system
- Healthy skin and coat
- Calcium metabolism
- Skeletal health
A deficiency of fatty acids results in:
- Lack of growth
- Skin problems
- Flaky or dull coats
- Inflammatory problems
Dietary carbohydrates are part of the major components of plant material. It also serves as a good source of energy for the body’s tissues and helps in the maintenance of the health of the intestine. Carbohydrates are found in starches, sugars, and fibre.
Whilst there is no specific percentage for the recommended consumption of carbohydrates for dogs, there is a minimum glucose requirement. Starch makes one of the easiest to break down in a dog’s digestive system. However, fibre is just as important as it helps manage chronic diarrhoea. Preferably, the source of fibre should be moderately fermentable which can be taken from beet pulp, corn, rice and others. Remember that a diet high in fibre is not recommended for young and growing puppies.
Nutritional benefits from carbohydrates can be taken from proteins and fats as well such as:
- Improved gut health
- Source of energy
It is important to check on the content of certain dog food. (Read the Best Dog Food Ingredients here). Some pet food companies have large quantities of carbohydrates than the other essential nutrients. An excess of fibre may result in:
- Decrease mineral absorption
- Dilution of the nutrient and energy content (that may lead to a dog having problems in eating appropriate food)
Minerals as one of the essential nutrients for dogs are divided into two categories: macrominerals and microminerals or trace minerals. The said categories vary depending on the concentrations in the body.
Minerals help the dog’s body in different ways depending on the specific mineral. The following are the required minerals on a dog’s diet:
Calcium and phosphorus are considered to be the important minerals which serve a vital role in the development of bones and teeth. Just like the mentioned nutrients, minerals cannot be produced by the dog’s body on their own. As such, they must be supplemented well through their diets.
In summary, minerals are fundamental to the following:
- Bone development
- Electrolyte balance
- Muscle contraction
- Nerve Impulse transmission
- Skeletal system
- Nervous system
- Red blood cell production
- Thyroid function
Excess consumption of calcium and phosphorus results to:
- Skeletal abnormalities
- Kidney damage
- Urinary stones
Vitamins are required for normal metabolic functioning. We have a number of vitamins with their own function in the body that should be provided in small amounts per day. Fat-soluble vitamins consist of Vitamins A, D, E, and K whilst water-soluble vitamins are B complex and C. Vitamin D can be acquired from sunlight and the rest are found in the dog’s diet. This excludes vitamin K as it is naturally produced by bacteria in the intestine.
In summary, vitamins are fundamental to the following:
- Immune function
- Bone formation
- Muscle control
- Formation of cell membranes
- Blood functions
Deficiencies or excess in vitamins results to:
- Poor vision
- Poor skin and coat development
- Reproductive failure
- Bone demineralisation
- Cell damage
- Weight loss
Water is often overlooked by many but it is actually the most crucial nutrient of the body. The requirement of water intake depends on a lot of aspects including the temperature of the environment, humidity, activity level and more. A good rule of thumb to follow is to provide an ounce of water per one pound of the dog’s body weight. Note that nursing dogs require higher levels of water intake to prevent dehydration.
Insufficient water intake results in dehydration in dogs which can cause serious problems when not addressed. A dehydrated pooch may have dryness of the mouth as well as the loss of skin elasticity. A healthy pooch should have glistening and wet gums.
It is important to provide a high-quality diet for your furry companions. Experts advised that there are specialised diets depending on the breed. Aside from the breed, your dog’s lifestyle should also be considered in determining the appropriate nutritional requirements.