The Basics of Dog Nutrition - Healthy Dog World

The Basics of Dog Nutrition


Not a lot of people understand the amount of work that goes into caring for a pup. Just like us, our furry friends require a balanced diet and ample exercise to ensure their complete and proper development. A tailored nutrition program, paired with enough physical activity and mental stimulation not only ensures your pup’s overall health and well-being, but also fulfills their mental and emotional needs.
However, one of the most common pitfalls that pet parents make is searching for a one-size-fits-all nutrition plan for their dog. One important thing to keep in mind is that your pet’s nutrient requirements vary from one dog to another. From the food you choose down to the amount of activity you provide them all form part of their overall nutrition. If you’re unsure where to start, here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

  • What type of dog food are you giving your dog? 
  • Does dog food have enough nutrients to give your pup a balanced diet?
  • How much food are you giving them?
  • Did you research their nutrient requirements?
  • Are you familiar with the six major classes of nutrients?

  • While there’s nothing wrong with making sure that your pup is getting the nutrients they need, note that you should be working with your vet or pet nutritionist to develop a diet plan that’s complete and balanced. The reality is that there’s a ton of work that goes into the basics of dog nutrition. Let’s start with the essentials.


    What Are Essential Nutrients?
    The first step to providing your pup with a complete and balanced diet is knowing the essential nutrients that they need. All living things need an array of nutrients to ensure proper growth and development. Let’s take a closer look at the six essential nutrients your pets need.


    What are proteins?
    Protein is a complex molecule that plays a critical role in the growth and development of your pup’s body. At its most basic level, proteins provide the necessary amino acids needed to support a wide array of bodily functions such as muscle growth and formation as well as tissue repair. It also helps increase muscle mass and strengthen your dog’s bones.
    Protein sources
    When it comes to pups, the most common protein sources can be found in dog food that contains protein from animals, plants, or a combination of the two. These include protein from pork, beef, chicken, turkey, duck as well as plant-based sources such as potatoes, peas, and grains. 
    Benefits of protein:
    • Regulates muscle mass
    • Increases strength
    • Strengthens bones
    • Ensures healthy skin and coat
    What are vitamins?
    In general, vitamins are a group of substances needed by the body to develop and function. These organic minerals and nutrients help our bodies perform various tasks from maintaining cell, tissue, and organ health to strengthening the immune system. And, when it comes to animals, it’s no different. Our pups need vitamins to ensure holistic growth and development.
    Vitamin sources
    When it comes to your pets, two of the best vitamin sources are food and supplements. Start with a balanced diet that would give a variety of vitamins and minerals and in the right amounts. If you’re unsure where to start, you could always consult your veterinarian to come up with a plan that supplements your pup’s diet. Your vet may ask what dog food you’re giving your pup and may recommend adding certain foods to address their nutritional needs.
    What are the vitamins that your dog needs?
    • Vitamin A - Vitamin A enables your dog to maintain optimal eye health, promote healthy skin and coat, strengthen muscles, and support normal growth. 
    • Vitamin B - Commonly found in vegetables and whole grains, vitamin B supports proper brain function and promotes cell health. Vitamin B refers to a total of eight different B vitamins known to collectively aid in fighting a plethora of diseases. 
    • Vitamin C - An important antioxidant, vitamin C is known to fight potentially harmful free radicals. Clinical observations have shown that vitamin C provides dogs with a better ability to recover from illnesses or injuries.
    • Vitamin D - Vitamin D is an important nutrient that regulates the amount of calcium and phosphorus in your dog’s body. However, make sure that you are giving your dog the right vitamin D dosage as too much can lead to an abnormal balance and may lead to poisoning.
    • Vitamin E - Naturally found in fish, leafy green vegetables, and plant oils, vitamin E acts as a natural antioxidant and is associated with fighting free radicals to protect the cells from damage.
    • Vitamin K - Vitamin K is an anticoagulant most known for preventing blood clots and other toxicities.

    What if there are not enough vitamins in your dog’s food?
    Most dogs do not require supplementation until they are much older. However, there are some cases when pups may require supplements due to a specific condition. Vitamin deficiencies are also common in dogs as commercial pet food lacks certain essential vitamins, resulting in pets having poor health. 
    While a balanced diet is still the best way to ensure that your dog is getting the necessary vitamins crucial to sustaining life, pet supplements can also help address vitamin deficiencies. But before giving any kind of supplement to your pup, you must first consult your veterinarian to determine the right dosage to give your pet. Safety should always be your number one priority!

    What are carbohydrates?
    Carbohydrates are nutrients that play an important role in your dog’s body. It’s a great source of energy and is commonly found in whole fruits, certain types of vegetables, and grains. Carbs break down sugars into simple glucose and are used as energy for the body to sustain all of its functions.
    Carbohydrate sources
    As mentioned above, carbohydrates are commonly found in foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Store-bought dog food also contains a generous amount of carbohydrates.
    Benefits of carbohydrates:

    • A natural and practical source of energy
    • Plays a vital role in weight management
    • Provides the necessary energy for cell repair
    • Supports normal immune function
    What are fats?
    Like proteins and carbs, fats are nutrients necessary for the normal development of your dog’s body. Made up of building blocks called fatty acids, fats provide energy to your dog by helping absorb other essential nutrients. It also optimizes your dog’s metabolism during rest and physical activity. Dogs need both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to ensure a perfectly balanced diet.
    Fat sources
    Some of the healthiest fats you can feed your dog can be found in plant oils, fatty fish, animal fat, and seeds. 
    Benefits of fats:
    • Provides energy
    • Assists in the normal development of the body
    • Helps with nutrient absorption
    • Helps regulate body temperature
      What are minerals?
      Minerals are naturally occurring substances broken into two main groups: macrominerals and trace minerals. Like us humans, dogs need minerals to stay in tip-top condition. As with everything in this list, the nutritional needs of dogs may vary from one dog to another. It’s important to consult your veterinarian about finding the right balance of vitamins and minerals needed by the body to avoid any kind of deficiency. 
      Mineral sources
      Some of the main minerals found in dog food are calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, sodium, chloride, zinc, sulfur, iron, iodine, copper, manganese, and selenium. 
      Benefits of minerals:
      • Helps maintain overall well-being
      • Promotes normal growth and development
      • Improves bone, nerve, and muscle function
      • Aids in hormone production
      Water is an often overlooked substance that dogs need to be able to break down the food that they eat. It is the main component of a healthy body and, without it, your dog’s body will not be able to function properly. Water also helps your dog’s body absorb the necessary nutrients needed for them to properly function and develop.
      Benefits of water:
      • Keeps dogs from dehydrating
      • Regulates body temperature
      • Helps release waste and toxins
      What if they’re not getting the essential nutrients from their diet?
      Thankfully, this is where pet supplements come in. Pets need supplements that can provide the necessary vitamins and minerals that they are not getting from their day-to-day meals. Pet supplements are also known to lower the risk of health problems or alleviate already existing medical conditions. For instance, older dogs may need hip & joint supplements to help strengthen their bone structure as they age. If you’re unsure whether your pet needs supplements or not, it’s best to consult your veterinarian. Your vet should be able to walk you through the ins and outs of your pet’s nutrition and suggest supplements that will help keep them happy, healthy, and active.

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