In the last couple of months, pet ownership in the US has soared. More than 90 million homes in America (70%) have pets. Dogs are the most popular pets, followed by cats and others. Modern science confirms that keeping a dog is good for the heart and mind.
Would you like to adopt a dog?
Just as your newfound furry buddy would boost your health and well-being, you ought to return the favor and treat them well. There is no better way to show love and care to your dog than to feed them well. Good nutrition and regular vet checkups will keep your dog healthy and happy.
If you have no clue where to start, this guide can help you. Read on and learn the facts about dog nutrition. We’ll also give tips on what to look for in commercial dog foods. But first, here’s more about the nature of dogs.
Dogs are Omnivores
Your furry buddy is like you – omnivorous. That means a dog can feed on a mixture of plants and animal foods and survive. This issue often perplexes many dog owners. Experts from San Diego Vets explain that many assume that since dogs have wolf ancestry, feeding on plant material is against their DNA. But that’s not the case. Your dog can eat and digest a variety of plant and animal foods. Skipping either could result in malnutrition and problems in the gastrointestinal (GI) system.
With that out of the way, here are some facts about dogs’ nutrition.
All the Major Nutrients are Crucial
Your dog needs a balanced diet to stay healthy and thrive. The diet should consist of all the essential nutrients including, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water.
Whenever you go out to buy dog food, get products with the right mixture of nutrients. Some products have the words “complete balanced nutrition” on the label. This is a great way to start narrowing down on suitable brands. However, look for products that have the words “meets the nutritional requirements established by the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).”
Nutritional Requirements Vary with Age and Other Factors
As you shop for dog food, consider your dog’s age, lifestyle, and breed characteristics. The nutritional needs of dogs vary depending on their life stage and other physiological factors. A puppy’s nutritional needs are not the same as those of a young adult, pregnant or nursing dog, or senior pooch.
According to the National Academies, daily nutrient allowances for different dogs are as follows:
- A puppy weighing 12lb (33lb at maturity) requires 56 grams of crude protein, 21 grams of fats, 990K calories of energy, and traces (often under 1 gram) of vitamins and minerals.
- An active adult dog weighing 33lb requires 25 grams of crude protein, 14 grams of fats, 922-993K calories of energy, and traces (often under 1 gram) of vitamins and minerals.
- A pregnant or nursing dog (33lb with 6 puppies) requires 69 – 158 grams of crude protein, 29 – 67 grams of fats, 1,274K calories of energy (more depending on the number of puppies), and traces (often under 1 gram) of vitamins and minerals.
Dog food brands indicated “all-purpose diet” could be tempting. After all, such brands often cost less and don’t require as much work as specialized feeds. However, such a diet may not provide sufficient nutrients for your dog at the specific life stage or level of activity. Most vets and animal nutritionists recommend feeding your dog according to its needs.
The Diet Should be Rich in Protein but not Necessarily Meat
One of the emerging controversial issues concerning dogs’ nutrition is protein content and sources. Arguments arise especially concerning giving dogs vegetarian and vegan foods – often deemed to have lower protein content.
Dogs are omnivorous, and the fact is that they require nutrients, not specific ingredients. The diet should be rich in digestible proteins which can adequately supply all the essential amino acids. Experts put the minimum protein content in dog food at 25%. However, since animal-based feeds generally have higher proportions of digestible protein than plant-based feeds, they are deemed better sources. On the contrary, studies and testimonials confirm that alternative protein sources are just as good, if not better.
Other Nutrients (Carbs, Vitamins, and Minerals) are also Crucial
Fats and carbs are crucial for energy supply and healthy skin and fur. Fatty acids like Linoleic Acid, Omega-6, and Omega-3 are essential for carrying nutrients and preventing ailments. Carbs (sugars and starches) supply energy, necessary for metabolic functions and play. Vitamins including vitamin A, D, E, K, and B complex are critical for organ functioning, bone formation, and building immunity. Lastly, minerals like calcium and phosphorus are crucial for bone development and other neural functions. As you can see, providing wholesome nutrition for your dog is critical.
What About Supplements?
A dietary supplement is a manufactured product intended to boost the provision of certain nutrients. The guideline concerning supplements is simple: unless the vet prescribes, avoid giving your dog any.
Selecting Appropriate Dog Food
Understanding your dog’s nutritional requirements is excellent. But selecting appropriate dog food could be a whole new challenge. Feeding your dog requires knowledge of their nutrition needs and precision in quantities. This is often difficult to achieve on a home-based diet. Therefore, many experts do not recommend home-based diets.
Also, desist from giving your dog table scraps and other human foods. Instead, stick to specialized pet food and treats.
When shopping for appropriate dog food, focus on high-quality brands using high-quality proteins such as Timberwolf Organics. Also, remember to look for the AAFCO standards notification. Keep the calorie content low (unless your pooch is an overly active worker or sports dog) because obesity in dogs is an emerging health issue.
Finally, Feed Your Dog on a Schedule
This guideline would be incomplete without the information on when and how to feed your dog.
Excellent eating habits are just as important as a balanced diet. Feed your dog using a consistent and regular schedule. Like the quantity and quality of feed, the feeding schedule also varies with life stage and other factors like activity levels, breed, whether your dog is a mum or expectant, and others. Good eating habits are essential for the health and wellness of your dog.
Reach out to a vet or a respected animal nutritionist and seek help on your dog’s nutrition. Your dog will thank you for it.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska