Dog Nutrition 101 - The Basic Guide to Feeding Your Dog
Updated: Aug 20, 2021
Every owner wants the best for their waggy-tailed buddy, but understanding the nutritional needs of dogs can be mind boggling. Binging articles online can often leave you feeling more confused than before! It often isn’t just about preventing your dog from getting too chonky, but also to prevent and manage health issues they might be prone to developing. Good news for your pet pal is
Fret no more, for we’ve put together this beginner’s guide to dog food nutrition! We’re going to keep the scientific jargon out and make this a simple guide, so do conduct some additional research on your own if any areas are still grey!
What does a ‘good’ doggy diet look like?
Dogs need a balanced and complete diet for them to be able to lead the best woofy lifestyle they can. Providing high quality food with the right amounts of fats, protein, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins can achieve that. Here is a list of the nutritional categories you should look out for to improve the immunity, energy, and overall developmental health of your pet!
Protein sources and fats
Meat! Meat! Meat! Meat is the most efficient deliverer of proteins, which are made up of chains of amino acids. Proteins get broken down in the stomach, leaving amino acids which get absorbed into the bloodstream and repairs muscles and tissue. This is why protein and amino acids are a key component in your dog’s diet as the building blocks of the body.
A dog’s optimum protein diet consists of 22 kinds of amino acids. Of the 22, they are able to produce only 12 in their bodies, making it critical for their meals to contain the remaining 10 essential amino acids.
Amino acids help build healthy muscles, fur, hair, skin, and strengthen joints and tendons. They are also essential for a strong immune system and a luscious coat of hair!
Protein can be derived from:
Fish, real meat, eggs, corn, cheese, and even peanut butter!
Our furry pals are after all, descendants of wolves, and they have evolved to digest animal-based protein best which is why the most popular protein sources are:
Beef, pork, chicken, turkey, duck, salmon and venison.
Not consuming enough protein could lead to malnutrition, resulting in weight loss, nausea, and diarrhea in dogs. It would also cause their coats to look dull and weaken their energy levels and immune system to the point that it makes them more susceptible to illness and diseases.
The ongoing pandemic has made us more conscious about what we consume, and this has trickled down to how we care for our fur babies. Ever heard of ‘superfoods’, or have you been taking them yourself without knowing that your dogs can reap the same benefits from them?
Superfoods are food ingredients that are power packed with beneficial nutrients such as fiber, vitamins A and E, minerals and beta-carotene, and can be used as an additional boost for your pet’s meals.
Some examples of superfoods that provide such nutrient boosts include:
Blueberries, broccoli, green tripe, chia seeds, pumpkins, turmeric, salmon and carrots
Pumpkins are filled with prebiotics, vitamins A, C, and E as well as potassium, magnesium and iron. Favoured as superfoods for their high fiber content, pumpkins help improve overall digestive health and bowel movements, solidifying watery poops and preventing diarrhea.
Green tripe is another superfood especially beneficial to cats and dogs. It is the stomach lining of herbivorous, even toed hoofed animals such as deers, sheep, and cows. Unlike the white tripe that humans consume, green tripe is brown with greenish stains from plant-based diets. Due to it not being bleached and processed green tripe is able to retain a bulk of its nutrients such as being rich in probiotics to maintain healthy intestinal health. It also contains essential fatty acids such as omega 3 and omega 6 which help regulate blood pressure and reduce inflammation.
Minerals and Vitamins
Did you know that dogs are able to synthesise vitamin C in their own livers? That’s why most dog foods don’t come with vitamin C. Dog foods that contain essential minerals and vitamins in them often come labeled as ‘complete and balanced’.
Minerals and vitamins are vital for regulating a huge range of bodily functions, such as repairing body cells, healing wounds, forming strong bones and teeth, and strengthening our immune system. Look out for dog foods that provide vitamin A, D, E, K, B-complex vitamins, calcium, as well as phosphorus.
To put it simply, probiotics are the ‘good bacteria’ that are able to rebalance the gut and boost digestive health. They prevent harmful bacteria from ‘colonising’ your dog’s digestive system and making them sick, which happens often during times of stress, illness or malnourishment! By introducing healthy bacteria into your pet’s system, they will be better able to combat obesity, leaky gut, diarrhea and other bowel diseases, urinary tract infections, and more.
In foods, probiotics can be obtained from eating bananas, honey and yoghurt (only feed them unsweetened and plain to dogs)! As a side note, keep your dog from artificially sweetened products at all costs, as some of them contain xylitol which is highly toxic to them. It can be found in baked goods, sugar-free products like gum and baked goods, as well as toothpaste.
Besides providing probiotics found in natural foods or buying dog foods already infused with them, dog-specific probiotics can also be fed to your furkid in products that can come in powder and pill forms. Here is a list of the species-specific probiotics that are beneficial to your little one:
Ah, carbohydrates are probably the nutrients you are most familiar with and the one that has been debated over left and right regarding the grain and no-grain discourse. Let us first familiarise ourselves with the purpose of carbs. Being highly digestible, carbs are the body’s preferred energy source, fueling not just our muscles, but also our brain, nervous system, heart and kidneys. They also increase the palatability of dog food overall for your pup to have a satisfying munch in every bite.
There are two types of carbs: simple and complex. Dogs are able to easily digest and convert simple carbs such as lactose, sucrose and fructose into glucose, which are found in:
Highly refined grains
It then provides quick release energy for your dog, while complex carbs provide slow release energy.
Complex carbs come in the forms of fiber and starch which take longer to break down and digest, helping to manage metabolism rates and keeping dogs full for a longer period of time. Although fiber doesn’t provide them with energy, they play a key role in maintaining healthy bowel movement!
Caution! Be careful of these ingredients...
Just like us, dogs can develop lactose intolerance over time after they’ve been weaned off their mother’s milk. Cheese may be a popular dog training treat but feed in small portions with caution if unsure of your dog’s tolerance level, and stop if they get an upset tummy.
Lactose intolerant dogs are unable to digest dairy products when ingested, which would lead to diarrhea, bloating, vomiting and abdominal pain when consumed in large quantities. Although not all dogs suffer from lactose intolerance, precaution should always be exercised!
Grains aren’t entirely bad for dogs; they provide nutrients such as protein and linoleic acid, which are essential. Low-quality grains have, however, been used as fillers in dog food, severely lowering the nutritional quality of the food to reduce cost! This explains why so many are wary towards grains, but choosing grain-free dog foods don’t guarantee better nutrition if the carbohydrates chosen to replace grains aren’t as beneficial.
Doggos that would benefit most from a grain-free diet would be those with existing digestion issues, to not further stress their digestive systems.
A dog’s sugar intake should always be regulated in natural forms such as fruits, and served in moderate portions. Too much sugar would be leading to more than just a toothache, with potential kidney, oral and urinary tract infections, obesity, hyperactivity and diabetes in the long run. Excessive consumption of sugar could also lead to inflammation all over the body, bringing lots of pain and irreversible conditions from weight gain such as arthritis!
Grapes, chocolate and goods containing xylitol (a commonly used artificial sweetener), such as sweets and diet products should be kept out of your dog’s reach at all times as they are toxic and could lead to organ failure, seizures, and in the worst case -- death.
Factors to take into account in your doggy meal plan
Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, along with many types of allergic and physical conditions such as we pet parents are! There isn’t a diet out there that can meet the needs of dogs 100%, so consult your local vet for advice and keep yourself educated on pet nutrition to best understand how to best manage their diet!
We hope this was helpful
We tried to keep this brief, but doggy nutrition is too broad and complex a topic to cover in a single article. That’s why this is the first instalment of our dog nutrition series in #BarktoBasics, so look out for future articles as we delve into more complex nutrient-related information! If you have any topics that you would like us to discuss, hit us up on our socials (@petsclubsg on Facebook and Instagram)!
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