Pups Approve Dog Nutrition Guide

What to Feed Your Dog: A Guide to Dog Nutrition

Ever wondered why some dogs stay longer and lead healthier lives than others yet they all seem to be fed fairly?

Well, that’s exactly what this article is about.

And to start you off, understand the fact that what you feed your furry friend determines how they pan out.

Dogs no doubt require a complete and well-balanced diet (in proper portions) in order to maintain their health and wellness. This is in addition to having good mental health and being exposed to the right exercises.

Such a diet has multiple benefits. You can learn about them in this extensive analysis by PetMD.

To help you know and understand the basics of such a diet, we’ve identified and explained classes of nutrients that a proper dog diet should contain.

However familiar these nutrients are, there’s more about them uncovered in our guide that you may not have heard of, seen, or read before. Read on to find out.

One more thing: Always remember to put the nutritional requirements of your dog into consideration before serving her any food.

1. Proteins

On top of acting as the fundamental building blocks for tissues, cells, enzymes, organs, antibodies, hormones, proteins are essential for their reproduction, growth, maintenance, and repair. On top of that, they provide energy to the pet’s body and help to keep their immune system strong.

According to PetMD, dogs need a total of 22 amino acids in order to create the necessary proteins. However, their body is only able to come up with only half of that. The rest of the amino acids have to be obtained from food. Because the dog’s well-being largely depends on them, they have named ‘essential amino acids’.

dog diet

If the dog fails to get enough proteins, it will be exposed to things like poor muscle development, dry, brittle fur, growth problems, weakened immune system, and anemia. These conditions could lead to much worse health issues.

That aside, how much protein your pup needs will depend on their age, activity level, size, among other things. Working and active dogs like Rottweilers, Dobermann, and Boxer will definitely need more proteins than those breeds which require less exercise.

Pregnant or lactating dogs, older animals, sick/injured animals, and large dog breeds also need extra proteins due to their respective conditions.

Healthy dogs won’t face any serious condition even if the protein levels exceed the maximum requirement for a dog. The excess proteins will get out of the body through urine. If the high levels are maintained for a long period of time, they will be stored as fat.

However, if your dog has allergies to specific proteins or kidney/ liver disorders, it’s best if you consult with your vet first before attempting to feed them any proteins.

Sources of proteins include animal-based meats like lamb, chicken, fish, beef; eggs, dairy products, cereals, and vegetables.  When buying dog food, check out the ingredients to see if such items are included.

Because dogs are unable to store up proteins like they would fats plus other nutrients, the nutrient has to be available in their daily diet.

2. Fats and Oils

Are fats and oils really bad for dogs? The answer is No. In fact, fats and oils count among the essential macronutrients dogs need to function at their best and stay healthy.

dog diet

According to PetCareRx, fats provide dietary energy (calories) that is more than twice that provided by carbs or proteins. On top of that, they improve a pet’s heart’s health and help to keep their coats looking shiny and healthy. Fats also insulate and protect the internal organs.

Common sources of high-quality fat include lamp fat, chicken fat, sunflower oil, and herring oil.  Just like it is with proteins, a working or active dog will require more fats than the average family pet for energy purposes

However, when you feed your pet more fat than is required, you will be exposing her to serious problems. Obesity and severe health problems like diabetes and arthritis are likely to occur.

In this overview of Healthy Low-Fats Diets For Dogs, the Whole Dog Journal explains the different levels of fats and when they are considered safe or unhealthy. Put simply, a diet that comes with less than 10% fat (dry matter basis) is considered to be low fat. Those with 10-15% fat are seen to contain a moderate amount of fat, while those whose fat content is higher than 20% are considered high-fat foods.

If you scrutinize the labeling on your dog food, you will realize that under the ingredient list, there’s the fat content, often quantified as a percentage.

Naturally, you’ll be tempted to go for foods with the lowest fat content, but before you do, here’s something to note. The risks associated with fats are relatively lower in dogs compared to humans. For example, unlike humans, dogs don’t suffer atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

Generally, dogs require more fats than humans in order to say strong and healthy.  A reduction in the level of essential fatty acids, like linoleic acid, could lead to increased skin problems, or reduced growth.

Also, the dog will likely lack the energy to engage in exercise and their coats are going to end up looking flaky and dull. 

3. Carbohydrates

dog diet

Carbs, just like fats and proteins, are a vital source of energy for the pet’s body. They also keep the dog’s intestines healthy and are essential for reproduction.

However, dietary carbs aren’t a nutritional requirement for your furry pal. Need proof? Both the WholeDog Journal and DogFoodAdvisor have extensive analysis about that. As you will realize from both reports, proteins and fats contain just about everything a dog needs.

So, should we ignore carbs? Absolutely not. After all, carbs aren’t bad for dogs. In fact, when served in reasonable amounts, they can help to keep the pet’s diet more balanced and benefit her in multiple other ways.

Carbohydrates come in two categories:

Simple: Examples include sucrose, fructose, lactose and the like. Simple carbs require very little and sometimes no digestive breakdown. Their primary function is to provide the dog’s body with the energy it needs to function at their best. Common sources include honey, sweets, and sugar.

Complex: Complex carbs are further divided into starches and fibers. Both are digested relatively slowly compared to simple carbs.

Starches have to be broken down further by enzymes generated by the intestinal wall and pancreas before the dog absorbs and utilizes them as a source of energy. They are obtained from vegetables, beans, and grains.  

Fibers, on the other hand, play a major role in keeping your dog’s digestive system healthy. However, for your dog to benefit more from the fiber, its source has to be moderately fermentable. Examples include beet pulp, brans, and wheat middlings.

Check out PetMD’s website to learn about several other important roles carbs play in the body of a dog.

High glycemic index carbs like corn, white rice, and wheat shouldn’t be fed to dogs because they can cause their body’s blood sugar level to spike, leading to health issues like diabetes, obesity, cancer, and arthritis.

Also, foods with high levels of fibers aren’t recommended for any dog with a high energy requirement and those that are young and coming up.

You can learn more about carbs and dogs in the WholeDog Journal overview above, including when to limit carbohydrates for your dogs, the grain vs grain-free debate, and the several ways to consider carbohydrate content in your pet’s diet.

4. Vitamins and Minerals

Looking at this guide by HELPGUIDE.ORG, one cannot help but appreciate the positive impact vitamins and minerals have on the human body.  It’s clear that they are the essential nutrients the body needs to stay safe from diseases and function optimally.

dog diet

Is it the same for our canine companions? Let’s find out.

First, our dietary needs vary greatly from those of dogs in relation to vitamins and minerals. In their overview of vitamins and minerals, PetMD mentions that commercial pet foods only contain about 20% of a pet’s daily requirement whereas human foods contain 100% of our daily requirement.

This means that giving your pet any human-grade vitamin can be potentially dangerous because they are going to end up with unhealthy excess vitamins. Too much vitamin D, for example, can lead to an increase in the levels of phosphorus and calcium eventually leading to permanent heart and kidney disorders.

However, if the vitamins are supplied to your pet in appropriate portions, they will be of benefit to them. Vitamin A, B, C, D, E, and K all perform unique roles to the pet’s body. On their website, the American Kennel Club (AKC) has explained the functions each vitamin plays in detail.

Should you be worried if your pet accidentally eats the vitamins you left idling on the table? Yes! However, this should not be treated as an emergency because dogs often react differently to vitamins based on their age, weight, medical history, and other related factors.

In the overview above, PetMD’s animal experts state that prenatal vitamins are the most dangerous to dogs because they contain high levels of iron and thus, put your pet at risk of iron toxicity. Too much Vitamin A is also dangerous. Not forgetting the mineral calcium, which can lead to skeletal problems, especially in large breed puppies.

Thus, it’s best to only go for reliable dog foods that have a “Complete and balanced” label. Such foods contain all the right nutrients, vitamins, and minerals your pup needs in appropriate portions.

In the event you feed your pet supplemental vitamins and later notice things like vomiting, lack of appetite, abdominal comfort, or drooling, seek help from your vet immediately. Also, find out from him/her which dog vitamins supplement the needs of your pet.

5. Water

Apart from playing a significant role in the pet’s overall nutrition, water for drinking counts among the things a dog requires daily in order to function optimally. Without enough water, your pet will definitely dehydrate.

dog diet

But a question pet parents ask a lot is, how does one ensure their pet gets enough water?  Of course, there’s the drinking part, but here’s the other part you might not be aware of.

When it comes to moisture level, canned food comprises up to 78% while dry food contains a measly 10%. But given that the weight of an adult pet comprises 60 -70% water, food alone won’t be enough to meet your dog’s water needs.

That’s why drinking water has to be provided along with a well-balanced diet in order to meet the required water supply for a dog. If unsure how much water to give your dog, Dr. Becker from Mercola has a simplified guide for your sake.

As the American Kennel Club notes, water deficiency in pets can lead to serious health conditions. For example, a 10% decrease could result in things like loss of appetite and elasticity in the skin, panting, xerostomia etc. If the loss gets to 15%, the pet will be at risk of death.

Make sure you only pour your dog clean, fresh pure water. Not too long, a report published in Time about drinking water revealed that water from public supplies comes contaminated with dangerous levels of chemicals like perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl.

These chemicals have been linked to thyroid disease, cancer, and weakened immune systems, and are generally a considered a huge threat to public health.

It would be safe to assume that such water is equally unsafe for pets. Unless you have a water filter to get rid of those unwanted chemicals, avoid tap water. Alternatively, you can pour them only imported alkaline water.

What Happens When Dogs Lack Proper Nutrition?

As pets grow, their dietary needs change. Also, their activity level, overall health, breed, size, among other factors play a major role in determining what foods are appropriate for them.

But when these factors are not considered or one fails to go about them right, it exposes the dog to bad conditions and health issues.

Well, we’ve identified common signs that represent the fact that you may be committing wrongs, like not feeding your dog the right food or other wrongs that amount to improper nutrition for dogs.

1. Dull, Flaky Coat and Skin Disorders

Poor diet is among the factors that cause a dog to have dry skin. A dog with a dry skin often scratches, licks, and bites themselves a lot. Other times they will rub against furniture in an attempt to relieve the itchiness.

Besides lack of comfort, hair loss and injuries are among things that may occur as a result of these activities. 

Such a condition indicates that the dog isn’t receiving all the essential nutrients like essential fatty acids which are needed to keep their skin healthy and their coat shiny and bright.

If you notice such signs in your pup, it may be time to change their diet to one that is high in essential fatty acids. Alternatively, you can feed them supplements that are rich in such nutrients

2. Lethargy/Weakness

Most dogs naturally spent most of their time playing around, walking and eating. If not, they’ll probably be idling around.

However, if your pooch becomes unusually inactive for a longer time, this could be a sign of an underlying serious problem.

On top of that, if your pooch isn’t eating, doesn’t feel like playing or walking, or takes longer to respond to your instructions, it means there’s something potentially problematic going on.

Nutritional deficiencies resulting from poor quality/unbalanced diets are among the causes of weaknesses in dogs.  Magnesium deficiency is a common example. Excess Vitamin D has also been found to cause lethargy.

Dogs that have just experienced a stressful event, faced illness or undergone surgery are more prone to lethargy unless they are fed a diet that is rich in antioxidants (antioxidants help pets to recover fast and become active).

PetMD has explored other things that can cause lethargy, besides nutritional deficiency. Always consult with your vet whenever you notice your pet acting lethargic.

 3. Increased allergies

One of the ways allergies happen is through ingestion. Food ingredients like beef, pork, chicken, soy, wheat, and corn are potential allergens.

Food allergies in dogs can appear in many forms. The common symptoms include skin irritations (scratching, itching, and gnawing at their skin), chronic ear infections, and respiratory problems like sneezing, coughing, and nasal discharge.

If not addressed, these food allergies may lead to epileptiform seizures and chronic diseases like asthma, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and urinary tract infections.

All dogs are vulnerable to allergies. However, the symptoms seem to be more common in Retrievers, Terriers, Setters and flat-faced breeds like bulldogs and pugs.

If you notice your dog reacting to specific foods by displaying the signs we’ve mentioned, visit your vet immediately. Usually, they will conduct a physical examination to determine the main source of the allergy affecting your dog.

Besides consulting with your vet, it’s important, as a pet parent, to also educate yourself about dogs and allergies so to know and understand how to take care of pups with allergies.

4. Weight Loss

It’s okay for your pet to be slightly thin.  Such pets actually tend to live longer than those that are overweight. However, when there’s a sudden and significant drop in weight followed by weakness, that could mean that your pet is sick.

Unhealthy weight loss in pets could be caused by among other things, dehydration, loss of fat, insufficient calorie intake, low-quality foods, changing food, and reduced appetite.

Common signs of weight loss include lethargy, low energy levels, reduced resistance to infection, and dull coats.

One of the ways to ensure your pet doesn’t suffer an unhealthy weight loss is to consistently give them an appropriate amount of well-balanced diets i.e. a diet in which all essential nutrients are present, and sufficient clean, fresh water.

5. Sudden Weight Gain /Obesity

According to this report published by CBS News, well over half of all dogs in America are overweight. Well, that’s pretty shocking. Obesity happens when the pet has an excess amount of body fat.

You can easily tell your dog is overweight if when looking at her from above, there’s a visible waist or if you can feel a thick layer of fat covering her ribs.

You can also use a walk-on scale to determine their weight or better yet, take her to a vet to be examined and tested for the same.

Dogs that tend to retain weight, are unable or unwilling to exercise, or are overnourished face a higher risk of gaining unnecessary weight. Indoor and neutered dogs are more prone to becoming obese as well.

Age-wise, all dogs can become overweight. However, those that are middle-aged or between 5-10 years face a higher risk of gaining extra weight.

Besides medical issues, unhealthy eating habits, like consuming high-calorie foods, frequent treats, and an alternating diet contribute to excessive weight again.

Overweight dogs are at a higher risk for serious diseases like arthritis and diabetes. Excess body fats also affect digestive organs, bones, and joints, and cause breathing problems.  Tumors, heart diseases, and high blood pressure in dogs have been associated with obesity as well.

Some of the measures you can take to help your pets not to become overweight include reducing their calorie intake and giving them a diet that is rich in proteins and fiber. It would even be better if you involved your vet in coming up with a diet that is appropriate for your dog.

Other signs that point to poor nutrition in dogs include:

  • Halitosis (Bad Breath)
  • Body odor
  • Excessive shedding
  • Flatulence
  • A wagging tail and wet nose
  • Poo problems
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) disturbances
  • Poor dental hygiene
  • Poor growth

Evidently, nearly all these conditions we’ve mentioned are brought about by low-quality foods, overfeeding, underfeeding, and improper and unbalanced diets. If the signs are present in your dog, then it’s time to take action. Begin by switching to the well-balanced diets and ensuring that you meet your dog’s daily dietary needs.

Final Thoughts

Proteins, carbs, fats, vitamins and minerals, and water are undeniably the building blocks of a healthy canine diet. 

So, before you make the decision to buy commercial pet foods, prepare homemade pet food, or get your pet raw dog food from the local supplier, make sure these essential nutrients are present.

Thereafter, only let your dog consume diets that are recommended for her. Make sure she’s getting the right amount as well.

If unsure what diet is good for your dog or in case you notice any of the signs that point to poor nutrition, get in touch with your vet for further help.

Lastly, don’t forget to equip yourself with as much as information as possible about foods that are right for your pet, foods your dog should never eat, the top dog food brands, and so on.