Just like we try to eat healthy food and lead healthy lives, our dogs would probably do the same if they could make informed decisions regarding their nutrition. Since that is not the case, it’s up to us, their owners, to make sure our four-legged friends get the food they need in the amount they need. Just like our diet, theirs should also be varied in terms of containing several types of vital nutrients. So, let’s take a look at what nutrients our dogs need.
It’s tasteless, odorless and colorless, made up of just two hydrogen molecules and one oxygen molecule, yet there is no life without it. It makes up almost 80 percent of a mature dog’s lean body mass and is used to dissolve and transport nutrients to the cells, regulate body temperature, hydrolyze protein, fat and carbs for digestion and flush waste from the body, among other things. Your dog’s requirement depends on many factors, such as its activity level, environmental temperature and the dog’s health. Luckily, dogs can usually self-regulate their water intake, but we have to provide them with access to clean, fresh water at all times. This is especially important during hot and dry spells. Tap water is usually fine, especially if you have filtered it.
Protein provides energy, as it’s made up of amino acids, the building blocks of life. Both essential and non-essential amino acids are crucial, since they give the body structure (strong hair, skins, nails, muscles and bones). Australians, who are known for their love of dogs, are quite aware of the importance of proteins and in consultations with their vets, they often resort to supplements, depending on the dog’s condition. There is a wide range of great dog supplements in Australia and you can choose exactly the type your pet needs. Unfortunately, dogs can’t produce the essential amino acids at the required levels, which is why supplements are necessary in some cases. Just make sure you consult your vet before introducing supplements.
Fat is a macronutrient made up of fatty acids. They can be saturated (butter, cheese, meat…), polyunsaturated (fish oil, sunflower oil…) or monounsaturated (olive oil) and they are the most concentrated source of energy. Fat is also a provider of essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and an important element when it comes to absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, protection of internal organs and body-temperature regulation. You have to be careful not to give your dog too much fat, since it can trigger pancreatitis or gastrointestinal issues. Don’t treat your dog with fatty leftovers from your meals, since that’s not healthy.
These organic compounds are essential for proper metabolic functions. There are those soluble in fat (A, D, E and K) and those soluble in water (B and C). The former are stored in fatty tissues and the liver, while the latter are not stored. Since the body can’t synthesize vitamins in sufficient quantities, they have to be taken from the food. Vitamins also regulate calcium and phosphorus levels (D), boost the immune system (A), serve as antioxidants (C and E); enable the blood to clot (K) and maintain nervous system function (B12).
Minerals are inorganic compounds that help maintain proper metabolic functions. The body is incapable of producing minerals, so they have to be included in your dog’s diet. There are two classes of minerals: macrominerals (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus…) and microminerals (iron, copper, zinc, manganese…). The body needs more macrominerals, but both types are equally important, because they constitute a major part of bones, carry oxygen throughout the body, assist in wound healing and perform a range of other functions in the body.
Since dogs can synthesize glucose from sufficient dietary protein and fat, carbohydrates are the only nutrient class that is not essential for dogs, but they are important, since they provide the “fuel” the body runs on. Healthy carbohydrates also supply important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
These are the most important nutrients that have to be present in your dog’s diet. If provided in the right measure, your dog will be able to enjoy a longer and healthier life, which is why it’s vital you consult your vet about your dog’s diet.