Choosing the right diet for your pet can sometimes turn out to be a confusing task. Especially if you’ve spent hours sorting through the numerous brands in the supermarket and are trying to decipher their ingredient labels. With some current trends like grain and gluten-free thrown in, it can surely seem overwhelming.
We wrote this blog to demystify the several concepts concerning your dog’s diet. The answer lies not in trying to find the right product but in choosing the right ingredients. The advantage of this approach is that once you’re aware of the essential elements, you can simply check for them in the product and the one that contains all of them wins.
According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), your dog needs five essential elements to meet their daily minimum requirements. These are:
- Vitamins and minerals
5 Essential Elements For Your Dog’s Balanced Diet
The individual nutritional requirements of each dog depend on a lot of factors such as its size, age, breed, lifecycle etc.
The most crucial component in your dog’s diet is protein. Comprising of amino acids, they are the body’s building blocks that are responsible for adding strength to muscles and repairing body tissues. Proteins also help in providing structure to the body in the form of stronger hair, nails, skin etc. They aid in the creation of hormones, antibodies, neurotransmitters, and enzymes that lead to the smooth functioning of the body.
Since dogs are capable of creating only non-essential amino acids, the other essential amino acids should come from the diet. Proteins should account for 21-26% of a puppy’s diet and 18-25% of an adult dog’s diet.
There are several different sources of protein. It’s best to check with a vet as to which sources are safe for your dog. You may also do trial and error and see which one works.
Some of the common sources of protein are:
- Meat-based protein like chicken, turkey, beef
- Plant-based protein like beans, lentils
- Yak cheese
Carbohydrates provide the necessary energy for daily functioning. Dogs need about 30-70% carbohydrates in their diet.
Some of the benefits of carbohydrates are:
- Breaking down complex carbohydrates into glucose to provide energy
- Providing beneficial fibers to the body
Some of the common sources of carbohydrates are:
- Sweet Potato
Fibers are considered unimportant since they aren’t that easily digestible, but, they can have several benefits too. Fiber can be derived from apples, pumpkin, carrots, broccoli, kale, kelp, bananas, avocado, peaches, tomatoes, and beet pulp. They don’t provide any necessary nutrients but can help them remain full, thus preventing obesity. They also help in maintaining colon health, assisting in digestion and controlling blood sugar levels in diabetic dogs.
Some dogs may be allergic to grain as well. For them, including gluten and grain-free dog treats in their diet will make more sense. Again, it’s always advisable to get a vet involved before taking major decisions about your pet’s diet.
Fats are the most concentrated sources of energy and provide double the energy in comparison to proteins and carbohydrates. There is a common misconception that fat is bad since they can add calories. It’s definitely true that there should be a proper balance of providing fats and should account for around 10-15% of your dog’s diet.
Fats play an important role in the daily functioning of your dog’s body. Fats contain essential fatty acids which help in cell structuring and functioning. They also help keep your dog’s coat and skin healthy and shiny. Fats are responsible for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and promoting a healthy nervous system. They contain Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, the lack of which can cause problems like impaired vision and hearing.
Some good sources of Omega-3s are fish, flaxseed and canola oil and those of Omega-6s are safflower, soybean and cottonseed oils.
Excessive fat can cause pancreatitis or other gastric problems. Providing uncontrolled amounts of table scraps can also lead to piling up of calories and cause obesity.
Vitamins and Minerals
To maintain the overall health of dogs, vitamins and minerals are necessary. Vitamins are organic compounds while minerals are inorganic compounds. Together, they help in maintaining the proper metabolic functioning of the body.
Vitamins can be of two forms – fat-soluble such as Vitamins A, D, E and K and water-soluble such as Vitamins B and C. While fat-soluble vitamins are stored in fatty tissues and the liver, water-soluble vitamins are not. The body is unable to synthesize vitamins in ample quantities, hence they need to be derived from the diet.
Minerals too come in two forms – macrominerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, chloride, potassium and sodium and microminerals such as zinc, copper, iron, manganese, iodine, and selenium. Although macrominerals are required in higher levels than microminerals, however, both are essential to the body.
Vitamins perform a lot of functions like:
- Regulating calcium and phosphorus levels (Vitamin D)
- Boosting the immune system (Vitamin A)
- Acting as antioxidants (Vitamin C and E)
- Allowing the blood to clot (Vitamin K)
- Ensuring the smooth functioning of the nervous system (Vitamin B12)
Minerals too are helpful in:
- Forming an integral part of bones (calcium and phosphorus)
- Allowing passing of oxygen throughout the body (iron)
- Helping in healing wounds (zinc)
- Functioning as antioxidants (selenium)
- Maintaining the fluid balance (sodium, chloride, and potassium)
Some of the important sources of vitamins and minerals are cheese, eggs, molasses, legumes, fruits, and leafy green vegetables. In case your dog is suffering from a vitamin or mineral deficiency, then you can provide them with multivitamin supplements.
One of the most important and indispensable components of your dog’s diet is water. Water comprises around 70-80% of a senior dog’s lean body weight. It’s an integral part of the living cells in your dog’s body.
Some of the important functions that water performs are:
- Dilution and transportation of nutrients to cells
- Regulation of body temperature
- Hydrolysis of protein, fats, and carbohydrates for improved digestion
- Formation of a protective layer for the body organs and the nervous system
- Removal of unwanted waste from the body
- Flexible movement of muscles and joints
- Prevention of dehydration
The water requirements of your dog will be dependent on the basis of health, activity levels, and the environmental temperature. Most dogs self-regulate their water intake as per their needs. Generally, your dog’s daily water intake should be one ounce per pound of body weight. To encourage your dogs to drink ample water, you must keep their water bowls filled.
A nutritious diet contains all or some of these ingredients in the right proportion. Dogsee Chew’s yak dog chews comprise the ideal ingredients for a wholesome diet and contains the following components while being grain-free, preservatives-free and completely natural:
- Crude Protein – min 59.2%
- Crude Fat – min 5.2%
- Fibre – min 5.9%
- Moisture – max 10.0%
Once you understand how different nutrients play a role in your dog’s diet and how much of them need to be included in the diet, it’ll help you make an informed decision about choosing the right diet for them.