Dog Diet Basics: not as complicated as the human diet but…
We always want to know if how we feed our pets is the healthiest and safest approach – and that the food will provide the longest life for that member of the family. Fortunately, uncovering the basic ingredients of a nutritious canine diet is not as complicated as the human diet, but like humans, there is a list of “must includes”. And like humans, age, illness, injury and genetic health problems will influence the amount of each in that list. Today we’re just addressing the essentials – the baseline.
From the ASPCA website:
Essential to life, water accounts for between 60 to 70% of an adult pet’s body weight. While food may help meet some of your pet’s water needs (dry food has up to 10% moisture, while canned food has up to 78% moisture), pets must have fresh clean water available to them at all times. A deficiency of water may have serious repercussions for pets. A 10% decrease in body water can cause serious illness, while a 15% loss can result in death.
Proteins are the basic building blocks for cells, tissues, organs, enzymes, hormones and antibodies, and are essential for growth, maintenance, reproduction and repair. They can be obtained from a number of sources including animal-based meats such as chicken, lamb, turkey, beef, fish and eggs (which have complete amino acid profiles) and in vegetables, cereals and soy (but these are considered incomplete proteins). Please note: Do not give your pet raw eggs. Raw egg white contains avidin, an anti-vitamin that interferes with the metabolism of fats, glucose, amino acids and energy.
Fats are the most concentrated form of food energy, providing your pet with more than twice the energy of proteins or carbohydrates. They are essential in the structure of cells, needed for the production of some hormones, and are required for absorption and utilization of certain vitamins. Fats also provide insulation and protection for internal organs. A deficiency of essential fatty acids (such as linoleic acid) may result in reduced growth or increased skin problems.
Carbohydrates provide energy, play a vital role in the health of the intestine, and are important for reproduction. While there is no minimum carbohydrate requirement, there is a minimum glucose requirement necessary to supply energy to critical organs such as the brain. Fibers are kinds of carbohydrates that alter the bacterial population in the small intestine, which can help manage chronic diarrhea in dogs. For dogs to obtain the most benefit from fiber, the fiber source must be moderately fermentable. Moderately fermentable fibers—including beet pulp, which is commonly used in dog foods—are best to promote a healthy gut while avoiding the undesirable side effects of highly fermentable fibers, like flatulence and excess mucus. Other examples of moderately fermentable fibers include brans (corn, rice and wheat) and wheat middlings. Foods that are high in fiber are not good for dogs with high energy requirements, and who are young and growing.
Tiny amounts of vitamins are necessary in dogs for normal metabolic functioning. Most vitamins cannot be synthesized in the body, and therefore are essential to obtain in the diet. Please note that when feeding your dog a complete and balanced diet, it is unnecessary to give a vitamin supplement unless a specific vitamin deficiency is diagnosed by a veterinarian. Due to over supplementation, poisoning due to excess vitamins (hypervitaminosis) is more common these days than vitamin deficiency (hypovitaminosis). Excess vitamin A may result in bone and joint pain, brittle bones and dry skin. Excess vitamin D may result in very dense bones, soft tissue calcification and kidney failure.
Minerals are nutrients that cannot be synthesized by animals and must be provided in the diet. In general, minerals are most important as structural constituents of bones and teeth, maintaining fluid balance and for their involvement in many metabolic reactions.
Responding to the exact “what” to feed your dog, All About Dog Food says, “Unfortunately, there is no one answer. We can help you pick out the foods with the best ingredients but no food suits every dog. Different dogs do better on different diets, so choosing a food will always entail a certain amount of trial and error.”
This is just the first article in a series from Wash N’ Wags that ventures to help you to answer questions about canine nutrition. We’ll venture to lead you to more information about the optimum dog diet. We’re not vets. All information is offered from our fellow dog-lovers, and is only intended to guide you.