To better understand the nutritional requirements of dogs, we must explore each of the major nutrients that our canine companions need in order to live long and healthy lives. Like humans and other animals, dogs require a balanced intake of nutrients for continuous growth and tissue repair. Lack of sufficient nutrients in a dog’s diet can cause stunted growth, poor healing after injury, and a decidedly shorter lifespan compared to dogs who are receiving optimum nutrition.
Protein Requirements for Your Dog
Protein is one of the most essential building blocks of mammalian life. Mammals like dogs need protein for growth, tissue repair, and regulation of biological processes.
Without protein, muscle tissue and internal organs would suffer greatly. Like humans, dogs are capable of synthesizing specific amino acids (the building blocks of protein) on their own. Other amino acids must be sourced from the dog‟s diet.
That‟s why it is not ideal to feed dogs only carbohydrate-based treats and kibbles. Too many carbohydrates and too little or no protein can do more harm than good in the long term. (This is the reason why, after the late 1800‟s, pet food manufacturers turned to the byproducts of meat processing plants to acquire inexpensive sources of animal protein to add to kibble, semi-moist, and canned pet food.)
A diet rich in protein is highly recommended for young pups that have already been weaned from their mother, and for young, growing dogs. Hunting dogs and other working dogs should also be given a healthy serving of protein during mealtime to keep their muscles and organs working perfectly.
However, giving a dog too much protein can create its own problems. Increase protein intake has been known to damage the dogs‟ kidneys, which can lead to terminal kidney failure. Too much protein has also been associated with sudden changes in a dog‟s temperament.
Fats as part of a Dogs Nutritional Requirements
Today, fats are the most abhorred of the macro nutrients because there is a general belief that any form of fat can cause obesity and other health problems in dogs. There is a kernel of truth to this: excessive fat intake in dogs can cause obesity, especially if the dog does not regularly expend energy on a daily basis.
But this does not mean that you have to cut out fats from your pet‟s diet. Fat is needed for normal kidney processes. Your dog also needs fat to maintain a healthy coat and healthy skin.
With too little fat, your dog can suffer, too.
If you‟re feeding your dog lean dog food, one easy way to add healthy fat to your dog‟s diet is by adding food items with omega fatty acids. Fish is the richest source of omega fatty acids. If this isn‟t a feasible option for you right now, you can buy a dog supplement that has omega fatty acids. Supplementation will provide at least a minimum amount of omega fatty acids and will help your dog maintain a healthy coat.
Carbohydrates Required In a Dogs Diet
Since dogs are generally active, they need a clean source of carbohydrates that can be easily used for energy. There is a general consensus among veterinarians that dogs need 40 to 50 percent carbohydrates in their daily diet. Dog food companies make use of a variety of inexpensive sources of starch (carbohydrates).
If your dog is having a hard time digesting a new brand of dog food, check the ingredients. Food allergies can sometimes occur when the dog‟s chief source of carbohydrates is soybean in its food. (Allergies show up as excessive flatulence and other signs of indigestion.)
If your dog is allergic to soybean-based dog food (or allergic to any specific source of carbohydrates or starch), try shifting to another brand of dog food that has been manufactured with regular flour, like wheat flour. Or better yet, prepare your dog‟s food yourself! Recipes for homemade dog meals can be found in the second part of this book.