If you own a dog or are thinking about getting one, it is important to understand your dog’s nutrition needs in order to keep him or her healthy. It is always tempting to just buy the first or cheapest dog food you see at the grocery store, but do you really know what is in it or whether it meets your pet’s needs?
Dogs Aren’t People
Saying that dogs aren’t people is obvious, but what is not always obvious is that dogs have very different nutrition needs than humans. Not only is it not healthy to simply feed your pets what you’re eating, it can actually be quite dangerous to them. Some human foods are toxic to animals, while others are simply not nutritious. While we can decide to eat as unhealthily as we want, it is irresponsible to share unhealthy choices with a pet who can’t seek out other sources of food. In addition, your pet has different needs than you do, so even if you are eating healthy foods, it still might be inadequate for Fido.
Dogs Aren’t Wolves
While our furry friends at home are closely related to the wolf, their nutrition needs can be quite different. Canines in general need a lot more protein than humans in order to stay healthy, and this should be primarily from meat sources, but domesticated dogs are more omnivorous than their wild cousins. No food that claims to be meat-only is healthy for a pet dog.
So now that we know what we should not be feeding to our dogs, we can think about what food is healthy to feed them. In terms of “macronutrients,” dogs need about 25%-30% fat, 30%-35% protein, and 35%-45% fiber. Most of their protein should come from meat sources, as those are easier for your dog to digest. These are all figures that you should be able to find on the labels of any store-bought dog food you find, and if the numbers fall too far outside the acceptable range, that might be cause for concern. If the macros all look correct, then it is time to look at the rest of the content.
Like people, pets need access to certain vitamins, minerals, and other substances to stay happy and healthy. Ultimate pet nutrition includes healthy substances such as calcium, fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins. If there is a brand of dog food you like, do some research or check the nutrition label to make sure that these types of substances are included in your pet’s chow. If not, it may be time to switch to a healthier brand. You can also add supplements to fill in the gaps of your current brand.
Once you are sure that you’ve picked out a kibble or wet food that has the nutrition content that will keep your furry friend healthy, you need to make sure that you aren’t overfeeding or underfeeding. Most dog food has feeding recommendations, and your veterinarian can also make recommendations. However, you can also calculate your dog’s caloric needs yourself based on their weight. If your dog is already underweight or overweight, you may need to adjust these numbers accordingly. Other health conditions or medications can change the way that your pet eats, so if you have concerns about your dog’s health and nutrition you can always consult with your vet.
If you are thinking about getting a dog, or already have one in your home, you know that their food makes a difference in their health and wellbeing. Now you have the knowledge to make informed choices about your dog food purchases. Remember to consider the fiber, fat, and protein content, as well as the other types of nutrients like antioxidants and minerals when you are looking for a brand of food to buy. Once you find a healthy brand that you and your dog both like, make sure that you are feeding them an appropriate amount to keep them happy and healthy.