Like humans, a balanced diet for pets is a must too, to get the lacked nourishment in their day-to-day life. Many of us dog owners do not realize the importance of a well-balanced meal for our pets and this may lead to many health problems. Nutrition is highly essential if you want to optimize your doggo’s health, endurance, persistence, performance and prevent any kind of unpredicted diseases.
Nutrients are substances that a living being must obtain for optimal growth and subsistence. Many health problems are associated with under- or overnutrition which is almost unavoidable given the ignorance of a balanced meal for our pets. If a dog’s nutrient requirements are not fulfilled, malnutrition could further lead to other diseases like coronary artery disease, obesity, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, arthritis, etc. Hence, it is necessary to focus on satisfying your dog’s nutrient necessities to have a healthy pet with a great quality of life.
Like human beings, the main nutrients for our dog’s diet could also be divided into six categories: carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals, vitamins, and water. In addition to these nutrients, their body also demands specific requirements like energy/calories which can be converted from both carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
Water makes up 70-80% of a mature dog’s lean body mass. Some of water’s many important functions include dissolving and transporting nutrients to the cells; helping regulate body temperature; hydrolyzing protein, fat, and carbohydrates for digestion; cushioning the organs and nervous system; flushing waste from the body, etc.
A dog’s water demands vary based on health, activity level, and environmental temperature. Although most dogs self-regulate their water intake to meet their needs, all pets should have access to clean, hygienic water and all owners should be mindful of the water consumed by their pets.
Protein is a macronutrient, meaning, it supplies energy. Protein is made up of amino acids, the building blocks of life. Proteins give the body structure (eg. strong hair, nails, muscles, and bones) and are necessary to make hormones, enzymes, and antibodies that help the body to function properly and optimally. Protein also supplies energy in the absence of sufficient carbohydrates and fats. As protein cannot be stored in the body, it needs to be regularly supplied through the dog’s diet. Growing puppies, pregnant and lactating females may require about twice as much protein as an adult dog. Animal sources such as lean-muscle meats, fish, eggs and plant-based sources such as beans and lentils are great sources of protein for your dog.
Fats are macronutrients made up of fatty acids. Fat is essential as it supplies the most concentrated source of energy, with more than twice as many calories as protein and carbohydrates. It also provides essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids; enables absorption of fat-soluble vitamins; protects the internal organs; regulates body temperature, and promotes a healthy nervous system. But, too much fat could also trigger pancreatitis or gastrointestinal issues. Fish and fish oil; plant-based oils etc. could be good sources of fat.
Vitamins are organic compounds that are required in small quantities for the proper metabolic functions of a body. Vitamins play a variety of critical roles, like regulating calcium and phosphorus levels, boosting the immune system, serving as antioxidants, enabling the blood to clot, maintaining nervous system functions, etc. All home-prepared diets require vitamin supplementation. Vitamins can be sourced from varied diets containing organ and muscle meats and dog-friendly plant-based foods.
Minerals are inorganic compounds that the body needs to maintain proper metabolic functions. The body cannot manufacture minerals and so it is a must to get them from food. Like vitamins, minerals perform a diversity of functions in the body that are essential for growth and healthy living in general, eg. helping with stronger bones, carrying oxygen throughout the body, assisting in wound healing, providing antioxidant support, aiding in nerve transmission, regulating fluid balance, etc.
Different foods are rich in different minerals. Meat is high in phosphorus, while the bone is high in calcium. Organ meats provide copper and iron, while shellfish are rich in zinc, and so it is a must to monitor mineral levels.
Carbohydrates are the main source of glucose, the “fuel” the body runs on.
Carbohydrates are macronutrients made up of units of sugars, starches, or indigestible fibers. Since dogs can synthesize glucose from sufficient dietary protein and fat, hence carbohydrates are not an essential nutrient for dogs, However, healthy carbohydrates supply important vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and plant-based nutrients that help promote optimum health. Your pets get their carbohydrates from dog-friendly vegetables, fruits, legumes, and gluten-free grains.
In conclusion, all dogs need an ample supply of nutrients to survive, sustain and thrive. The fewer of these nutrients that come from food, the more supplementation is needed to fill the gaps.