Contrary to popular belief, it’s easy to give dogs all the nutrients they need. Dog food sold commercially are either dry foods – a convenient choice for owners due to ease of serving – or wet foods, used as treats to hide daily medications and to increase water intake. And surprisingly, dogs also need nutrients that come from vegetables. Here are food nutrients that are especially important for dogs:
Carbohydrates/Fiber. Majority of dog food diets contains a certain percentage of carbohydrates, even if they are not considered essential nutrients for dogs. Sugars and starches from carbohydrates are metabolized and converted into glucose, which in turn provides energy, gives out amino acids and helps synthesize fats. Carbohydrates are great nutrients for dogs, as they can digest the forms it comes in easily. It also provides an inexpensive alternative to protein and fats.
Soluble fiber should also be a part of a dog’s diet. Foods like fruit or oat bran maintain proper hydration, regulate nutrient absorption, and keep the dog’s intestinal tract healthy. These fibers can be included in the dog’s diet in combination with fresh, raw vegetables. Carrots do nicely, especially diced and served as treats.
Fats are helpful to dogs as they can safely digest lots of it, turning it into an excellent source of energy. Fat nutrients regulate muscle contractions, blood clotting, and allergic reactions, and add luster to his coat. Just be cautioned – fats should not exceed 20% of the dog’s average diet because it causes obesity on dogs. Further, high fat diets depletes the storage of Vitamin E in dog’s body which later on results to gall bladder disease, pancreatitis, diarrhea and general poor health.
Protein requirements for dogs have no recommended amounts, but rule of thumb dictates that the more activity the dog goes through on a regular basis, the greater the need for protein. Protein’s main components are amino acids such as arginine, leucine, methionine, histidine, isoleucine, lysine, phenyllalaine, tryptophan, valine and threonine, all of which are required by active dogs. A dog’s diet deficient of these amino acids can result to poor growth, weight loss, loss of appetite and muscle tone, a dull, brittle or rough coat, an impaired immune system, blood protein depletion, or even death.
One important note: dogs who have undergone kidney failure, or at least have a tendency toward kidney disease, must not be fed too much protein.
Vitamin A is important for normal growth, reproduction, mucous membranes, skin cell surface lining, immune functions, and vision. Vitamin A-rich foods include liver and organ meats, and must be included sparingly in a dog’s diet. Vitamin D contributes to the metabolism of calcium and phosphorus and maintains blood calcium levels and bone formation. Vitamin E serves as an antioxidant and maintains muscle cell structures. Vitamin K is necessary for blood clotting.
Water soluble vitamins like Vitamin B1 (thiamine) helps metabolizes carbohydrates for energy. Pyridoxine or Vitamin B6 supports enzymes to metabolize protein and necessary for normal immune system functions. Vitamin B12 contributes to red blood cell production and synthesis of nucleic acids.
Check the nutrition labels on the dog food products to see if your dog is getting enough of these nutrients. If you have any questions or concerns, you can discuss your dog’s diet with your veterinarian during regular checkups.