Understanding Your Dog’s Nutritional Needs

dog waiting for a meal

Just like you, your dog is an omnivore, which means that he can eat any kind of food. For better or worse, that means her needs are a bit more complex than, say, your neighbor’s cat. In order for your pup to have a complete, balanced diet, she needs to eat and drink foods that contain the six nutrient classes that are fundamental to maintain her health.

What are these six classes?

Good Old H20

You’ve heard that water is life, right? Well, that’s just as true for your dog as it is for you. If you have an adult dog, 60 to 70 percent of his weight should be comprised of water. Some of this water can be absorbed through food (canned food has up to 78 percent moisture, and dry food up to 10 percent), but it’s still vital for your dog to have access to fresh, clean water whenever he needs it.


Things like meats and plants are important because they provide your dog with essential amino acids that her tissues need to stay healthy and functional. Technically, proteins contain 23 amino acids, but only 10 of them are labeled “essential” because a dog’s body can create the rest. Generally speaking, animal proteins (meat) offer more value to your dog than plant proteins (vegetables).


Dogs get no energy from minerals, like iron, magnesium, and zinc, nor are they metabolized by your pup’s body. Why, then, are they so important? Because they help to keep your dog’s teeth and bones strong, they’re involved in important metabolic reactions, and they help to maintain fluid balance.


Want your dog’s skin and fur to be healthy? Is it important to you that he has energy? Fats not only provide these things to your dog, but also help transport the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, and give him essential fatty acids. Plus, they tend to taste good, which makes him more likely to eat. Just take care to avoid giving him too many fats or feeding him fats that have gone rancid. Commercial dog foods have ways to prevent this problem.


Your dog needs them for her metabolism to function normally, because vitamins act as catalysts for enzyme reactions. Here’s what you really need to know, though: if you’re feeding your dog a balanced diet, she’ll get the vitamins she needs automatically. In fact, dogs should never be given vitamin supplements unless recommended by a vet to help with a deficiency, because having too much of some vitamins can be incredibly dangerous, especially the fat-soluble kind.


Recently, carbohydrates have gotten something of a bad rap where people are concerned. But just like with humans, carbs do all kinds of good things for dogs. Like what? How about keeping their intestines healthy and preventing things like diarrhea and constipation? Or giving energy to the tissues of their body so that protein can be saved and used the way it’s meant to be. In moderation, carbs are invaluable in your pup’s diet.

So how do you know if you’re meeting your dog’s nutritional needs? Talk to your vet. By examining your pup and talking to you about his diet, your veterinarian can recommend a plan to maximize health and nutritional benefits.

Do you cook your dog’s food? If so, how often?

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