Nutrition can be a very complicated topic. What is the best food to feed? How much food should you feed? What brand should I purchase? The answers to these questions can be very confusing and change quite often.
Pet food comes in basically 3 types; dry (6-10% water), semi-moist (23-40% water), and canned (68-78% water). All dog foods consist of 5 main components. Carbohydrates provide energy and aid in gastrointestinal function. Proteins make up some components of enzymes, hormones, a variety of body secretions and structural and protective tissues. Fats supply energy and increase the palatability of foods. Vitamins and minerals are also necessary in a well balanced dog food. All of these come together to form a complete nutritional package necessary for all dogs as well as every living mammal. Water is an obvious necessity. At rest, 2-3 parts of water are required per part of dietary matter.
Raw food diets as well as strict people-food only diets can present all kinds of difficulties. It is advisable to stick with the name brand dog foods. These large companies spend thousands of dollars to make sure that the dog foods they produce meet all the nutritional requirements needed.
Well intentioned dog owners often give supplements. Supplements usually are not necessary for a healthy dog that is feed a high quality dog food. Nutritional supplements should not be given unless they are needed to manage a specific condition such as arthritis or dry skin. All supplements should be discussed with your veterinarian to ensure that they are the correct ones needed for optimal results.
Pet food labels can be very difficult to interpret and can be very misleading. The items required on all dog food labels are: name, weight, analysis of protein, fat, moisture, fiber, list of all ingredients in descending order of weight, manufacturers name and address, the words “Dog Food” and a statement of the nutritional adequacy or purpose of the product. Below are factors useful in suggesting pet food quality.
Moisture Fat Protein
Dogs (maintenance) <75% >8 15-25
Growth/Reproduction <75% >17 >29
Physical Exertion <75% >23 >25
The fats and protein numbers are listed on the label as percentages of dry matter. The < sign means less than and the > sign mean greater than.
These guidelines are very basic and don’t take into consideration things like age or disease problems. Your veterinarian should always be consulted about the proper feeding of your dog.
Some food items should not be fed to dogs. These include chocolate (can be very toxic, especially unsweetened baking chocolate), onions and garlic (can cause anemia), grapes and raisins (affect the kidneys), caffeine (heart and nervous system changes), and artificial sweeteners such as xylitol found in sugarless gum which can be very toxic. Other foods not suitable for dogs is a topic for another article.