Proper nutrition is important for dogs because it provides the necessary nutrients to support their overall health and well-being.
It’s important to know that as external physical activities such as training, grooming, and social interaction all play a part in the overall well-being of your dog, what goes inside them is a huge factor too. A diet lacking in essential nutrients can lead to health problems such as obesity, joint problems, digestive issues, and weakened immunity.
As a fur parent, understanding your dog’s nutritional needs and the processes involved may be overwhelming at first, so here we break down the basic important things you need to know about dog nutrition and how important it is for your dog.
What makes up a dog’s nutritional diet?
Many local and international organisations came up with standards for manufactured pet food and raw pet food along with nutritional guides for dogs.
To promote quality standards in the Australian pet food sector, the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia (PFIAA) was founded in September 1972. The Association's objective is to promote high performance standards in the growth of the pet food sector.
PFIAA Standards for Manufactured Pet Food
PFIAA listed the label requirements for pet food that’s aligned with the other existing global standards such as those in Europe and the USA to help companies comply with Australian consumer law.
Labels for pet food that comply to PFIAA’s standards must contain the following labelling information:
- Nutrition information panel
- Date labelling
- Nutritional adequacy statement
- Ingredients list in descending order
- Feeding guide
- PFIAA logo
PFIAA Standards for Pet Meat
For dog owners who feed their dogs raw food, PFIAA also released their Standard for the Hygienic Production of Meat. Basically it contains information:
- Sources and handling of pet meat raw material
- Pet meat processing
- Product identification (staining)
- Pet meat labelling, and
- Identification, traceability and record keeping
The nutrients your dog needs
Many international organisations studied what nutrients dogs need. The essentials are the six nutrients: protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, and water.
Protein plays a crucial role in the development and maintenance of cartilage, tendons, and ligaments. Fats produce essential fatty acids (EFAs) that assist dogs in maintaining healthy skin, improving coat quality and reducing inflammation at the cellular level.
Carbohydrates supply dietary fibre and energy in the form of glucose that are essential to a dog's daily diet. Vitamins play a variety of roles in a dog's body including DNA synthesis, bone growth, blood clotting, normal eye function and neurological function.
Minerals are involved in enzyme and hormone systems and help with many functions of a dog’s body and support structures. Water is regarded as the most essential nutrient, given that it serves so many crucial functions.
These nutrients help maintain your dog’s overall wellbeing, and you might ask, ‘what types of food can deliver these nutrients to their body?’
Recommended food for a dog’s balanced diet
For your dog's diet, there are countless options. But while dog's meals appear better than ever, choosing what to put in it can be challenging.
Dr Karen Hedberg BVSc- a veterinarian at North Richmond Veterinary Hospital and Chair of the Dogs Australia Canine Health Committee– advised that when choosing the right diet, the size, level of activity, and life stage of your dog should all be taken into account.
Here are recommended types of food that are good for your dog’s balanced diet.
Many dogs can survive on a diet of only dry food, which is healthy for their teeth and jaw. The chewing activity helps strengthen the jaw, and the kibble itself keeps their teeth clean and in good condition. Dry food won't spoil if it's left out for a dog to nibble on all day.
Picky eaters and senior dogs that are unwilling to chew hard biscuits may find canned food more appealing.
Most expensive dry or wet products often have larger amounts of fatty acids and proteins. They might also taste better to your dogs.
Vet-recommended diets are beneficial for dogs with specific nutritional needs to treat or manage weight, disease, skin disorders, and other health issues.
When you make your dog's food yourself, you have the assurance that it has no preservatives, allergens, or "filler,". You are also minimising your dog's environmental impact if you use only organic products.
The acronym B.A.R.F. stands for "Biologically Appropriate Raw Food" and/or "Bones and Raw Food,". The concept of the raw diet, which is made up of fresh, unprocessed, and wild meats and vegetables, was developed by veterinarian and nutritionist Dr. Ian Billinghurst.
Dr. Ian Billinghurst claims that his Bones and Raw Food (BARF) diet offers dogs the nutritional balance they have grown to need, free of unnecessary additives.
Advocates of the BARF diet claim that it can prevent diseases in dogs that are carried on by modern dog food.
Importance of proper nutrition for dogs
Helps maintain a healthy weight
A customised nutritional diet helps in keeping your dog's weight in check. Having a nutrition plan that directly addresses their specific needs helps maintain their health.
Portion control diet is effective too, as most dog food bags overestimate how much food a dog needs. Buying from brands that offer food ranges for your dog’s own tendencies, whether it’s weight management, food sensitivities or illnesses is a good thing to do.
Improves muscle strength and tone
Proper dog diet includes protein, and protein helps muscles stay healthy. Animal proteins like those from beef or chicken are the best and most natural sources of protein for dogs since they love the flavour and because meat offers all the essential amino acids that they, and almost all animals, need.
Helps prevent digestive issues
The nutrients in complete and balanced dog diets are designed to be easily absorbed. The required fibre for a pet's diet comes from carbohydrates. Digestive and bowel movements are improved by fibre.
Digestion is important as it allows a dog to absorb the nutrients they need from their meal and can help get rid of waste once all the nutrients have been absorbed. The ideal diet delivers the required nutrition while forming less stool for cleanup on walks.
Strengthens the immune system
To maintain a healthy immune system and metabolism, your dog needs the vitamins and minerals that are found in their food. Antioxidant vitamins reduce the daily damage that is inflicted to cells.
Along with vitamins, minerals in dog food support healthy cell activity to maintain a dog's wellbeing. A healthy diet has a variety of sources for vitamins and minerals. Your dog might get sick if their diet is lacking in vitamins and minerals.
Provides energy for play and exercise
A well-balanced diet with the right amount of protein and fat helps increase your dog’s energy levels and regulates their overall health.
According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), dry food must have a minimum of 18% protein to be classified as maintenance (adult) dog food. Puppies require much more, with a requirement of 22% protein minimum.
Promotes healthy skin and a glossy coat
A dog in good health has a thick, glossy coat of hair. Your dog can produce the right oils for their skin if their diet is composed of the right balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These fatty acids also help in giving your dog a lustrous coat.
Dogs with dry skin may shed more often and have hair that breaks easily. Omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods also have an anti-inflammatory effect that may help with allergies, itching, and other irritations or allergies brought on by numerous causes, such as low humidity.
Helps extend lifespan
Experts say that dogs who eat less live longer, but this can properly be phrased as ‘dogs who have a proper balanced diet live longer.’
Indeed, providing a well-balanced diet that meets your dog's specific needs can help them live a longer, healthier life. This means you’re increasing the years you’ll spend together.
Giving your dog the proper nutrition they need is both your responsibility and joy. Just like how they help you stay healthy, give back the same energy and keep them healthy too!