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Nutrition for dogs


As most people are when buying groceries, purchases depend on the price and the nutritional value of a product. In the past, people often recklessly trust the misleading marketing of food labels at face value. But now, more and more people are putting a premium on nutrition, inclining them to take the extra step in checking product ingredients before buying.

It’s great that people are becoming more health conscious! But, it would be great if we also consider extending this effort to our pets. The benefits of proper nutrition in dogs is often overlooked because most people still assume what food labels proclaim to be true (i.e. “Complete and Balanced!”, “Premium!”, “High Protein!” etc.). The lack of awareness of the ambiguity of labels can cause unfortunate consequence for our canine friends. Thus, it is important to make an extra effort in knowing and understanding the proper nutrition needed to ensure proper health.

Nutrition is a science, and we could write hours and hours to only hit the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this. There are many different opinions and views on nutrition. In this article we just want to highlight some important aspects you might want to consider.

Benefits of Proper Nutrition and Symptoms of Poor Nutrition

According to PetMD, animals and humans need a certain combination of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water everyday in order to function normally. Proper nutrition is essential to help maintain your dog’s muscles, bones, and immune system. Without proper nutrition, your canine friends may experience getting sick, thin, weak, hair loss, or even death.

Symptoms of poor nutrition are as follows:

  • Bad Breath
  • Body Odor
  • Dandruff
  • Dull Coat
  • Excessive Shedding
  • Flatulence
  • Hair Loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin Disorders
  • Weight Loss

Poor nutrition or unhealthy diet can cause the following illnesses:

  • Obesity: Condition of being overweight. Obesity can be caused by overeating/overfeeding or eating imbalanced food.
  • Pancreatitis: Condition of having an inflamed pancreas caused by excessive fats in food. Pancreatitis causes flow of digestive enzymes to be released into the abdominal area causing the enzyme to break down fat and proteins in other organs.
  • Kidney Disease: Such as the formation of kidney stones. Kidney diseases are caused by excessive amounts of sodium, potassium, phosphorus, or deficiency in hydration.
  • Diarrhea: There are two types of diarrhea—small bowel and large bowel diarrhea. Small bowel diarrhea is the production of large amounts of soft stool few times a day. Large bowel diarrhea is the production of small amounts of watery stool frequently throughout the day.
  • Heart Disease: Such as enlargement of heart or heart failure. Heart diseases are caused by excessive amount of sodium intake. Elevated levels of sodium can cause water retention in blood vessels and increase blood pressure.
  • Growth Disorders: Condition of having abnormal rates of bone growth. Usually caused by too much or too little consumption of calcium.

Effects of poor nutrition are caused by a variety of factors. They are commonly caused by underfeeding/overfeeding, parasites, medical disorders, and poor food quality. One of the factors people fail to consider is the importance of the differences in size and breeds of dogs. Dog breed and dog size are two important factors in determining the proper balance and diet needed to ensure your canine friends are healthy.

Nutritional Differences for Different Age, Size and Breeds of Dogs

Dog Age

Dogs have different nutritional needs as they mature, that is why life-stage feeding is important. In other words, puppies should eat puppy food and adult dogs should eat adult food. Knowing the different life stages can help you properly select the type of food to feed your dogs.

  • First Stage: Puppy (<12 months of age)

The first twelve months of a dog’s life is crucial since it is still in its developing stage. Young animals are more sensitive to the effects of dietary deficiencies, toxins, and poor quality ingredients, hence it is important for owners to pay attention to what food they choose to feed their pups.

To support a puppy’s rapid growth and development, it needs food that contains higher levels of protein, fat, calcium, phosphorus, sodium, and chloride. Puppies need more amino acids and minerals (and more protein and fat) than adult dogs. In addition to this, it is important to feed them calorie-dense foods (445 Kcal/Cup).

When a puppy reaches 80% of its adult size, its growth rate slows down allowing it to switch to adult food.

  • Second stage: Adult

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has not yet developed a specific nutrient recommendation for older dogs, this allows for more leniencies in terms of nutrient requirements of adult dogs.

Despite the absence of such specific recommendations, owners should consider choosing food that are commonly high in enhanced antioxidant levels (to support immune system), protein (to maintain muscle mass), natural fiber (to promote digestive health), fish oils and essential fatty acids (such as omega-3’s and omega-6’s), L-carnitine (to maintain lean muscle mass), glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate (to promote joint health).

You may refer to this minimum nutrient requirement chart released by the AAFCO for puppies and adult dogs:

Protein 22.0 18.0
Arginine 0.62 0.51
Histidine 0.22 0.18
Isoleucine 0.45 0.37
Leucine 0.72 0.59
Lysine 0.77 0.63
Methionine + Cystine 0.53 0.43
Phenylalanine + Tyrosine 0.89 0.73
Threonine 0.58 0.48
Tryptophan 0.20 0.16
Valine 0.48 0.39
Fat 8.0 5.0
Calcium 1.0 0.6
Phosphorus 0.8 0.5
Sodium 0.3 0.06
Chloride 0.45 0.09

Source: PetMD.com

  • Third stage: Seniors

Our seniors tend to slow down as the years add up, and often get overweight because they do not need the same amount of calories as a adult dog in it’s prime, and often we as owners feel guilty cutting their food down or it has been such a habit. Switching to a senior feed can be beneficial, often lower in calories and higher in ingredients that might help your dog with stiff joints, or inflammation.

Dog Size, and Breed

  • Small Breed Puppies

Small breed puppies have high metabolic rates, allowing them to burn what they consume in hours. Ideally, one should feed them calorie-dense foods, three or four times a day. Failure to receive the necessary amount of calories may cause them to develop hypoglycemia. This results to weakness, lethargy, muscle tremors, seizures, and sometimes death. Generally, a small breed puppy needs 40 calories per pound (400 calories per 10 pound dog).

  • Large Breed Puppies

Compared to small breed puppies, large breed puppies’ metabolic rate differs in the sense that they need fewer calories—22.5 calories per pound (2,250 calories per 100 pound dog)—in order to maintain a healthy weight.

Large breed puppies finish growing at a much older age. To prevent growth abnormalities, owners should give a large breed pup the right amount and kind of food necessary for calorie and nutritional intake. Ideal levels of fat and protein help balance growth in puppies.

  • Small Breed Adult Dogs

Because of the high levels of antioxidants that they naturally have, small breed dogs are able to fight radical damages over time, resulting them to have a longer lifespan than large breed dogs. Since small breed dogs have higher metabolic rate, even in adulthood, they will need to consume more calories than their large counterparts. Although, maturity might possibly render the development of certain diseases and illnesses, consult your veterinarians for what specific nutrients and the ideal amount of food to feed your pet.

  • Large Breed Adult Dogs

Large breed dogs need fewer calories and are more prone to developing illnesses. Overtime as your dog ages, it is important for owners to ask your veterinarians about any health problems your dog might have. The right amount and kind of food may help prevent some conditions such as orthopedic diseases in large breeds.

Owners should pay attention to the joints of large breed dogs given their size and the amount of stress they put on their joints. Hence, it is ideal to feed large breed dogs that are high in glucosamine and chondroitin, omega-3, vitamin E, zinc, and manganese.

There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing the right kind and amount of food to feed your canine friends. To figure out the right kind and amount of nutrients your dogs need, consult your veterinarians to know your dog’s current and ideal body score (similar to BMI’s in people).

As we put a premium on health, extending our efforts to our canine friends by improving the way we select their food, it is undeniable that there are some people who cannot afford buying dog food and therefore resort to feeding dogs with human food. Human metabolism is different from dog metabolism. Although it is not ideal to feed dogs human food, knowing which (human) food is safe/unsafe for dog consumption can go a long way.

Feeding Dogs Human Food: What Human Foods You Can Feed Your Canine Friends

Since human metabolize food differently from dogs, there are foods that are safe for humans to eat but may be toxic (and possibly deadly) for dogs. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the Animal Poison Control Center experts there are many human foods that are toxic for dogs.

Here is a list of top human foods that can harm your dog:

  • Alcohol
  • Avocado
  • Chocolate, Coffee, Caffeine
  • Tea
  • Citrus
  • Coconut and Coconut Oil
  • Grapes and Raisins
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Milk and Dairy
  • Onions, Garlic, Chives
  • Raw Uncooked Meat, Eggs, Bones
  • Salt and Salty Snack Food
  • Xylitol (the sweetener in sugar-free gum)
  • Yeast Dough
  • Nutmeg
  • Lemon and Limes

Keep in mind, foods that are deemed “safe” may still pose risks. Feeding your dogs “safe” human food abruptly and in large amounts may results to health diseases and nutrient imbalances. Like wise some foods considered toxic can have beneficial properties for your pet, like garlic, but only in very small doses.

The key is introducing a particular food in their diet in moderation. In addition to this, considering that all dogs are different. One dog may ingest and tolerate a type of food just fine, while another may experience unfavorable effects. Dogs just like humans can experience allergies to certain foods or ingredients.

Although there are human foods that are toxic to dogs, there are plenty of human foods that are not only deemed as safe, but are also healthy for them.

Human foods that are safe for dogs

  • Peanut Butter: packed with protein, healthy fats, niacin, vitamin B and E
  • Chicken: packed with protein
  • Carrots: high in fiber and vitamin A, low in calorie
  • Yogurt: packed with protein, calcium, and digestive cultures
  • Pumpkin: high in fiber and vitamin A
  • Green Beans: high in fiber and low in calorie
  • Salmon: high in omega-3, fatty acids,
  • Sweet Potatoes: high in fiber and vitamin A
  • Apples: packed with phytonutrients, vitamin A and C
  • Oatmeal: packed with dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals

While it is a big plus to know the important factors to consider when choosing the right food to feed our canine friends, we must not forget the importance of proper hydration.

Don’t Forget Water!

According to PetMD, water carries and moves important nutrients into and out of cells of the body. It helps with digestion and absorption of nutrients. It also regulates body temperature as it cools the body down.

Dogs should approximately drink one ounce of water per pound of body weight per day. Therefore, owners should make sure that your dogs always have enough water to drink. You must always keep their bowls filled with clean drinking water.

Here are some of the benefits of proper hydration:

  • Helps with nutrient movement and absorption
  • Lubricates and cushions joints (makes movement easier)
  • Cushions spinal chord and internal tissues
  • Helps with removing toxins
  • Regulates excretion of wastes by regulating bowel movements

If your dog is not drinking enough water, he/she may experience dehydration and will more likely be prone to develop illnesses. To know if your dog is experiencing dehydration, check for the following signs:

  • (After pulling your dog’s skin) skin slowly returns and may stay up for a time before going back into place
  • Dry, sticky, pale gums
  • Dry and sunken eyeballs
  • Dry nose
  • Dry mouth

If your dog is experiencing dehydration, immediately contact your veterinarian for proper medical advice and treatment. Owners must remember that a holistic approach to maintaining proper health also entails maintaining proper hydration.

You Are What You Feed Your Pets

“You are what you eat” is a common phrase that people adhere to and it is true! When we eat healthier, we not only feel better, but we also feel more capable of performing daily tasks. Consuming healthy food allows us to provide our body the nutrients it needs in order to function at optimal level. We do more when we eat healthier, we are able to think clearer when our bodies get its energy from foods rich in vitamins and minerals.

This holistic approach to living a healthier and better life must not stop with just us humans. Extending the efforts by applying the same principle to our pets not only allows us to take better care of them but also allows us to wake up knowing we’re doing the best we can to love ourselves and our canine friends.

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