What does the science say about your dog’s diet?

When you’re buying dog food for your family pet, you have to ask yourself if you’re buying food just to fill a hungry belly or if you’re choosing food carefully to cater specifically to your dog’s nutrition requirements.

The sad reality is that professionally designed packaging sporting pictures of healthy-looking dogs is are not an accurate representation of what’s inside the dog food bag. Much the same, the most expensive dog food is not always the best, and “delicious taste” is not the only information on the bag you should be interested in.

So, what are we saying? We’re saying that good nutrition for a dog is a whole lot more important than you think. And when you’re shopping for the right food for your dog, it’s the ingredients that should be first and foremost on your mind.

If you’re choosing a dog food brand because it is cheap or claims to be tasty, you could be buying dog food that’s packed with questionable additives, preservatives and low-quality fillers. Food that doesn’t cater to your dog’s nutritional needs will fill your dog’s belly temporarily but also leave your pet vulnerable to poor overall health, infections, and diseases. Reading the label and investigating if the ingredients are suitable for your pet is therefore essential.

Complete and balanced dog food should follow the guidelines set out by the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control) for pets. This organization stipulates what’s considered decent nutrition in commercially available dog food and demystifies dog food labelling terms.

Why Correct Dog Nutrition is Essential

As is the case with humans, dogs need the correct balance of nutrients in each meal. Dogs require nutrition that combines vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, carbohydrates, and protein in the proper proportions. Dog food brands that offer balanced and complete meals didn’t stumble upon the perfect recipe by accident. There’s no guesswork involved.

Trusted dog food manufacturers work with vet nutritionists to develop specific formulas that provide dogs with exactly what they need daily. This is why you see dog foods aimed at specific life stages such as for puppies, overweight dogs, senior dogs and so on. This is why you shouldn’t feed food aimed at senior dogs to puppies or high-fat dog food to pets with pancreatitis – it’s just not the right nutrition for them.

It’s certainly not a marketing ploy when you see specialized food brands offering dog nutrition for the likes of heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease in dogs.

Good dog nutrition and foods with complete and balanced ingredients will give your dog all the essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients required for your dog to be in the best possible condition and live a long and happy life.

Understanding Your Dog’s Nutritional Needs

Everything that goes into your dog’s belly plays a role in the overall health of your dog. Let’s look at the essential elements in dog nutrition (and dog food sources), which are also the very same things you should look out for on the dog food ingredients label.


Dogs get their energy from protein. Protein is also essential for your dog’s muscle development and maintenance as well as the healthy formation of ligaments, cartilage, tendons, hair, skin, and nails. Good sources of protein in dog food includes chicken, turkey, duck, salmon, and quinoa.

Your chosen dog food should list 18-29% protein on the packaging. This is because an adult dog’s daily diet should consist of 18-25% protein, and a puppy requires 29% protein. Excess protein can be harmful to dogs, which means pet parents should avoid ever exceeding 30% protein at any life stage.

When protein breaks down in your dog’s body, amino acids essential to dog nutrition are formed. Ten essential amino acids cannot be created in your dog’s body and must therefore be acquired through diet.

Healthy fats

The fat content in your dog’s food should constitute 12-20% of the dry weight of his total diet. Fats, like proteins, are also a good source of energy, but they’re more than that too. Fats help with cognitive function and ensure that your dog has a thick, shiny coat and healthy skin. In addition to that, fat can help with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and reduce inflammation.

If your dog doesn’t get enough fat in his diet, you may notice that his coat is dry and dull, his wounds take long to heal, and his skin is prone to irritations. Dog food that includes Omega-3 fatty acids is ideal for reducing inflammation that’s often associated with kidney disease, bowel disease, cancer, and arthritis.

Of course, too much fat in your dog’s diet can lead to obesity, so it’s best to ensure your chosen dog food offers healthy fat ingredients in the correct proportions. Good sources of fats for dogs include fish oils, flaxseed, chicken fat, pork fat, and canola oils.


Carbohydrates are a source of glucose energy for dogs, although the energy provision is only short term. Carbs are also an excellent source of dietary fiber for dogs. Carbohydrates can help generate heat in the body and also form the base for other nutrients.

The dietary fiber that dogs derive from carbohydrates is essential for the healthy functioning of the gastrointestinal tract and maintaining healthy microbes in the gut. High energy dogs that are still growing need their food source to offer at least 20% carbohydrates. Healthy sources of carbohydrates for dogs include rice, barley, oats, wheat, corn, and apples, to name a few.

While AAFCO does not have a standardized requirement for carbohydrates, most leading dog nutrition food brands include 30-60%.


Vitamins play quite an important role in your dog's nutrition. They are responsible for creating DNA, helping with clotting, developing healthy bones, normal eye function, neurologic function, and boosting the immune system – for starters. The following vitamins are essential in dog food nutrition.

Vitamin A

Vit A is essential for healthy vision, overall growth, immune system functionality, healthy skin, and reproductive health, too. Good sources of vitamin A for dogs include fish oils, eggs, liver, and dairy products.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D aids in absorption in the intestine while boosting bone health too. Overdosing oral vitamin D is toxic to dogs, so the most natural source preferred is sunshine. However, food sources of vitamin D in dog food often includes freshwater fish, beef, liver, and eggs.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is an antioxidant and one of your dog’s essential defences against possible oxidative damage. It’s a critical vitamin in fat metabolism and normal cell functioning. A good source of vitamin E in dog food includes seeds, cereal grains, and vegetable oils.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K is needed for the healthy development of bone and blood clotting. Good sources of vitamin K in dog nutrition includes liver, oilseed meals, and alfalfa meal.

B Vitamins

B vitamins are essential for a dog’s nervous system, amino acid metabolism, physiological health, synthesis of DNA, cell function, and the metabolizing of protein, carbs, and fat for energy.

As you can tell, B vitamins are very important to a dog’s overall health and wellbeing. The following vitamins should be included in your dog’s diet: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, and B12.

Good sources of B vitamins in commercial dog food include oilseeds, eggs, liver, yeast, green vegetables, rice, wheat bran, peanut meal, fish, cereals, legumes, nuts, whole grains, animal proteins.

Choosing the Correct Dog Food For Your Pet

According to Barkspot, when it comes to dog nutrition, pet parents should consider their pet specifically. Consider your dog’s age, weight, and any possible underlying conditions before browsing through the available dog foods at the local grocery store. Know what your dog needs before blindly investing in a dog food brand that you know very little about.

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