Nutritional Needs for Dogs

Your dog’s nutritional needs vary depending on his breed, stage in life and lifestyle. He will likely need a different formula as a puppy than as an adult dog. Understanding the basic nutrients he needs will help you find age-appropriate, high-quality food that supports optimal growth and health throughout his life.

1. Protein

Protein is one of the nutrients your dog needs most. Protein helps support the development of your dog’s tissues, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, skin and hair, and can also provide energy.

When your dog consumes protein through his diet, his body digests it into amino acids and then absorbs them. His body will produce 12 of the amino acids naturally, but he must consume these other 10 essential amino acids through quality, nutrient-rich food:

  • Arginine
  • Methionine
  • Histidine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Isoleucine
  • Threonine
  • Leucine
  • Tryptophan
  • Lysine
  • Valine

If your dog suffers from protein deficiency, you may notice these symptoms:

  • Impaired growth
  • Depressed appetite or loss of weight
  • A rough, dull coat
  • A compromised immune system

 2. Fats and Fatty Acids

Fats provide your dog with energy and fatty acids, promote absorption of fat-soluble vitamins for healthier skin and coat, and add flavor to your dog’s food.

  • Two specific omega-6 fatty acids are essential for your dog’s health—linoleic acid consumed through diet, and arachidonic acid, produced naturally with an adequate supply of linoleic acid.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) help support immune response and manage inflammatory disorders.

3. Carbohydrates and Dietary Fiber

Digestible carbohydrates and dietary fiber help maintain healthy gastrointestinal movement while allowing your dog to feel full.

4. Essential Minerals

Essential minerals support healthy growth, development and functioning of your dog’s organs.

Mineral: Calcium and phosphorus

Part of your dog’s body supported: Skeletal growth, blood clotting, and muscle and nerve function

Mineral: Copper

Part of your dog’s body supported: Red blood cell production, and hair and skin pigmentation

Mineral: Electrolytes (chloride, potassium, sodium)

Part of your dog’s body supported: Regulation of body fluids, nerve and muscle function, and energy metabolism

Mineral: Iron

Part of your dog’s body supported: Proper cellular use of energy

Mineral: Magnesium

Part of your dog’s body supported: Muscle and nerve function

Mineral: Sulfur

Part of your dog’s body supported: Maintenance of healthy cartilage, insulin levels and blood clotting agents

Mineral: Zinc

Part of your dog’s body supported: Hair growth, skin health and nutrient metabolism

Mineral: Trace minerals (cobalt, iodine, manganese, selenium)

Part of your dog’s body supported: Thyroid function, nutrient metabolism, cartilage formation and cell protection from oxidation

5. Vitamins

Vitamins help your dog’s body develop and function properly. Your dog can store fat-soluble vitamins in his body once consumed, but must get a continual supply of water-soluble vitamins through his diet.

Fat soluble vitamins (supplied by diet and stored in body)

Vitamin: Vitamin A (retinol)

Part of your dog’s body supported: Vision, skeletal growth, skin and coat health

Vitamin: Vitamin D

Part of your dog’s body supported: Calcium absorption for bone growth and metabolism

Vitamin: Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)

Part of your dog’s body supported: Cell and tissue protection from oxidative damage

Vitamin: Vitamin K

Part of your dog’s body supported: Blood clotting

Water soluble vitamins (only supplied by diet)

Vitamin: Biotin

Part of your dog’s body supported: Metabolism and skin and coat health

Vitamin: Choline

Part of your dog’s body supported: Cell membrane health

Vitamin: Niacin

Part of your dog’s body supported: Metabolism and energy use

Vitamin: Pantothenic acid

Part of your dog’s body supported: Metabolism

Vitamin: Pyridoxine (B6)

Part of your dog’s body supported: Metabolism

Vitamin: Riboflavin (B2)

Part of your dog’s body supported: Cellular use of nutrients and oxidative reactions

Vitamin: Thiamine (B1)

Part of your dog’s body supported: Nervous system and energy use

Vitamin: Vitamin B12 and folic acid

Part of your dog’s body supported: Red blood cell formation

Vitamin: Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)

Part of your dog’s body supported: Immune function and collagen formation

6. Water

Most of the tissues in your dog’s body are comprised of 70%-90% water, so water is vital for his well-being. Besides supporting your dog’s overall health, water promotes healthy digestion and metabolism while regulating his body temperature. Provide your dog with a constant supply of fresh, cool water.

No matter what stage in life, your dog needs these basic nutrients to support healthy growth and life. Quantities of each nutrient needed will vary depending on your dog’s breed, age and lifestyle (active vs. less active).

Work with your vet to make sure your four-legged companion is getting all the nutrients he needs through a high quality food that promotes optimal health.

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