are the building blocks of the body. They are made up from two different
types of amino acids, and dogs can manufacture some in their bodies
and others must be supplied in their food. These amino acids are
called essential and non-essential.
amino acids come from the dog’s diet because they are unable to
make those. Non-essential amino acids can be made within the body.
that the dog eats, such chicken or beef, are broken down within
the body by enzymes. They then reform as proteins that are of use
to the dog, for example, they may form muscles, hair, skin and antibodies.
The amount of protein required depends on the life stage or lifestyle
of the dog, i.e. growth, pregnancy or if the animal is working.
from animal sources — meat and meat byproducts — are more complete
and easier to extract and digest than proteins from plant sources.
Proteins form the enzymes that metabolize food into energy as well
as the hormones that guide various body functions. They can also
be metabolized to provide energy. High protein feeds are recommended
for puppies and working dogs, but too much protein can cause renal
(kidney) disease and has been implicated in some temperament problems.
protein requirement depends upon the life stage and activity of
the dog. Generally, puppies need more dietary protein than do adult
dogs. Caloric requirements are also high during growth phases, and
protein needs of a puppy can be met by a high quality protein providing
20 to 25% of dietary calories.
has shown that the minimum protein requirement for geriatric dogs
is about 50% greater than for younger adult dogs. However, diets
formulated for adult maintenance usually provide adequate protein.
Research has shown that the healthy geriatric dog utilizes protein
in a manner similar to the young adult dog.
protein deficiency in dogs results in poor food intake, growth retardation
or weight loss, subnormal concentrations of blood proteins, muscle
wasting, emaciation and death.
severe deficiency can cause a rough, dull coat, compromised function
of the immune system and poor milk production in reproducing bitches.
Animals maintained with inadequate protein reserves may appear healthy,
but are most susceptible to stresses, including increased susceptibility
to infections as well as the effects of toxic compounds or cancer-causing
(or low-calorie) diets formulated for sedentary dogs are lower in
fat and calories and may have a lower protein level. These diets
may also contain a higher percentage of crude fiber. A dog food
designed for weight reduction is not appropriate for young growing
puppies, or during pregnancy or nursing.
should make up about 40% to 55% of a balanced dry food diet for
dogs. They include sugars, starches and dietary fiber. The primary
function of carbohydrates is to provide energy. Basically, carbohydrates
are supplied in the diet by cereal grains and simple sugars, such
as glucose, sucrose (table sugar), and lactose (milk sugar).
are digested by enzymes in the small intestine or the gut. Most
of the carbohydrates in dog food diets are broken down and absorbed
as glucose or other simple sugars before being used for energy.
fibers are carbohydrates that are not completely digestible.
animals consume diets containing more carbohydrates than are needed,
the excess energy is stored in the form of glycogen in the liver
and muscles and is converted to fat. During periods of fasting,
stress, or exercise, glycogen is broken down to glucose and delivered
to the bloodstream to provide needed energy.
portion of the carbohydrates in pet foods is derived from cereal
grains. Cereal grains are usually processed by grinding, flaking
or cooking. These processes improve palatability and digestibility.
is a list of typical sources of carbohydrates found in dog foods:
is a general term used to describe complex carbohydrates which are
not digested by enzymes in the small intestine of dogs. Some fibers
can be partially degraded by normal microflora in the large intestine.
fiber has many effects within the gastrointestinal tract. Some fibers
swell with water or have a high water-holding capacity. A high or
low water-holding capacity can change the speed with which food
passes through the intestinal tract. The increased bulk of high-fiber
foods contributes to stomach distention and causes a dog to eat
fewer calories. Fiber influences the rate of passage of food through
the intestine by slowing stomach emptying, but the specific effects
vary with the type of fiber, how it is processed, and the amount
fed. Generally speaking, fiber has a normalizing effect on the rate
of passage of food through the intestine, slowing the rate in animals
with diarrhea and increasing it in constipation.
fiber also slows or decreases digestion and absorption of nutrients,
including fat, vitamins and minerals. As a protective mechanism,
fiber can bind to some toxins and prevent their absorption into
dietary fiber is associated with adverse effects such as the production
of loose stools, flatulence, increased stool volume and frequency,
and decreased dietary caloric density.
are essential for good health and play an important role in dog
food. Several of the benefits for your dog include: keep their skin
and coat healthy, allergy and inflammation control, improve immune
function and blood clotting, reproductive efficiency, and kidney
proper moderation, fats give your dog energy needed to run jump
and play, and they and keeps him cool when it’s warm and warm when
it’s cool. They also contribute to the way a food tastes, so your
dog will enjoy it.
fats are caloric dense ingredients that provide an important source
of essential fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and
need dietary fat and cholesterol for growth and to maintain proper
health. Adult dogs require essential fatty acids in the diet to
sustain metabolic and physiologic functions.
are commonly composed of three fatty acids attached to a glycerol
skeleton resulting in the name triglycerides. The fatty acids that
must be supplied in the diet of dogs are called essential fatty
high in too much fat will contribute to obesity in a sedentary dog,
because fats have more calories than protein or carbohydrates.
and Minerals – Supplements
foods also must contain vitamin and mineral supplements in concentrations
that provide balanced proportions of vitamins and minerals – too
much of one vitamin or mineral may interfere with the absorption
of another vitamin or mineral use.
and minerals are necessary for proper absorption of fats and carbohydrates
and for the chemical reactions in the body. Not only do organisms
need these nutrients, but they need them in proper amounts and ratios
for optimum health. For example, unless calcium and phosphorus are
in balance, neither will be properly absorbed or utilized, which
can lead to bone or muscle problems.
dogs may need vitamin or mineral supplements at some time during
their lives when recovering from illness or injury, and during pregnancy,
ask your veterinarian for his advice regarding supplements.
To prevent toxicity from developing, vitamin supplements should
not be given unless recommended and supervised by a veterinarian.
are divided into fat-soluble and water-soluble types. Fat-soluble
vitamins are stored in fatty tissue.
vitamins are A, D, E, and K. They are involved in several body functions,
including eyesight, bone formation and strength (with calcium),
cell stability, and blood coagulation.
vitamins are the B-complex, C (ascorbic acid). Water-soluble vitamins
are excreted from the body if they are not used through sweat, urine
start with the 4 fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E, and K
of all, fat soluble vitamins can build up in tissues and become
toxic. For example, excess Vitamin A can lead to bone disease, too
much Vitamin D can cause calcification of soft tissue, lungs, and
kidneys and the toxicity in Vitamin E overdose is being studied
to determine the extent on adverse effects on blood coagulation
and thyroid function.
Vitamin A has been the subject of much research in the fields of
animal nutrition and veterinary medicine. Vitamin A has a number
of functions necessary for the health and well-being of animals
including a role in normal vision, growth, immune system function
and reproduction. The plant source of vitamin A is beta-carotene
which animals must convert to the actual vitamin before it becomes
active and functions as vitamin A. Dogs are able to utilize carotene
A deficiency can cause several eye problems; including dryness,
corneal ulcerations, and inflammation of the conjunctiva, but clinical
cases of vitamin A deficiency in dogs are uncommon. This is probably
because they are able to consume sufficient quantities of the vitamin
from commercial diets. In addition, dogs are able to store vitamin
A in the liver and use these reserves during periods of inadequate
consumption such as a debilitating disease.
dog foods provide adequate amounts of vitamin A in dog food products
so that supplementation is not necessary. Over supplementation of
vitamin A could cause toxicity in animals, and result in deformed
bones, weight loss, anorexia, and even death. Toxicity occurs when
a chronic excessive intake exceeds the liver capacity to store the
vitamin, or when large short-term doses exceed the liver’s ability
to remove the vitamin from an animal’s circulation.
Although vitamin D is considered a vitamin, it is also considered
a hormone and is one of three major hormones involved in the regulation
of calcium in the body. Its primary functions are to help in the
mineralization of bone and to increase the absorption of calcium
and phosphorus from the intestine. Vitamin D can be acquired in
the diet, or it can be converted in the skin following exposure
to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight. Without adequate vitamin
D in the diet, young growing puppies could develop rickets, a disease
in which bones do not mineralize but rather remain soft or become
Commercial pet foods provide adequate amounts of vitamin D in dog
food products, so that supplementation is not necessary. Like vitamin
A, liver or fish oils are rich sources of vitamin D, and caution
must be used when enhancing the palatability of commercial diets
with high levels of these supplements. Excessive amounts of vitamin
D fed over long periods of time could result in mineralization (or
hardening) of soft tissues in the body such as the heart and kidneys.
D deficiency causes rickets – a deficiency disease that affects
puppies during the period of skeletal growth. It’s characterized
by soft and deformed bones, and is caused by failure to assimilate
and use calcium and phosphorus normally due to inadequate sunlight
or vitamin D.
Vitamin E is used to describe a family of chemical compounds called
tocopherols. It’s an important vitamin for reproduction, and a biological
antioxidant. Tocopherols are found in plant oils, particularly in
association with the polyunsaturated oils from seeds such as safflower
and wheat germ, or soybean oil. Lack of vitamin E in the diet could
result in damage to the wall or membrane of cells throughout the
body. As a nutrient, vitamin E works in conjunction with other nutrients
(selenium, a micro mineral and cysteine, an amino acid) as an antioxidant
to minimize damage to cells from oxidation.
tocopherols are more active in the body as nutrients than others.
The alpha form of the vitamin is the most active as a nutrient,
and it is the compound added to pet food to meet the animal’s dietary
requirement. When vitamin E is used as a preservative, a mixture
of several forms of tocopherol is added to prevent oxidation of
the fat in the diet, but is not considered part of the nutrient
content of the diet.
is no known toxicity due to oral ingestion of vitamin E in animals.
Good quality commercial pet foods contain adequate amounts of this
vitamin to meet an animal’s dietary needs.
of Vitamin E can cause muscle tissue breakdown, reproductive failure,
and impairment of immune response.
Vitamin K was the last of the four fat-soluble vitamins to be discovered.
The most common forms of vitamin K in the diet come from green,
leafy plants and vegetables. The major function of this vitamin
is as a clotting agent within the blood. Because the dietary requirement
for vitamin K is so low, a natural or spontaneous deficiency has
never been reported in dogs.
dog foods provide adequate amounts of vitamin K in dog food products
so that supplementation is not necessary. Vitamin K can be synthesized
by bacteria in the dog’s intestine and does not need to be added
to the diet under ordinary circumstances.
Finally, we have the water-soluble vitamins: B-complex and C (ascorbic
B-Complex vitamins are required in small amounts in the daily diet
and are essential to many critical functions in the dog’s body.
Although these nutrients don’t provide energy themselves, they are
critical in the metabolism of protein, carbohydrates and fat, which
results in energy for body processes. Unlike the fat-soluble vitamins,
the B vitamins are not stored to any extent in the body and must
be consumed daily. Deficiencies of any one of these vitamins are
extremely rare in healthy dogs fed commercial dog foods, because
they are provided in adequate and proper amounts and supplementation
is rarely necessary.
state could occur for one or more of the B-complex vitamins in animals
fed homemade diets that are not properly formulated or balanced.
C (Ascorbic Acid)
Your dog can normally manufacture all of the vitamin C his body
needs. The dog’s glandular system is different than the glandular
system of a human. A dog is able to synthesize (manufacture its
own) vitamin C by its liver using trace minerals in its diet.
individuals believe that dogs manufacture their own vitamin C in
sufficient quantities to meet individual requirements and supplementation
vitamin C synthesis in dogs may be inadequate on a low protein diet
and a dog may not be able to synthesize the vitamin and so require
it in the diet. In addition, some dogs under stressful conditions
may not make enough.
C synthesis also declines as a dog ages. Stress, degenerative diseases,
infections and inflammation rapidly deplete vitamin C levels. Joint
function also increases vitamin C requirements.
vitamin is also a water-soluble vitamin and has a primary metabolic
role in the body involving the production of collagen. Some people
believe that Vitamin C helps prevent injuries, fights stresses,
and assists in the prevention of hip dysplasia and arthritis.
C is needed for good bone development and the strengthening of surrounding
ligaments. If you and your vet decide that vitamin C is warranted,
begin by adding the supplement slowly. Gradually increase the dosage.
Sudden increases in Vitamin C may result in diarrhea.
check with your veterinarian for his recommendations!
are usually grouped into macro (major) and micro (trace) categories.
Macro-minerals are needed in greater amounts in the diet, and are
found in larger amounts in the body than micro-minerals. They all
are essential for bone formation, muscle metabolism, fluid balance,
and nervous system function.
nutrients, for which the dietary requirement is expressed in grams,
including calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, and
and phosphorus are necessary in a specific ratio for bone formation
and strength. An imbalance in the ratio will cause bone problems.
All dog foods available today have more than enough calcium for
a large or giant breed, so supplementation with this mineral is
is found in soft tissue and bone; it interacts with calcium to provide
proper heart, muscle, and nervous tissue function and aids in metabolism
of potassium and sodium. Deficiency leads to muscle weakness and
is found in fluids outside the tissue cells and performs a function
potassium. It is usually found in the diet as sodium chloride (better
known as salt) and is rarely deficient. Excess sodium has been linked
to hypertension in dogs.
is found within tissue cells and is important in cellular activity.
A deficiency causes muscle weakness and heart and kidney lesions.
Trace minerals, for which the dietary requirement is expressed in
milligrams per day (or less); include iron, copper, manganese, zinc,
iodine, selenium, fluorine, cobalt, molybdenum, etc., Although these
dietary requirements are minimal, they are essential to good health.
speaking, trace minerals are necessary not only in the production
of red blood cells, but also in oxygen transport, skin pigmentation
and preservation, the functioning of enzymatic systems, the synthesis
of thyroid hormones, etc. Each trace mineral fulfills one or more
roles in a number of bodily functions.
is critical for healthy red blood cells and an essential component
of some enzymes. Iron from animal sources appears to be more readily
absorbed than that from vegetable sources.
is necessary in production of melanin, the pigment that colors coat
and skin, and is linked with iron metabolism. Deficiencies can cause
a bone disorder and anemia even if iron intake is normal.
is heavily involved in skin and coat health, enzyme function, and
protein synthesis. Deficiencies lead to poor growth, anorexia, testicular
atrophy, and skin lesions.
is known about the need for manganese and selenium in the dog, but
known to be necessary for a variety of reactions.
water intake is extremely important – it can be a matter of life
beings need water and water is more important than food!
The entire body of your dog and all its functions depend on water
and without it they will quickly become ill. Water helps food digestion,
aids in the body’s absorption of nutrients and replaces water lost
in normal body secretions, is essential in helping regulate body
temperature, lubricates body tissues, and as a fluid medium for
the blood and lymph systems.
water is involved in practically every reaction within a dog’s body,
any large deviation will be associated with adverse effects. An
animal’s body, therefore, has several systems designed to maintain
constant water balance.
acquire water mainly by drinking water. They also get water from
the water content of food, and as a by-product from metabolism of
carbohydrates, proteins and fats the dog eats.
your dog sufficiently hydrated is very important. Dogs can be thirsty
anytime so you should leave water out for your dog all the time
and keep the water bowl clean.
is excreted in large volumes during high levels of energy and activity.
Great amounts of water are depleted through respiration, salivation,
urination and transfer of heat dissipated by the tongue. This loss
of water can also vary depending on the temperature. It is imperative
to compensate water depletion with readily available water.
is lost in urine, feces, respiration, and to a small extent in flakes
of skin, saliva, and nasal secretions. For nursing females, water
will also be required for milk production.
bottom line regarding water:
remember, if you believe you have a watering problem, please see
your vet immediately. A delay can be a matter of life and death.
allow a dog to drink heavy amounts of water before, during, or immediately
warm weather, your pets will drink more water than during cold weather.
Change your dog’s water often in warm weather, and keep your dog’s
water dish in the shade. The water will taste better, and it will
also keep your dog’s body cooler.
water should always be kept clean, cool and fresh.
you and your dog are swimming in the ocean, be sure to bring drinking
water along, because it is not healthy for your dog to drink salty
sufficient water intake, your dogs’ bodily functions can shut down.
the other side of the coin: Too much water (excessive drinking)
may be an indication of problems as well.
of these problems are minor such as more salt intake than normal,
a lot of exercise, and temporary stressful conditions. These conditions
generally will quickly correct themselves or can be handled by diet
and common sense.
But, there are more than 65 serious medical conditions that can
stimulate excessive water intake. For example, kidney failure, Diabetes,
Urinary tract infections, over-active thyroid gland, etc., etc.
may be dehydrated even when drinking plenty of water. There are
two simple ways to determine dehydration.
On the upper back just below the shoulders, using your thumb and
forefinger, pinch the skin gently, lift up and then let go. If the
skin snaps back easily, your dog is absorbing enough water.
Run your thumb or index finger along the gum line. If the gum line
is wet and slippery, then your dog is OK.
either of these tests fails, let your pet keep drinking and call
the vet immediately.
puppies are easily over-watered and can this can hamper housebreaking.
Therefore, puppies should be on a strict feed-water-walk schedule
as soon as possible in order to successfully accomplish housebreaking
and to establish normal eating and drinking habits. Ask your veterinarian
for his recommendations on water intake.
Diets and Supplementation
you decide to switch dog foods, do it slowly over a seven to ten
day period. Gradually add more of the new food, while reducing the
amount of your previous food, until you are feeding only the new
slow transition will help avoid any digestive upset, and will not
be noticeable to your dog if he’s a finicky eater.
long as you feed your dog a complete and balanced diet, there is
no need to supplement with vitamins or minerals unless recommended
by your veterinarian.