Are You Feeding Your Dog Appropriately?
A dog’s nutritional requirements vary depending on your pup’s size, breed, age and activity level. And dog food labels don’t always help you figure out what the right mix is. But you can learn how to decode the confusing terminology of dog food ingredients.
Ancestrally, a dog met his nutritional requirements by consuming mostly a diet of raw meat with an occasional berry or plant. But like all things that have become processed in our modern food system, it’s sometimes difficult to discern which products and current trends best serve your best friends.
Start at the Beginning
An adult dog’s nutritional requirements vary from those of a puppy. And just like humans, dogs need a variety of well-sourced ingredients to perform at their best. The main nutritional requirements for most dogs include:
- Protein. A little less than one gram per pound of your dog’s ideal breed weight is the recommended daily amount of protein a dog needs. A dog that’s a healthy 30 pounds should get about 25 grams of protein in his diet every day.
- Fats. Your pooch needs less fat than protein, so give your 30-pound healthy dog about 14 grams a day. Fatty acids help meet a dog’s nutritional requirements. Their growth, brains, eyes, muscles, heart and skin/coat are all affected not only by the amount of fats consumed but also by the quality and sources.
- Vitamins and minerals. The minimum requirements for vitamins A, C, D and E are taken care of when you rely on whole food sources for your dog’s nutritional requirements. Synthetic vitamins and minerals are commonly included in commercial dog food, but these may actually be unhealthy. Opt for the real thing.
- Carbohydrates. Dogs have adapted the ability to digest carbs for energy, so you don’t need to jump on the Paleo bandwagon unless your pooch has grain allergies. But there are no dog’s nutritional requirements for carbohydrates. If your pooch seems happier and healthier with some carbs in his diet, stick to veggies and fruits whenever possible.
- Water. Your dog's nutritional requirements aren’t complete without enough water. As a rule, make sure your pup gets one-half to one ounce of water per pound, every day.
Making Up the Differences
Still-growing puppies need considerably more fat and protein. Give your puppy about 56 grams of protein and 21 grams of fat while he weighs between 12 and 30 pounds. By the time your guy becomes elderly (at about nine or 10 years old), start cutting calories, as he’s most likely not burning nearly as much. Obesity is a problem for older dogs, leading to a host of health complications.
In general, the amount of calories you feed your pooch should flow from his activity levels. More active? More calories. Since determining the ideal calorie consumption for your dog is a moving target, follow your vet’s advice for your dog’s nutritional requirements, including calories. And don’t forget to count those snacks!
Understanding the Labels
Each state is responsible for regulating dog food ingredients, but the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)<https://petfood.aafco.org/> is an organization that sets nutritional standards interprets government regulations for pet food makers. In most states, dog food labeling pretty much mimics the requirements for human food labels.
And like the labels on your kids’ meals, it’s never as simple as just reading the ingredients. Proteins, for example, are far more complex than that blanket term indicates. Different types of proteins come from different sources. Meat and grains are the most common sources of proteins, but don’t overdo grain if you’re concerned about your dog’s nutritional requirements.
Nutrition Trends to Watch in 2018
Just as trends in “people food” change regularly, so dog food trends follow certain paths, often in the same vein. And just as sure as these ideas are popular now, so you can expect them to change in another 10 years or so. Some of the current thinking to meet your dog’s national requirements includes:
- Natural foods with fewer additives and chemicals. Many natural food proponents warn you to watch out for protein substitutes. On many dog food labels, you’ll find listed something called meal, as in “beef meal.” Meal is made from cooked, dried carcasses containing stomach, hide, hooves, bones, organs, beaks and more. Meal isn’t as nutritious as real meat, of course, and its nutrient quality suffers even more from the high temperatures involved in its processing.
- Raw food supplements. Like many foodie trends, the raw-food movement isn’t backed up by science yet, but many proclaim a multitude of virtues, from shinier coats to boosted energy levels when they feed their dogs raw foods. A few examples:
o Eggs provide complete protein,usually five or sixgrams, depending on the size of the egg. Eggs also have some fats and vitamins. And the shells contain calcium.
o Vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, green beans, potatoes, peas, sweet potatoes, cucumber, and Brussel sprouts are all good for achieving your dog’s nutritional requirements.
- Fruits like pineapple, strawberry, peaches, pears, oranges and mangos can all provide great benefits. They’re recommended for your dog’s diet. Just don’t overdo it.
- Cooked or raw, fish is heavy in omega-3s and fatty acids. A sardine from a can packed in oil has about three grams of protein. And your pooch may love it.
- Lifestyle specific. Just as older dogs tend to slow down and require fewer calories, so indoor pups have more specific needs than dogs that run with you through the park every morning. Look for specific ingredients aimed at the needs of dogs in their various stages of growth, as well as their differing activity levels.
- Added supplements.Many dog owners insist that their beloved pets are so much better off with added supplements like omega-3s, vitamins C and D, calcium and other minerals. The claims are that dogs, like their owners, can use a little help sometimes when their diets don’t provide all the necessary nutrients to fight disease, obesity and age-related conditions.
- Veggie dogs. Many of the same factors that go into deciding the best nutritional choices for you and your family are similar to those for your dogs. Vegetarianism is the one trend to draw the line. People may do better on veggie diets, but it is very difficult if not impossible to find sufficient protein in plants necessary to meet your dog’s nutritional requirements. They are carnivores by nature.