Welcome to the new petMD Nutrition Center, developed in partnership with Hill’s Science Diet. Check it out; it’s pretty cool — particularly the "MyBowl" feature for dogs. I think you’ll find a lot of interesting and perhaps surprising information there.
MyBowl is an interactive tool that helps owners learn about proper canine nutrition. Here are a few of the highlights (just in case you don’t have time to take a look at it right now). A dog food bowl is divided into the following categories, each of which is an essential component to a well-balanced dog diet:
- Carbohydrates for energy, fiber, and to provide a natural source of vitamins and minerals.
- Fats and oils for energy, vitamin absorption, nervous system health, and taste.
- Proteins for energy, muscle growth and maintenance.
- Minerals for growth, tissue maintenance,and general health.
- Vitamins for immune system functioning, anti-oxidant activity, and general health.
- Next to the food bowl is a sparkling bowl of water to emphasize the importance of adequate hydration.
Canine nutrition is a complex topic, one that many owners, and frankly, many veterinarians don’t fully understand. Thankfully, for those of us who feed a high quality commercial diet, the pet food manufacturers have done a lot of the work for us. Reputable companies make sure that their products adhere to the 37 nutrient requirements for dogs as put forth by the Association of American Feed Control Officers (AAFCO), and/or perform special feeding trials to guarantee that their foods provide complete and balance nutrition for our pets.
Creating the right balance between all the different nutrients that dogs require is essential. Too much of something can be just as dangerous as too little. Of course quality matters as well, but I think many owners inherently understand this last point and look for things like fresh chicken and whole grains to be included high up on the ingredient list of a dog food (ingredients are always listed from the most to the least predominant component of the food based on weight). Balance is a little harder to appreciate though. I use the following analogy when talking to owners:
Apples are good for us, but if all we ate were apples, even if they were the best, naturally produced apples out there, our health would deteriorate pretty quickly. We should eat those high-quality apples, but in combination with a protein source, some healthy fats, whole grains, etc.
Now human and canine nutritional needs are not the same, so we can take this analogy too far, but that is where MyBowl can be so helpful.Use it to examine your dog’s current diet. How does it stack up? If you are considering changing dog foods, use it to compare several different diets that are appropriate for your dog’s stage of life — puppy, adult, or mature — and pick the one that best meets his or her needs.
Happy (and healthy) eating!
Dr. Jennifer Coates
Image: JnL / via Flickr