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Nutrition Nuggets
 
 
Your dog's nutrition is important for a healthy & happy life. petMD experts help you to know what to feed your dog, how much food to feed, and the differences in dog foods, so your dog gets optimum nutrition.
Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Dog Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of dog nutrition.

What’s Good for You is Not Always Good for Your Dog

September 02, 2011 / (5) comments

People and dogs share a lot in common. I’m sure you’ve heard the adage that some people and their dogs even look alike (check out these photos!), but since I’m the proud "mom" to a drooly boxer who can’t quite fit his tongue in his mouth, I hope this is not always the case. I can tell you, however, that the two of us do seem to enjoy a lot of the same things — long walks on a cool morning, for example. What we don’t share much of is food.

When most people think about what not to feed their dogs, they focus on food items that are potentially toxic … chocolate, grapes, raisins, xylitol (a sugar substitute often used in chewing gum), macadamia nuts, onions, etc. And yes, these need to be avoided absolutely. What is less well-recognized, however, is the risk that eating an imbalanced diet poses to a dog.

To get an idea of the different nutritional needs of dogs versus people, take a look at the MyBowl graphic. You’ll see that a dog’s diet should consist of approximately 25% protein, 50% carbohydrates, 10-15% healthy fats and oils, and the rest is filled out by sources of vitamins and minerals. Compare this to the nutritional guidelines for people, where approximately half of our plate should consist of fruits and vegetables, and fats and oils don’t even make an appearance. When it comes to nutrition, dogs are very different from people.

So what does this mean for owners?

It means that 90% of a dog’s diet should consist of a complete and balanced, commercially prepared dog food that is appropriate to a dog’s life stage (e.g., puppy versus adult) and is made from wholesome ingredients. An awful lot of research goes into producing these foods. For example, they must provide everything that is outlined in the Association of American Feed Control Official’s Nutrient Requirements for Dogs. This publication is based on the National Research Council’s Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats, the last edition of which was 424 pages long. Some pet food manufacturers even go the extra step of performing feeding trials with their diets to ensure that pets thrive when eating their foods.

If you are one of those rare owners who have the time and energy to cook special meals for their dogs, make sure you are using a recipe that was put together by a veterinary nutritionist and is appropriate for your dog’s life stage and any medical conditions he might have. Home-cooked diets should always contain protein and carbohydrate sources, as well as vitamin and mineral supplements in the correct proportions.

The remaining 10% of a dog’s diet falls under the category of treats (we’ve all gotta live, right?). These can be commercially prepared, or (and this is where my opinion might differ from other veterinary professionals out there) come directly from your refrigerator or pantry. Mini carrots, apple wedges, a bit of cooked, lean meat … these can all be appropriate treats for dogs (my dog loves bananas). Just make sure you take the extra calories into account and don’t inadvertently feed something you shouldn’t (e.g., something highly spiced or fatty). When in doubt, run any unusual offerings you might be considering by your veterinarian before feeding them to your dog.

How does your dog’s diet measure up?

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: Effie. Y. / via Flickr

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Comments  5

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  • You're Not Alone!
    09/02/2011 07:16am

    Just wanted to let you know that I'm enjoying your articles. But, as a cat person that knows practically nothing about dogs, I don't feel I can add to the discussion!

    Thanks for the great posts, Dr. Coates.

  • 09/04/2011 08:34am

    "You’ll see that a dog’s diet should consist of approximately 25% protein, 50% carbohydrates, 10-15% healthy fats and oils, and the rest is filled out by sources of vitamins and minerals."

    Not true. Carbs can be replaced by fat for energy. I think you should preface all of these remarks with "Hills says" or this is not a real discussion, only a thinly disguised product flog.

    There is no known minimum requirement for carbs in dogs:
    tp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1480633/pdf/canvetj00075-0058.pdf

    "On the basis of the previous discussion, dietary
    carbohydrates are not an essential part of the dog's
    diet. However, in terms of feed processing and supplying
    of an efficient and cost-effective dietary energy
    source, carbohydrates such as starch are very important.
    The ability to extrude a dog food (kibble feeds)
    and to provide a sufficient gel in a canned food
    requires the input of a significant level of carbohydrate.
    Thus carbohydrates are one of the most
    important dietary factors in a dog food supplying
    energy as well as the physical characteristics allowing
    for effective processing-manufacturing."

    So to make kibble and even canned food which "looks" appealing you need carbs. Not because a dog needs 50% of them in the diet.

    A clear case of the tail wagging the dog.

  • 09/27/2011 12:33pm

    That was a great article! Keep them coming!

  • 10/09/2011 09:57pm

    I just noticed this one on the list of blogs. 50% carbs, really? Even the Hills rep who gave us our shiny new nutrition books last fall said that non-lactating, adult dogs have NO carbohydrate requirement. Yes, they can use them for energy, but they can also use fats and proteins. Zero percent necessary to 50% recommended seems like one heck of a leap to me.

  • 10/11/2011 07:20am

    Since when did humans not need fats and oils in their diet? True they dont need too much but they are important nutrients right? Also not true to say that a dog needs 50% carbs. Or if it is true can you please share with us the science that proves this?

 



ABOUT NUTRITION NUGGETS

JENNIFER COATES, DVM

Photo of Jennifer

... graduated with honors from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999. In the years since, she has practiced veterinary medicine in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado. She is the author of several books about veterinary medicine and animal care, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms, Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian .

Jennifer also writes short stories that focus on the strength and importance of the human-animal bond and freelance articles relating to a variety of animal care and veterinary topics. Dr. Coates lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and pets.

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