By Lorie Huston, DVM
Feeding a high quality diet is one of the most important things you, as a dog owner, can do to keep your dog healthy and active. But what constitutes a high quality dog food and how can you tell if your dog is receiving the nutrition he needs to thrive?
A high quality diet is one that is complete and balanced, containing all of the nutrients necessary to support your dog’s body functions. There are six nutrient groups that are important for all dogs: proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water.
Proteins perform many functions and are important for growth, maintenance, reproduction, and repair of damaged tissues. Amino acids are the building blocks on which proteins are formed. Essential amino acids are those that are required in the diet because your dog’s body is incapable of synthesizing them in sufficient quantities. Non-essential amino acids are those that your dog’s body can synthesize so they are not required in the diet.
Fats are an important energy source but are also required for various body functions. Fatty acids, a specific type of fat, play an important role in regulating the body’s inflammatory response and are particularly important for your dog’s health – particularly for the skin and a coat.
Carbohydrates are another important source of energy for your dog. Carbohydrates include simple sugars such as glucose as well as more complex sugars such as fiber, which helps keep the intestinal tract healthy. Though there is not a minimum required carbohydrate requirement for dogs, carbohydrates present in food can provide a valuable source of fiber and energy, sparing the protein in the diet for more important body functions.
Vitamins are necessary in small amounts as catalysts for necessary chemical reactions that occur within your dog’s body tissues and cells.
Minerals are inorganic compounds that are important as components of bones and teeth as well as many other metabolic functions.
Many diets provide some water content for your dog, but access to a clean, fresh water supply is important. Water should not be overlooked as an important nutrient.
Dogs require adequate levels of nutrients in their diet to maintain health. If the nutrient balance is not correct, your dog may become ill as a result of nutrient excesses or deficiencies.
Nutrients in the diet are supplied by the ingredients that make up your pet’s diet. No one specific ingredient can provide complete and balanced nutrition for your dog. But each ingredient in your dog’s diet brings a unique set of nutrients to the diet and, added together, all of the ingredients provide a complete and balanced nutrient profile. Because each ingredient is necessary to balance the diet, no one ingredient is any more important than any other.
Organic substances that aid in the creation of proteins; also the end product of the decomposition of certain proteins.