Dog Food Nutrition – The Basics
Before I can decide if a food for my dog is even worth dating, I have to understand basic dog food nutrition requirements.
It is generally agreed that dogs primarily need protein and fats, vitamins and minerals, and (up for debate) carbohydrates. And, of course quite importantly, they need water.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) published nutritional minimums for dog foods, and these minimums are widely referenced regardless of AAFCO politics (a whole different discussion.)
|Macro Nutrient||Growth (Puppy and Reproduction)||Adult Maintenance|
I suggest reading SlimDoggy.com’s explanation of protein in dog foods.
What seems to be missing from the AAFCO’s charts are requirements for senior dogs. I believe my senior dogs need more protein than the “Adult Maintenance” minimum. And the protein needs to be highly digestible. This ASPCA article (specifically bullet point #5) explains why.
Just like with people food, there are “good” fats and “bad” fats for dogs. It boils down to looking at the food source in ingredients listings. Here’s an excellent SlimDoggy.com list of “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” of fat sources.
Once again, I’m going to point you to this SlimDoggy.com article to get a synopsis of the role of carbohydrates for dogs, and lists of “good and not so good” carbohydrate food sources.
Vitamins and Minerals
Since I’ve already decided to date manufactured dog foods for the immediate future (in other words, not go “raw” or home made at least for the next several months), I’m going to rely on dog food manufacturers to make sure the mix of vitamins and minerals are generally good. I will however look closely at food sources and ingredients, and manufacturer reputations.
I supplement my dogs’ food with quality fish oil in an attempt to reduce itching and scratching. I also often use fresh, natural foods as snacks. Here is an excellent short list of Super Foods for dogs supplied in a cute infographic by The Lazy Pit Bull.
I have it on my to-do list to delve more into vitamins and minerals to verify my dogs are getting what they need, and I talk to my vet specifically about this.
I am not an expert, nor should I have to be to feed my dogs good food. I am simply a regular dog person reading a lot of information and talking to a number of people to get an idea how to best weed out the bad dog food dates and find the good ones.
It is important to take your dog to your vet on a regular basis and to discuss nutrition for your dogs with your vet. Even if you decide to agree to disagree with your veterinarian, you will benefit by your dog’s health care professional knowing what they are eating.
Read More in this Series
Part 1 proposed a plan to find the “perfect” dog food.
Part 2 recognizes that dog food choices are personal (like dating).
Part 3 outlines basic nutritional requirements for dogs.
Part 4 discusses driving forces behind dog food decision making.
Part 5 helps us narrow down our dog food choices by being picky about ingredients.
Part 6 discusses cost estimates and success factors. It is the final entry in this series.