We know that our dogs need a balanced diet to stay fit and healthy throughout their life – despite the fact that they’d be quite happy to live on treats and table scraps!
Many owners have probably spent a lot of time researching the most healthy diet for their dogs. And whether you settle on a raw food diet, dry food, kibble, or fresh meals, there are still ways you can help to boost their nutrient intake with some healthy additions.
What Makes A Healthy Diet For Dogs?
A healthy and well balanced diet for dogs isn’t so different to a healthy human diet. It needs to contain plenty of whole foods that are packed with protein, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, fiber, acids, and water.
The purpose of a healthy diet isn’t just for energy – though that is a very important aspect. Balanced nutritional intake also contributes to healthy growth, reproduction, and the prevention of diseases and illnesses.
The benefit of choosing a pre-made dog food rather than making their dinners from scratch is that almost all dog foods on the market are designed following strict guidance. This ensures that good quality dog foods will all provide a balanced level of nutrition.
Choosing a whole food diet is best for dogs because they contain whole, unprocessed ingredients that retain their goodness when cooked into a dog food recipe. Processed food is often cooked, heated, frozen, or otherwise altered enough that it no longer holds the same nutritional value as it did as a whole food.
What Nutrients Do Dogs Need In Their Diet?
These are some of the key nutrients that dogs need to intake daily to ensure good health. Adding ingredients that are rich in these nutrients is a good way to give your dog's diet a healthy boost.
We know that protein is a great source of energy. This happens through the production of amino acids that can only be created by foods and are not found naturally within a dog’s body. But proteins also contribute to healthy tendons, ligaments, muscle, skin, blood, nails, and hair.
Meat is one of the best ways to feed protein to dogs as animal protein is rich in essential amino acids. Many plants are also rich in protein and can act as a great protein supplement within your dog’s diet. However it is not recommended to feed a dog on plant protein alone.
Like protein, carbohydrates are an essential source of energy for dogs. Carbs are especially useful for growing puppies with higher energy needs. They also help to generate heat and supply glucose and dietary fiber.
While we think of carbs in a human diet as being centered around bread, pasta, and rice, there are actually plenty of dog-safe vegetables that are high in carbohydrates. Dogs can also eat oats, corn, potato and sweet potato, rice, and other grains to boost their carbohydrate intake.
Both humans and animals need fat to survive – despite its false reputation as an unhealthy addition to our diets. Dietary fats are actually essential for creating energy, absorbing vitamins, and keeping the skin and coat healthy.
Meats including pork and chicken, fish and fish oils, vegetable oils, and flax seed are all healthy sources of fat that are essential to dogs’ diets.
Dietary fiber is a form of carbohydrate that is essential for the digestive system. It helps with dogs (and humans) gastrointestinal function and contributes to a healthy gut and colon. There are two different types of dietary fiber:
- Soluble fiber, which holds water to create softer feces. This is often found in fruit and seeds.
- Insoluble fiber does not absorb water and adds to fecal bulk. This is often found in beets, bran, flaxseeds, and guar gum which are all sources of cellulose.
There are a wide and diverse range of vitamins that dogs need to maintain healthy functions, from blood to bones to their eyes to the immune system and even their DNA. Vitamins are not proteins, carbohydrates, or fats and only a small amount of each vitamin is necessary to keep the body functioning normally.
It’s important to understand how much of each vitamin your dog requires, and whether your chosen dog food is fulfilling that need. Vitamins cannot be produced naturally by the body so it’s essential that dogs get their intake through food. However, an overdose of vitamins can lead to toxicity and deficiencies can cause a variety of health issues.
- Vitamin A contributes to healthy growth, reproduction, vision, skin, and immune function. It is often found in fish oil, eggs, dairy products, and liver.
- Vitamin D contributes to healthy bones. It’s often found in fish and fish oils, eggs, dairy products, liver, and beef. Synthetic Vitamin D supplements are also common.
- Vitamin E contributes to healthy skin, weight, immune system, and brain function and acts as an antioxidant. It is often found in seeds, cereals, and vegetable oils.
- Vitamin K contributes to healthy blood and bone development. It’s often found in fish, liver, and meals including oilseed and alfalfa meal.
- Vitamin B6 contributes to the metabolism of essential amino acids. It is often found in nuts and whole grains, vegetables, and meat.
- Vitamin B3 contributes to healthy enzymatic reactions within the body. It is often found in meat and fish products, cereals, and beans and pulses.
- Vitamin B12 contributes to healthy cell function and a wide range of metabolic functions within the body. It is often found in meat, milk and dairy products, and some vegetables.
Can I Feed My Dog Vitamin Supplements?
As well as adding healthy whole foods to your dog’s diet for a nutrient boost, there are also vet-approved vitamin supplements on the market that are designed especially for dogs. Though an approved, balanced diet of dog food should supply your pet with all the nutrition they need, there are plenty of reasons – from stage of life to medical conditions – that might mean supplements are a beneficial addition.
Always speak to your vet before adding a new supplement or ingredient to your dog’s diet – especially if it is for medical purposes. A medical professional will be able to advise on the best sources of nutrition to fulfill your dog’s unique needs.
Front of the Pack’s The One supplement is a clinically-proven eight in one supplement that helps give dogs a new lease of life. It contains nutrients specially selected to improve joints, reduce anxiety and increase mental sharpness, aid digestion, increase skin and coat health, boost immunity, support a healthy heart, and even improve their breath. And you don’t need to worry about any added nasties: all the ingredients are right there on the Front of the Pack.
Do I Need To Change My Dog’s Diet?
Throughout their life, it might be necessary to make small adjustments to your dog’s diet. Young puppies, for example, will need a lot more protein and energy-giving nutrients than a senior dog that is done growing and doesn’t move about so much.
Similarly, a pregnant or lactating dog might need additional supplements to help them grow and feed healthy young without encountering any deficiencies. There are vet-approved dog foods on the market for almost all stages of a dog’s life. But if you’re thinking of adjusting your dog’s diet, speak to your vet for approval first – and always make sure that any healthy ingredients being added to their food are suitable to be ingested by dogs.