Certain nutrients are required by the dog’s body for energy, growth and maintenance.
1. Water makes up 60 to 70 percent of a dog’s body weight and is essential to life. As little as a 15 percent loss can result in death. Food can supply a small portion of your dog’s water requirements. Dry dog food is approximately 10 percent water and canned food may contain up to 85 percent. Dogs should have clean, fresh water available to them at all times.
2. Proteins are the basic building materials for the body and are essential to growth, maintenance, reproduction, and repair. They are composed of two groups of amino acids. Essential amino acids can’t be produced in sufficient amounts by the body and must be consumed in food. They are arginine, methionine, histidine, phenylalanine, isoleucine, threonine, leucine, tryptophan, lysine, and valine. Non-essential amino acids can be synthesized in the dog’s body and are not necessary in the diet.
Meat, fish, and eggs provide the complete array of essential amino acids. Vegetables, cereals, and soy also contain protein but not all of the essential amino acids. Raw egg white should not be fed to dogs as it contains avidin, an anti-vitamin, which binds biotin from egg yolk.
3. There are no established guidelines for carbohydrates in the canine diet, but studies suggest that carbohydrates and fiber are important in intestinal health and reproduction. Certain fibers help manage chronic diarrhea. The most beneficial fibers, such as beet pulp, are moderately fermentable.
4. Fats are concentrated with more than twice the food energy of proteins and carbohydrates. Essential in the production of some hormones and for absorption and utilization of fat-soluble vitamins, they also provide a cushion under the skin and insulation for internal organs. Essential fatty acids can’t be synthesized in sufficient amounts in the dog’s body and must be consumed in the diet. Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are important for healing inflammation. The optimal ratio of omega-6 to omegs-3 fatty acids for dogs is between 5 and 10 to 1. This ratio is impossible to determine in a homemade diet. For the benefits of this ratio, a specially formulated food that guarantees this ratio is best.
5. Vitamins, in small amounts, are essential to dogs for their role in normal metabolic functioning. Most vitamins can not be synthesized in the body and must be consumed in the diet. However, if your dog is eating a complete and balanced diet, vitamin supplements aren’t necessary. Hypervitaminosis, poisoning due to excess vitamins, is more common that hypovitaminosis and can cause brittle bones, dry skin, and soft tissue calcification or joint calcification.
6. Minerals are important in the structure of bones and teeth, for maintaining fluid balance, and for their role in metabolic function.
Source: Adapted from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals