If you have brought home a new puppy, or your adult dog is aging into a senior pet, you may be overwhelmed by all the canine diet options. Each brightly colored bag boasts premium ingredients that will ensure your furry pal stays happy and healthy. But, since each food claims to be the best, how do you choose? You naturally want to purchase the optimal diet for your best friend, but you’re at a loss on how to choose a high quality food. We’ll let you in on a secret—no single food is the “best.” Determining which food will work well for your pet is trial and error, and what suits one dog, may not work for your other dog. Follow the World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s (WSAVA) guidelines on selecting your pet’s best diet.

How does proper nutrition benefit my dog?

Regardless of the specific brand or diet you choose for your dog, high quality food is critical for good health. Choosing an appropriate diet will not only help prevent many problems, including allergies, nutritional deficiencies, skin and coat disorders, and obesity, but will also provide the essential building blocks for a healthy, happy pet. 

The correct combination of protein, carbs, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water ensures your pet receives the proper nutrition for fighting off infection, performing daily activities, and growing and repairing muscle, bone, and teeth. A nutritionally unbalanced diet can adversely affect your dog’s digestion, bone development, muscle repair, and immune system. 

What key nutrients does my dog need for good health?

Some pet food manufacturers employ veterinary nutritionists, who strive to formulate high quality, well-balanced diets, carefully calculating the percentage of each vital nutrient to ensure the food meets the needs of pets in various life stages, and with unique dietary needs, such as those in heart or kidney failure. Your four-legged friend’s diet should contain these essential nutrients:

  • Protein — Protein is composed of essential and non-essential amino acids. Every body cell is made up of protein, making this nutrient integral for building skin, hair, muscles, organs, and other tissues. Protein is also necessary to repair damaged cells and make new ones, so is especially important for growing or pregnant pets. The protein in your dog’s diet ensures they can build and maintain strong muscles, repair cells, and produce hormones and antibodies.

Examples include chicken, beef, lamb, fish, eggs, animal byproducts, wheat gluten, and corn gluten.

  • Carbohydrates — Carbohydrates fuel your dog’s body cells and provide energy. Fiber, a type of carbohydrate, is vital for promoting good digestion and elimination.

Examples include corn, rice, barley, oats, potatoes, and wheat.

Carbs—more specifically grains—often get a bad rap, especially in diet fads, but they’re essential for healthy nutrition. Despite the popular belief about pets with allergies being allergic to the grain in their diet, food allergies in dogs are relatively rare, according to Tufts University. Tufts found that food allergies that do develop in dogs are generally to meat rather than grain, and listed proteins found in chicken and beef as the two most common causes. Furthermore, grain-free diets may be dangerous for your dog—The Food and Drug Administration is currently investigating a potential link between grain-free diets and heart disease in dogs. If you have any questions about the safety of your dog’s diet, contact Dr. Schild for a nutritional consultation.

  • Fat — Fat provides a great deal of energy to your dog—more than twice the amount found in protein or carbs. The omega-3 fatty acids found in fat keep skin, fur, and joints healthy, while appropriate amounts of fat are necessary for absorbing certain vitamins, boosting brain function, lessening inflammation, and insulating the body.

Examples include animal fat, fish oil, and vegetable and plant oils.

  • Vitamins and minerals — Along with various vitamins, minerals like calcium and phosphorus help maintain the nervous system, boost immunity, strengthen teeth and bones, and maintain muscle health. Vitamins generally reduce the damage from everyday activities, while minerals promote the normal function of the body’s cells responsible for overall health. A well-balanced diet contains the appropriate amount of vitamins and minerals for your dog’s life stage, avoiding dangerous overdoses and deficiencies. 

  • Water — Like people, your dog’s body is composed mostly of water, so proper hydration is essential for all bodily functions, such as digestion, eliminating waste, and regulating body temperature. If your dog subsists solely on dry food rather than canned or wet food, they may drink much more, so always ensure plenty of fresh, cool water is available. 

A well-balanced diet with high quality nutrients will help your furry pal remain in peak condition, and fight off a variety of diet-related illnesses. 

Proper nutrition provides the foundation for a healthy pet, but finding the right dog food can be challenging. Schedule a nutritional consultation with Kennedy Heights Animal and Bird Hospital’s Dr. Schild, so together, we can determine the best diet for your canine companion.