Dog food is something every pup parent must think about at some moment (and some even take it for granted). At BareItAllPetFoods.com, we don’t take your pup’s nutrition lightly.
We want to ensure that you are giving your furry friend the best life possible, and a big part of that is providing them with proper nutrition.
When it comes to what dogs eat, there has been a lot of evolution and learnings over the past century. In the past, research wasn’t as developed, and people didn’t know what nutrients dogs needed to stay healthy. As a result, many dog foods on the market were not as nutritious or held to the standards they are today.
Nowadays, the store can be cluttered with fancy terms like “Grain Free”, “Human Grade”, “Premium,” etc… All of these terms have special meanings that may or may not reflect the quality of the food.
That said, let’s dive into this in-depth guide to dog nutrition.
Canine Nutrition 101
All dogs (small, big, or large) need certain nutrients to stay in tip-top shape. These nutrients can be found in both wet and dry food formulas and in different ingredients.
At a high level, your canine friend will need six essential nutrients:
- Protein: for strong muscles and healthy organs.
- Fat: for energy, a healthy coat, and to absorb certain vitamins.
- Carbohydrates: for energy and fiber.
- Vitamins and minerals: for a robust immune system, bones, and general health.
- Water: for hydration and general health.
Protein: According to WebMD (Pets), an adult dog (1 to 7 years old) should consume 10% of its daily calories in protein. Protein is a building block for your pup’s muscles, organs, and coat. Good sources of protein for dogs include:
Fat: Often, pet parents are worried about feeding their pups too much fat. However, it is essential for energy, a healthy coat, and to absorb certain vitamins. According to NationalAcademies.org, a minimum of approximately 5.5% of a canine diet should come from fat. The following ingredients are considered to be excellent sources of fat:
- Fish Oils
- Chicken fat
- Beef fat
- Salmon oil
Carbohydrates: A topic that is highly debated among pet parents is whether or not carbs are necessary for dogs. Although a dog doesn’t technically “need” carbs to survive, they do provide your pup with energy and fiber. One thing is for certain, quantity and quality are key when it comes to carbs in dog food.
If we use the dog’s ancestral diet to draw a conclusion, then carbs were never a large part of their diet. In the wild, dogs typically consume 5% or less carbs. However, most commercial dog food on the market today contains around 35-50% carbs.
So, what is our recommendation? We recommend ensuring that the food is labeled as complete and balanced and is rich in meat-based protein while on the lower end of carb content.
Some excellent sources of carbs for dogs include:
- Brown rice
Vitamins and minerals: Vitamins and minerals are a little more straightforward than carbohydrates. Dogs need them for a robust immune system, bones, and general health.
Dog can receive these vitamins either through a balanced commercial dog food or through supplementation.
Here are some common vitamins that your pup needs:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
Minerals can be just as important as vitamins for dogs. Minerals are classified into two different categories: macro minerals and trace minerals.
Macro minerals are needed in larger quantities than trace minerals and include:
Trace minerals are needed in smaller quantities, but are no less important. They include:
Chelated minerals have been introduced to pet food over the last decade or so.
These minerals are bonded to amino acids, which the body can more easily absorb. Due to this, our canine friends can absorb up to 2x-5x times more chelated minerals than they can non-chelated minerals.
Water – This tends to be obvious but is worth mentioning. Dogs need water for hydration and general health.
The amount of water your pup needs depends on a variety of factors including activity level, weather, and health conditions.
Different Types of Dog Food
Wet, dry, raw, fresh, and veterinarian diets are all different types of kibble you may find at your local shopping store.
Having so many options can sometimes be a little overwhelming.
Let’s dive into a couple of the more popular types of dog food and discuss the benefits of each.
Dry Dog Food – Commonly referred to as kibble, this type of dog food is via a process called extrusion.
Extrusion is when the food is cooked at a high temperature and then pressed out into kibble-sized pieces.
Probably the most popular type of dog food as it is the most convenient, dry food can be left out all day without spoilage.
Suitable for all life stages, dry food is a great option for the majority of dog parents.
Wet Dog Food – Wet dog food typically goes through a two-step process when being made. The first step involves grinding up the meat proteins and organs. Then a mixture of “gravy” will be combined with minerals, vitamins, and grains to complete the process.
Wet food generally has a higher moisture content than dry food and often contains more meat-based proteins.
Wet food tends to be most popular for dogs with food allergies or sensitivities and for those that require a little more moisture in their diet.
Raw Dog Food – Yes, Raw Dog Food is exactly as it sounds. Raw.
This type of food consists of uncooked meat, organs, bones, and sometimes vegetables.
There are two camps of people when it comes to raw food. Some people are all for it while others are strongly against it.
While advocates of feeding raw state that it is the most “natural” way to feed your dog, those against it claim that there are health risks associated with feeding your pup uncooked meat.
In fact, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) goes as far as to discourage pet parents from feeding their animals an all-raw diet due to these health risks.
If you do decide to feed your dog a raw diet, be sure to do your research and consult with your veterinarian first.
Fresh Dog Food – The new kid on the block, fresh dog food is starting to gain popularity with pet parents.
These foods are typically made with human-grade ingredients and never include any preservatives or fillers.
Fresh dog food is also cooked at a lower temperature which helps to preserve more nutrients.
Recipes can oftentimes be tailored to your dog’s specific dietary needs which is a huge plus.
The one big downfall of fresh pet food is cost, hopefully, in the future, the price will drop and make it more affordable for all dog parents.
Veterinarian Diets – these diets are geared toward improving a specific health condition that your dog may be facing.
Ingredients are carefully selected to help with things such as joint pain, gastrointestinal issues, allergies, and more.
One example of this would be Royal Canin’s Veterinary Diet Adult Hydrolyzed Protein.
This food aims at helping dogs with food allergies by using hydrolyzed proteins which are easier to digest.
Partner with your vet to determine if a specialty diet is right for your furry friend.
Breed Specific Requirements
Let’s get this out of the way first. We believe breed-specific food is nothing more than a marketing ploy.
While it’s true that certain breeds may have different nutritional needs, for the most part, the difference is based on size and not breed.
For example, a Yorkie and a Chihuahua are both going to need food that is high in calories as they are both small and very much so more active than the gentle giant (Great Dane).
On the other hand, a Mastiff and a Saint Bernard are going to need food that is lower in calories as they are both large and inactive.
Also, to take it a step further larger dogs may have a higher risk of developing hip dysplasia so food that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids would be beneficial.
But again, this is based on size and not necessarily breed.
Now, it is fair to mention that specific breeds have specific health concerns.
For example, Cocker Spaniels are prone to developing pancreatitis so a low-fat diet would be recommended.
While Dachshunds are susceptible to developing back problems, a food that is rich in glucosamine and chondroitin would be a good idea.
But once again, in these instances, you would feed to the condition and not the breed.
So, if you have a Cocker Spaniel with pancreatitis, you would feed him low-fat food just as you would with any breed that is prone to pancreatitis.
Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)
The story that hit us like a ton of bricks in 2018 and continued to make headlines throughout 2019 was the link between grain-free diets and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs.
The FDA dropped a bombshell when they announced that they had received reports linking DCM to 16 brands of dog food.
The list included some of the most popular grain-free brands on the market including Acana, Zignature, Taste of the Wild, 4health, Earthborn Holistic, Blue Buffalo, Nature’s Domain, Fromm, Merrick, California Natural, Natural Balance, Orijen, Nature’s Variety Instinct, Nutrience, and Nutro.
Not everyone was convinced that grain-free diets were the cause of DCM and many pet parents continued to feed their dogs these foods.
The FDA continued its investigation and in June of 2019, they released an update that more than doubled the number of reports they had received.
As of December 31, 2019, the FDA had received 524 reports of DCM in dogs with Grain-Free diets and 26 reports in dogs that were fed diets containing legumes such as peas, lentils, and seeds.
While the FDA has not yet determined a cause and effect relationship between grain-free diets and DCM they have advised pet parents that if they are concerned about feeding their dog’s grain-free food to contact their veterinarian.
Luckily, if you are concerned the market reacted with a host of grain-inclusive foods that popped up almost overnight.
In fact, Chewy.com quickly added an entire section to their website labeled: Pea-Free with over 1700 products listed.
If you have made it this far we hope you found value in our guide and more importantly that you feel better equipped to make informed decisions about what to feed your furry friend.
Remember, there is no one perfect food for every dog, and the best diet for your dog is the one that meets his individual needs.
We also want to remind you that while we are dog lovers and advocates, we are not veterinarians.
If you have any concerns about your dog’s health or diet, please contact your veterinarian.