Top 7 Nutrition Tips for Dogs: A Guide to a Healthier Diet

3-5 Minutes to Read

December 15, 2023

Dogs aren't just pets; they're family. And like any beloved family member, we want to ensure they eat right and stay healthy.

But every dog is different, and their requirements change with age, activity level, and health. Keeping up-to-date with current research is critical to making informed choices about what goes into their diet because proper nutrition can do wonders for your dog's health, energy levels, and overall well-being.

But with the overwhelming amount of information, how do you know what's best for your furry friend?

Keep reading to discover the top 7 nutrition tips for dogs.

Top 7 Nutrition Tips for Dogs

When feeding our canine companions, striking the right balance is vital. A healthy dog diet isn't just a choice; it's a responsibility. 

Here, we'll touch upon the top 7 nutrition tips for dogs that lay the foundation for their well-being. Our experts at Advanced Care Veterinary Hospital believe that these tips can help you make informed decisions for your dog's dietary needs, ensuring they lead a happy, healthy life by your side. 

1. Understand and Prioritize Your Dog’s Needs

Nutrients are vital substances that animals derive from their food, serving as fuel for energy and critical components in their body's metabolic processes, essential for their growth and upkeep.

Dogs, in particular, require six fundamental types of nutrients for optimal health and vitality.

Dog nutritional tips

Water is crucial for life. It makes up more than 50% of an adult dog's body weight. While their food can provide some moisture (dry food contains about 10% moisture and canned food up to 78%), dogs should always have access to fresh, clean water.  

A decrease in body water by even 10% can lead to serious health issues, and a loss of 12% or more could be fatal. 

Proteins are crucial for building and repairing cells, tissues, organs, enzymes, hormones, and antibodies. They're vital for growth, maintenance, reproduction, and repair.

Dogs can obtain proteins from animal sources like chicken, lamb, turkey, beef, fish, and eggs, which offer a complete amino acid profile. Plant-based sources like vegetables, cereals, and soy also provide proteins but are considered incomplete compared to animal sources.

Important: Avoid giving your pet raw eggs. Raw egg white contains avidin, a substance that disrupts the metabolism of essential nutrients. 

Fats are a dense energy source, offering over twice the energy of proteins or carbs.

They play a crucial role in cell structure, hormone production, nutrient absorption, and organ protection. Essential fatty acids, such as linoleic acid, are necessary for healthy growth and skin.

Carbohydrates are also essential for energy. But they're also good for intestinal health and reproduction. Though there's no minimum requirement, dogs need a certain amount of glucose for critical organs like the brain.

Fiber, a type of carbohydrate, helps manage chronic diarrhea by modifying the gut bacteria. The best fibers for dogs are moderately fermentable, like beet pulp and brans (corn, rice, and wheat). High-fiber diets are not recommended for high-energy, growing dogs.

Dogs need small amounts of vitamins for normal metabolic functioning, as their bodies cannot synthesize most. However, over-supplementation can be harmful.

Excess vitamin A can cause joint pain and skin issues, while too much vitamin D can lead to overly dense bones and kidney failure.

Minerals, which dogs can't produce internally, are crucial for bone and teeth structure, fluid balance, and various metabolic processes.

Understanding these nutritional elements is critical to providing a balanced diet for your dog, ensuring they stay healthy and happy. 

2. Feed Your Dog High-Quality Food

When it comes to your dog's diet, the most valuable advice is straightforward yet impactful: provide your dog with the highest-quality food within your budget.

The real difference between premium and budget dog foods often lies beyond the nutrition label, and it's in the quality and origin of the ingredients used.

For example, two dog foods might boast 27% protein content, yet their quality and digestibility could be worlds apart. This is where understanding pet food labels becomes crucial.

Ingredients in pet food are listed by weight. However, this can be misleading. Fresh meat, a common ingredient, is heavy due to its water content, which reduces significantly during processing. This means a dry dog food listing corn as the first ingredient might actually be more nutritious than one where meat tops the list.

Additionally, nutritional percentages on labels can be confusing, with some nutrients marked as 'minimum' and others as 'maximum.' This variation means the actual content can differ from what's printed on the packaging. 

Ultimately, the best way to select the right food for your dog is to consult your veterinarian. They can offer tailored advice based on your dog's specific health needs.

3. Feed Your Dog the Proper Amount of Food at Appropriate Intervals

Of course, it's not enough that you provide your dogs with high-quality meals; you should also learn how to control their eating schedules and meal sizes effectively!

Experts will agree that adult dogs should be fed twice a day. Going just once a day can be quite a stretch for a dog, leaving a gap between meals too long.

For puppies, their feeding needs are even more frequent. Given their smaller size and the risk of low blood sugar, puppies should be fed three to six times a day.

Determining the right amount of food for your dog is also important. It involves considering several key factors:

  • Age of Your Dog: The nutritional needs differ significantly between a puppy and an adult dog. Puppies generally require more frequent feeding and specific nutrients for growth.
  • Body Condition of Your Dog: This includes understanding whether your dog is underweight, overweight, or at an ideal body weight. Each condition demands a different dietary approach.
  • Activity Level of Your Dog: An active dog will have different caloric needs than a more sedentary one. More energetic dogs usually require more calories to maintain their energy levels.
  • Diet Content: Your dog's food's calorie and nutrient content play a crucial role. Different dog foods have varying levels of calories and nutrients, which should align with your dog's needs.

A dog food calculator can be a helpful tool to estimate your dog's daily calorie requirements. 

However, every dog is unique, and it's always best to consult with your veterinarian to determine the most suitable feeding schedule and ideal food amount for your specific dog's needs and health. This personalized approach ensures your dog receives the proper nutrition at the correct times, contributing to their overall well-being. 

4. Prepare Treats and Food for Your Dog’s Teeth

Dental care professionals often emphasize the importance of regular brushing for maintaining plaque-free teeth and healthy gums. This preventive care tip extends to dogs, too.

However, brushing your dog's teeth might not always be feasible. This is where bones can play a crucial role. Chewing on raw bones can be an excellent way to keep your dog's teeth clean and sparkling. The natural action of gnawing helps in removing plaque effectively.

Another great approach is offering whole foods like carrots and zucchini for your dog to munch on. The rubbing and sloughing action against the teeth during chewing helps in dental cleaning.

You can also prepare homemade treats for your dog to remove plaque. For instance, take some vegetables, cut holes in them, and fill them with melted raw coconut oil. Freeze these treats for about five minutes before serving. These help in dental care and satisfy your dog's instinctual need to grind and chew. Plus, they are gentler on the teeth compared to bones. 

Don't lose heart if your dog hesitates to try these natural treats. Make it fun by incorporating them into games like fetch or hide-and-seek to pique their interest.  

5. Remove Shelf-Stable Foods From Your Dog’s Core Diet

The truth behind the long shelf life of processed dog foods often gets lost due to persuasive marketing tactics. These products, boasting 12 to 24-month shelf stability, are widely believed to be complete and healthy dietary options for dogs. However, this is a misconception.

The reality is that these products lack live enzymes due to their industrial processing. They often depend on synthetic supplements to meet the "balanced" nutritional standards of regulatory bodies like the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).

While biscuits, kibble, and canned foods have their place – like in shelters, during long trips, or on busy days – they shouldn't form the core of your dog's diet.

Aiming for a more balanced, varied feeding approach is essential to ensure your dog receives the nutrition they genuinely need. Consider incorporating fresh whole foods, such as vegetables and fruits. Unlike shelf-stable products, these are full of live enzymes and fiber, aiding digestion! 

6. Consider MCT Oil as a Source of Fat in Your Dog’s Diet

Incorporating MCT (Medium Chain Triglyceride) oil as a fat source in your dog's diet can offer unique health benefits. MCT oil is distinct from typical animal and vegetable fats due to its composition of medium-chain fatty acids, which are not stored in the body like other fats.

Here are some of the benefits MCTs can offer to your dog: 

  • Fuel for the Brain: Supports cognitive function, which is crucial for aging dogs or breeds prone to brain health issues.
  • Seizure Management: Helps reduce the frequency and intensity of seizures.
  • Weight Management: Aids in weight loss by boosting metabolism.
  • Blood Sugar Contro: Helps in lowering blood sugar levels.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Useful in reducing inflammation.
  • Antimicrobial and Antibacterial: Offers protection against certain infections.

However, it's important to remember that MCT oil isn't a complete solution. Your dog still needs Omega-3 fatty acids, crucial for overall health. 

Fish oils are a common source but can spoil quickly. Instead, consider alternatives like chia seed, flaxseed, or hempseed oils. In small amounts, fresh sardines are also an excellent source of Omega-3s and can be a healthy addition to your dog's diet. 

7. Feed Your Dog the Right Amount of Healthy Treats

Selecting treats and chews for your dog can be an enjoyable part of pet care, but it's essential to choose safe and healthy options. Treats and chews are not just indulgences; they contribute to your dog's daily calorie intake.

These snacks should not exceed 10% of your dog's total daily calories to ensure a balanced diet.

Try making fresh, healthy ones at home for those inclined to offer treats. Dried coconut flakes, for example, can be a fantastic choice, providing a nutritious and tasty snack.

While spoiling our dogs with treats is always enjoyable, moderation is key. Maintaining a lean diet is crucial for your dog's overall health. Overindulgence in treats, no matter how tempting, can lead to weight issues and associated health problems. 

Embrace a Healthier Future for Your Dog with
Advanced Care Veterinary Hospital

At Advanced Care Veterinary Hospital, we believe that knowledge is the key to a happy, healthy dog. Our dedicated team is passionate about educating pet owners on the unique nutritional needs of their beloved dogs.  

After a thorough examination, our veterinarians will craft a personalized nutrition program tailored to address your dog's specific challenges and requirements. Whether it's dietary adjustments, managing health conditions, or simply ensuring overall well-being, our customized nutrition programs are designed to keep your dog thriving. 

Don't wait to give your dog the gift of health. Contact Advanced Care Veterinary Hospital today, and let's work together to keep your dog healthy and happy for years!