Everyone desires of a well built, healthy and good looking dog. The primary requirement to achieve this is good nutrition. Often the nutritional demands of dogs are explained in a very complicated way, making things difficult to understand. Through this article an attempt is being made to simplify the subject of dog nutrition so that pet parents can make a right regimen of food to keep their dogs healthy and happy.
Let us understand what are the nutritional requirements to keep a dog healthy.
Important nutrients in dog’s diet
|Protein||Protein has many functions in the body, but is best known for supplying amino acids to build hair, skin, nails, muscles, tendons, ligaments and cartilage|
|Carbohydrates||Carbohydrate is the source of energy required for various functions of the body|
|Fats||Fats also provide energy. Fats are important for maintaining skin and coat condition, supports healthy brain cells, helps absorption of fat soluble vitamins|
|Minerals||Calcium and Phosphorus are required for bone development. Minerals are required for various metabolic and physiological functions|
|Vitamins||Vitamins are required for metabolic functions, skin and coat health, enzymatic functions and oxidative processes.|
|Water||Water forms liquid medium required for all the body functions. Water functions as a solvent that facilitates cellular reactions and as a transport medium for nutrients. Water maintains body temperature.|
Protein: Various non-vegetarian and vegetarian sources are available and can be chosen as per convenience.
Boiled meat, boiled egg, milk, curd, cottage cheese, cereals and grains can make a good choice.
Carbohydrates: Rice, wheat, oat, barley and sorghum in any form can make a good choice. A provision should be made to add fiber in diet that is important for intestinal health. Wheat flour, vegetables, beetroot are also good fiber sources.
Fats: Chicken fat, Fish, egg yolk and vegetable fats (flax seed, borage seed, evening primerose) are sources of good fats. A spoon of refined oil (sunflower, mustard) or ghee can also help.
Minerals: All the sources of protein and carbohydrates described above will also provide varied minerals. Fruits and vegetables are also good source of minerals. Milk and meat are good sources of Calcium & Phosphorous that is required by growing dogs in high amounts.
Vitamins: Vitamins can be derived from vegetables and non-vegetarian sources described above along with fruits.
Water: Fresh clean water available all the time can fulfil the water requirement
Additional supplementation of minerals, vitamins and fats, however, are recommended as per the life stage and life style. Do contact your veterinarians for the same.
Maintaining the right balance
The question often posed is how to provide a balance of all the above nutrients. However, certain general rules are to be followed for growth and maintenance phase.
Growth phase: The maximum requirement is of protein followed by the other nutrients. Carbohydrates and fats will fulfil the energy requirement. Minerals and vitamins will be required in a greater quantity during this phase. The entire requirement will be met if the listed ingredients are included in diet in a right proportion.
Maintenance phase: All the above ingredients are required in a smaller quantity since the demand of the growth is reduced.
Pet parents should focus on providing a good mix of all the nutrients.
Gap in the nutrients fed and utilized by the body
This is a common problem encountered in pet animals. Inspite of providing a good nutrition, the dog does not take shape, or suffer from various disorders like poor skin and coat condition, bony weakness, digestive disturbances etc. The nutrients fed to the dog are digested in the digestive tract by the help of several enzymes (Protease, Lipase, Amylase, etc). Due to some intrinsic factors the enzymes may not be secreted in the right concentration. This leads to improper digestion of nutrients. Not only this, at times the dog suffers from malabsorption syndrome. Even after proper digestion, the nutrients are not absorbed by the intestine because its absorptive surface is not in a healthy state. Improper digestion and absorption will lead to less bioavailability of various nutrients and the dog will lose health inspite of best nutrition. It is hence needed to assess if the dietary nutrients are being properly digested and absorbed in the body. In case of any gap in digestion and absorption, advice of a vet is a must who may recommend a change in diet, addition of extrinsic enzymes etc.
Practical tips to formulate a dog’s diet
- Puppy diet should contain highly digestible food like cerelac, curd, porridge. Especially formulated puppy diets should be preferred during this critical stage.
- Milk should not be given in case of lactose intolerance (such dogs suffers from diarrhoea after milk intake).
- Not all listed ingredients are to be given in same meal but need to be divided in different meals as per the requirement of the dog.
- The quantity of the diet will vary according to the age, body weight and activity level.
- The food should be offered at fixed time and in a fixed place.
- The frequency of food should be maintained as follows: Small pups – at a gap of 4-5 hours, Growing pups – 3-4 times and Adult – 1-2 times.
- Dogshould finish the food in one go and it should not be left for long if the dog does not take it. Fresh food should be offered next time.
- Fresh water should be made available all the times.
- Vitamin and mineral supplements should be given as per the vet’s advice.