Whether you are feeding your dog store-bought food or providing a homemade diet, certain foods are essential for his health. As descendents of wolves, dogs are meat eaters and when it comes to their diet, meat and protein should be the focus.
Proteins and Amino Acids
Proteins are essential in a dog’s diet for growth, development and overall health. Amino acids are the building blocks that makeup protein. Your dog’s body requires 22 different amino acids. His body is able to make 12 of these, but the remaining 10 essential amino acids must come from the protein in his diet. Deficiencies in any of these amino acids can lead to health problems. Unfortunately, not all proteins are created equal. Check the ingredient list of manufactured dog food. Look for high quality proteins that list the actual meat. In other words, seeing an ingredient list with “chicken” or “chicken meal” is better than seeing “meat product” or “meat meal.” For home diets, high amino acid proteins include eggs, fish and beef.
In addition to proteins, essential fatty acids are required for cell function. These essential fatty acids divide into two different groups: omega-3 and omega-6. Omega-3 fatty acids come naturally from cold water fish and flaxseed oil. Omega-6 fatty acids come from animal fat, egg yolks, organ meats and certain oils like corn, soy and canola. Look for a high percentage of these essential acids in dog food. When compared together, look for a low ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 of at least 7:1, though 5:1 and below are preferable.
Because dogs are able to convert protein into energy, essentially carbohydrates are not necessary in their diets. Go back to their ancestors, the wolves, and you probably cannot recall a wildlife show focusing on their foraging ability. Carbohydrates do act as a dietary fiber and can help in digestion and the formation of solid stools. For dry dog food, carbohydrates are necessary for the formation of the food. Look for whole ground grains such as rice or oats. If adding fruits and vegetables, consider sweet potatoes, as they provide dietary fiber and a natural sweet flavor. Sugars should never be necessary in any dog food.
Before changing your dog’s diet, talk with a veterinarian about his specific dietary needs. If food allergies or sensitivities are present, you may need to avoid certain foods. If weight gain or loss is a problem, you may need to increase proteins or eliminate carbohydrates.