What Types of Food Do Dogs Need?

Dogs need a complete and balanced diet to stay healthy.
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Dogs need a variety of food types to survive. At the top of the list is protein, which is needed for all aspects of growth and development. In addition to protein, dogs need carbohydrates and fats to supply their energy needs. Add in minerals, vitamins and water, and your pup has all the food types to maintain optimal health.


Your dog cannot survive without protein. Protein contains 23 amino acids -- the building blocks of the body's tissues. Dogs can manufacture 13 of the 23, but cannot manufacture the other 10, known as the essential amino acids. The two main sources of protein are meat and vegetables. Animal protein has a higher biological value than vegetable protein. Dogs can survive on a vegetarian diet if it is supplemented with vitamin D, according to the National Academies.


Carbohydrates are the direct source of energy. Your pup needs energy to sustain all of his activity. Carbohydrates consist of sugars, starches and fiber, and are derived from grains and vegetables. Dog foods vary in carbohydrates, but some of the quality carbohydrates are rice brain, brown rice barley and oatmeal. Some carbohydrates, such as wheat, corn meal and soy meal, may cause food allergies in dogs. Without carbohydrates in the diet, your dog must rely on protein for its energy. If protein is used for energy, it will not be available to maintain the body's tissues.


If it wasn't for fats, your dog would not have a shiny coat and healthy skin. Fats are derived from animal fats and the seed oil of various plants. They provide concentrated energy, and transport fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Fats also do more -- they have a role in cell structure as well as the cell's function. However, too much fat in a dog's diet can lead to weight gain and obesity. You don't want a pudgy puppy!

Minerals, Vitamins and Water

Two crucial minerals are calcium and phosphorus, which are necessary for strong bones and teeth. Magnesium, potassium and sodium are important for nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction and cell signaling. Vitamins are necessary for chemical reactions, and consist of vitamins A, D, E, K, C and the B-complex vitamins. Complete and balanced dog foods contain all the minerals and vitamins your dog needs for proper body function. Water is the most important nutrient. Without water, your pup will not survive.