Choosing the Best Dog Food
You probably don’t think twice about reading the label on a box of cereal before you purchase it from the local grocer. It is wise to exercise the same due diligence when shopping for dog food. With so many choices available for pet foods, it’s no wonder people become overwhelmed when trying to choose the best meals for their four-legged friends.
What Makes a Balanced Dog Food?
Balanced diets for dogs contain proportions of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and water that most optimally help them thrive.
Dogs require about 18 to 25 percent of their diets to be comprised of protein. The easiest way they can obtain the essential amino acids they require is by eating meat or eggs as their primary protein sources.
Although wild canids hunt for the majority of their food, dogs are omnivores. They do not need carbohydrates in their diets, but these macronutrients provide bonus sources of calories and energy. It also may be difficult to extract daily vitamin and mineral requirements from proteins and fats alone. Dogs are able to process carbohydrates and assimilate their nutrients. Pure carnivores like cats are not able to do this.
There are three essential fatty acids that dogs cannot produce on their own. These are linolenic acid, arachidonic acid and linoleic acid. A balanced canine diet ensures that not only are these essential fats present, but that they provide the appropriate amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.
Vitamins are required for the body to function on a cellular level, repair itself and use energy from calories. A dog’s vitamin requirements are unique to the species but also may vary according to age, activity, presence of disease and breed.
Minerals make up the smallest part of your dog’s diet but are just as vital as any of the other aspects. The balance can be exceptionally tricky because minerals are interactive both with compounds in the body and with each other. Mineral ratios, such as between calcium and magnesium, are crucial.
Dogs should have a water intake of about an ounce of fluids per pound of body weight. They will get some water from their food, but this is a great estimate to monitor their drinking habits. Pregnant and nursing dogs will naturally need more than this. Dogs who eat canned food will require less water.