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Essential Nutrients That Your Dog Needs


The six essential nutrients your dog needs include water, fat, protein, carbs, vitamins and minerals. 

1. Water

Water makes up 70 to 80 percent of a mature dog’s body mass. Without water, your dog will not be able to function correctly. The purpose of water is to help the body dissolve and transport nutrients to cells, regulate body temperature, digest foods, flush away waste and much more. It’s important to make sure your dog has access to an adequate supply of clean water daily. Dogs should drink approximately one ounce of water per pound of body weight each daybut consult your veterinarian for individual recommendations. 

2. Fat

Fats protect internal organs, regulate body temperature, and promote healthy nervous system. If fat levels are too low, dogs can also develop dry, itchy skin and dull coats. Dogs require certain fatty acids that their bodies cannot produce naturally. These fats are called essential fatty acids.

“It’s also important to note, for pet foods, calories are calculated a little differently than human foods. Protein and carbohydrates are assigned a value of 3.5 calories per gram. Fat is assigned 8.6 calories per gram. This is to account for the less processed ingredients typically used in pet foods.” Steve Doerr, Technical Director and Research & Development Scientist, at Redbarn Pet Products, said.  

Not all fats are good for your dog. Carefully consider the source, quality, and quantity of the fat when choosing a quality dog food.

3. Protein

Protein produces energy and supplies the body what it needs to create a solid structure (skin, nails, muscles, and bones). The body cannot store protein, so it requires a constant supply. Proteins are made up of amino acids— dogs need 22 amino acids to produce the proteins necessary to survive. A dog’s body can naturally make about half of those amino acids, but the rest comes from the food your dog eats every day. Essential amino acidsare, as the name hints at, essential to your dog’s health but sourced from food. Both the amount and the ratio of essential amino acids is important. 

To ensure your dog is fueling their day and body with enough protein, look for dog foods with natural, high-quality proteins as the first ingredient. The type of protein— fish, meat, or poultry — is up to your dog’s personal taste preferences and any other specific dietary needs the protein source may provide. And rest assured, real meat, fish, or poultry, is always the first ingredient in dog food. 

4. Carbs

Carbohydrates serve as a primary source of fuel and are a dog’s main source of glucose (energy). Carbs are not essential to a dog’s diet; however, they are associated with important vitamins, minerals and plant-based nutrients. Grains, barley, brown rice, whole corn or potatoes are all examples of carbs. 

5. Vitamins

Vitamins support many critical roles in your dog’s diet and are essential for growth and health maintenance. As long as your choice of dog food is a complete and balanced meal, pup should be receiving many of the vitamins necessary to keep them healthy and happy.  

  • Vitamin D helps to regulate calcium and phosphorus levels 
  • Vitamin A helps to boost the immune system 
  • Vitamin E and C serve as antioxidants 
  • Vitamin K helps with blood clots and  
  • Vitamin B12 helps maintain a healthy nervous system 

6. Minerals

Just like vitamins, minerals support several critical roles in a dog’s diet. While different minerals provide different benefits, some general functions include bone and cartilage formation, hormone regulation, oxygen flow, and nerve and muscle function. Below are some specific attributes of essential minerals for your dog.  

  • Calcium and phosphorus make up a large portion of bone matter 
  • Iron helps to carry oxygen through the body 
  • Zinc supports proper wound healing 
  • Selenium helps provide antioxidant support 
  • Sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium help with nerve transmission and fluid balance 
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