Cookin’ up a dog’s dinner: the nutrients your dog needs
Deciding what to feed your dog can be difficult, especially as they are not able to tell you what it is they like and dislike. So, the least we can do is ensure we’re giving our beloved pooches all the nutrients they need for a healthy diet.
When it comes to feeding your dog correctly, there is no right or wrong answer. Like humans, all dogs have different tastes and needs. But here are some things to look out for to ensure your dog is eating well.
Back to the basics
There are various types of dog food on the market, which can make it difficult to know what is best to feed your dog. Options include dry complete diets, wet food, and home-made food. Generally speaking, a commercial complete food (dry or wet) that contains good quality ingredients should provide all the essential nutrients your dog needs to thrive. Dry food can also help keep your dog’s teeth clean and healthy.
Dogs are omnivores and require 37 essential nutrients which are divided into six key nutrient groups: water, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. You should check the ingredients list of the food to ensure it contains:
- A whole source of animal protein, such as fish, poultry or meat.
- A source of easily digestible carbohydrates like whole grains or vegetables.
- Healthy fats like chicken fats and salmon oils.
- Nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, chondroitin and glucosamine.
Natural preservatives like vitamins C and E.
The order of dog food ingredients is important too, they run from highest to lowest so look out for a product that lists meat as the first ingredient.
Recently, there has been a rise in people feeding their dogs home-made diets and raw diets but it’s important to recognise the difficulty in getting the nutritional balance correct with these dietary options, so veterinary advice should always be sought prior to feeding these types of diets.
Most of the commercial dog foods available nowadays are designed to suit your dog’s needs at all different stages of their lives, from puppy, to adult and senior. These have been carefully formulated to match the needs of your dog, so ensure you find the correct one for your pup.
Consistency with their food is just as important as the ingredients to avoid upsetting their stomach. If you need to introduce a new diet, this should be done so over the course of a few days to a week, starting with replacing only a small amount of the current food with the new food, and gradually increasing the proportion of the new food.
If you’re planning to introduce new foods into your dog’s diet, try to limit their intake of treats. Your dog’s normal diet should be reduced if treats are being fed. As a general rule, no more than 10% of your dog’s diet should be made up of treats. Save treats as a reward for good behaviour and remember to feed in moderation.
Pay attention to your dog’s weight and body condition over time to ensure you are feeding them correctly and that they are not being under or overfed. Your vet will be able to advise you on what a healthy weight is for your dog’s breed, but as a general rule, you should be able to feel your dog’s ribs and see a waistline.
Foods that are unsafe for your dog
Most of us are happy getting our dog’s food from a pet shop, but what if your dog wants to try something new? If you’re looking for a small treat for them, there are plenty of fruit and vegetables that are safe and healthy for your pup to eat as an occasional treat.
Before incorporating new foods into your dog’s diet, there are a number of foods that we enjoy which can cause digestive problems or be fatal if consumed by a dog. Here is a list of some foods you should not feed your dog:
- Avocado – contains a toxin that can upset their stomach
- Cherries – the pits/stones contain cyanide which is toxic to dogs
- Corn on the cob – the cob can cause blockages
- Garlic – toxic to dogs
- Grapes/raisins – toxic to dogs
- Grapefruit – very acidic and can upset your dog’s stomach
- Leeks – toxic to dogs
- Lemon – very acidic and can upset your dog’s stomach
- Lime – very acidic and can upset your dog’s stomach
- Mushrooms – certain types are toxic to dogs, so best to steer clear
- Onion – toxic to dogs
- Plums – stone/pit can be toxic or cause blockages and can often get left in the plum
- Potatoes (raw) and potato plants – when raw they can be toxic and the plants and leaves can also be dangerous
- Rhubarb – toxic to dogs
- Tomato (unripe) and tomato plants – while the ripe red flesh is safe, the green parts can be toxic so best to avoid
- Food containing xylitol - an artificial sweetener
Dog-safe fruit and vegetables
There are a few different fruits and vegetables that are safe and sometimes even healthy for our dogs, but remember, a little for us is a lot to our dogs so keep treat sizes small! Any vegetables you give to your dog should be raw or boiled/steamed with no extra oils, butter or flavourings. Always cut it into bite-sized pieces to avoid choking and feed in moderation.
Dog-safe vegetables include:
- Broccoli – in small amounts, raw or steamed
- Carrots – many dogs enjoy them raw, but they can be given steamed or boiled
- Peas – sugar snap peas, garden peas and mangetout, but avoid tinned peas
- Sweet potatoes and potatoes – plain, boiled or steamed (not raw)
Dog-safe fruit includes:
- Apples – de-seeded and cored
- Bananas – in very small amounts as they are high in sugar
- Mango – remove hard stone/pit and skin
- Orange – remove the skin and any seeds. Some dogs don’t like the taste but oranges are safe
- Pineapple – remove the skin
- Strawberries – very sugary so only very small amounts
- Watermelon – remove rind and seeds
Head to Healthline for a full list of 53 foods that your dog can and cannot eat.
A great source of nutrients can be found in nutritional yeast, which adds a cheesy taste to the food as well as aiding intestinal health. Nutritional yeast contains fibre, glutamic acid, B vitamins as well as being a complete protein. Always speak to your vet before adding anything new into your dog’s diet, especially if they have pre-existing health conditions.
There is no one-size fits all approach to a dog's diet, and what may be a healthy diet for one pooch may not be suitable for another. Your dog's diet should be influenced by their size, age, breed, taste and any sensitivity they have to certain foods.
If you’re worried about your dog’s diet, or you’re concerned they are not getting the right nutrients, speak to your vet or a professional.
What is your dog's favourite treat? Let us know!