Our dogs depend on us to feed them a healthy and well-balanced diet, whether we feed them commercial dog food or prepare their food ourselves. Dogs are classified as “scavenging carnivores” which means that although they prefer meat, they can eat other types of food in moderate amounts. Dogs have also evolved to be “competitive feeders” as anyone who’s ever watched a dog or group of dogs eat knows. They have adapted to eat what’s available, and quickly. Here are some dog nutrition facts to help you ensure your dog is eating a healthy diet.
1. Can I make my dog’s food myself?
Take some time to learn about canine nutrition before you begin making homemade food for your dog. Muscle meat like steak lacks certain nutrients that dogs require. This type of meat needs to be supplemented by organ meat such as liver. Plant material can also be mixed into a dog’s diet. An example of a well-balanced homemade meal contains cooked chicken, liver, rice, bone meal, a pinch of salt, and some vegetable oil.
2. I’m a vegetarian, can my dog be one too?
Yes, a dog can survive on a well-balanced vegetarian diet, but don’t forget that dogs are primarily carnivores by nature. Your ethical decision to be a vegetarian does not necessarily translate into the best nutrition for your dog. Talk to your vet before you decide to prepare vegetarian meals for your dog. You can also buy commercially prepared vegetarian dog food. While a vegetarian diet is possible for dogs, remember that your cat needs a meat diet to live. Cats will die from nutritional deficiencies without meat.
3. Can I give my dog vitamin and mineral supplements?
Be very careful if you decide to give supplements to your dog. Vitamins and minerals are beneficial to a dog’s health. Deficiencies can cause health problems, but excess amounts of certain vitamins and minerals can also cause problems. Ideally, your dog should get all the nutrition he needs from a good diet. Talk to your vet before giving your dog supplements. Too much of certain things like vitamins C, D, and calcium can harm your dog. Extra amounts of things like vitamin E, folic acid, and zinc can be helpful. Some breeds can be more likely to be deficient in certain vitamins than others.
4. Should I feed my dog dry food or wet food?
Dry dog food is a convenient and popular choice for many dog owners, but there are some drawbacks. Manufacturers spray fats on dry kibble to improve the taste. Preservatives must be added to the food because the coating can turn rancid. Even with preservatives, dry food that’s been stored improperly or for a long time can go bad. The process of canning wet food sterilizes it, so a can will rarely go bad if finished quickly, even without preservatives. Canned food does not provide the tooth and gum cleaning benefits that crunching on dry food does.
5. Does my dog need carbohydrates?
Protein and fat are the most important components of a dog’s diet. They don’t need carbohydrates for energy. But a dog can convert carbohydrates into sugar and store it for energy use later when needed. Some experts note that carbohydrates can be beneficial for pregnant and lactating dogs. Starch from foods like potatoes are the best source of carbohydrates for dogs, and it’s fine to give your dog cooked potato or sweet potato as a snack.
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