No one will love your dog as much as you, and pet parents will always want the best nutrition for their four-legged family members. There are a set of essential nutrients a dog needs in order to stay healthy, and it’s our job to provide them.  

With so many products in the market, it can be hard to find the best option. That’s why our DhohOo team simplified all the basic nutrients you need to look out for when going dog food shopping.

Water

No life can survive without water. With a body made up of 70 to 80 percent water, dogs are no different. Those that don’t get sufficient water will have a very poor quality of life.

Water is necessary for a lot of important body functions, such as regulating body temperature, dissolving and carrying other nutrients to cells, getting rid of toxic body waste, and digestion.

A general rule of thumb is that your dog should drink around one ounce of water for every pound of body weight per day, but these requirements can vary depending on their health, activities and surrounding temperature. Almost every dog will successfully self-regulate its H2O intake, so your only job is to make sure it has access to it all day.

Carbohydrates

Carbs are the most abundant nutrient in dry dog food, but they’re not actually “essential.” However, they supply fuel and energy through glucose. Although not essential, healthy carbs can be a source of important minerals, vitamins, plant-based nutrients and antioxidants that keep a balanced diet.

We recommend that you maintain your furry friend’s carb intake to a maximum of 14 to 18 percent of daily nutritional calories.

Vitamins

Vitamins are organic compounds that play a role in various metabolic activities. Dogs need vitamins in their daily nutrition just like humans, albeit at lower concentrations. Vitamins can be fat-soluble (A, D, E & K) or water-soluble (B & C). Vitamins that are soluble in water are not stored, whereas fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the liver and fatty tissues. Vitamins must come from diet as a dog’s body does not produce them.

Vitamin deficiencies and excess in dogs can cause a range of health problems. Therefore, it’s crucial to follow AAFCO guidelines, along with your vet’s advice, to create a balanced meal. We need to ensure that our pups get the right quantity of each vitamin to keep them healthy.

Here are some of the vitamins your dog needs in their diet:

Vitamin A

Use: Immune system function and vision are the two most important uses of vitamin A.

Signs of deficiency: Weight loss/anorexia, skin lesions, ataxia, conjunctivitis and respiratory problems

Vitamin D

Use: Vitamin D is responsible for regulating the balance of phosphorus and calcium in the body.

Signs of deficiency: Lethargy, bone swelling, and a loss of muscle tone

Vitamin E

Use: Vitamin E is primarily an anti-oxidant.

Signs of deficiency: Reproductive issues, retinal degeneration and loss of skeletal muscles

Vitamin K

Use: Allows a dog’s blood to clot- important for injuries.

Signs of deficiency: No naturally occurring deficiencies found in normal dogs

Vitamin B12

Use: Plays a vital role in enzyme and nervous system function.

Signs of deficiency: Cell anemia, low white blood cell count and a loss of appetite

Fat

Fats always have a negative image attached to their name, but healthy fats are one of the most essential nutrients a dog needs. Their job is to balance body temperature, protect internal organs, and maintain a healthy nervous system. Low fat levels can lead to dull coats and dry, itchy skin.

Fats are a source of essential omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids that dogs cannot produce themselves. Not all fat is the same, so not all fat is good for your dog. Avoid feeding them saturated and unhealthy fats from table scraps and instead, use fish and plant-based oils.

Proteins and Amino Acids

Proteins are among the most fundamental nutrients a dog needs in their diets to live a healthy life. Dietary protein contains ten essential amino acids that dogs cannot produce themselves. They function as the building blocks for connective tissues, skin, hair and nails. Not to forget, it's also vital for the immune system function.

Amino acids are also the source of carbon chains that are used to make glucose for energy. High-quality dog food will have the right balance of all of the essential amino acids.

Dogs will selectively pick and eat foods with high protein content. They’re able to sense if their food lacks an amino acid and will try to avoid such a meal. We’re not sure if this is just down to their preference to taste or whether it’s an innate response to their biological needs for the ten essential amino acids.

Getting enough protein will help a dog maintain its full coat and keep healthy skin. If you see patches of hair loss or dry fur, your dog’s nutrition might be low on protein.

Here’s how much protein your dog needs: average adult dogs require around 18 percent of their calories to be proteins. Puppies, along with pregnant/lactating females, need a higher 22 percent protein in their diet.

Minerals

Minerals control a variety of bodily functions that are vital for a healthy life. They are inorganic compounds that a dog cannot produce in its body, and thus need to be provided from food.

There are two types of minerals: microminerals (zinc, iron, copper, selenium, manganese, iodine) and macrominerals (magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, chloride, sodium, potassium). Both types are equally important, but macrominerals are needed in higher quantities.

Phosphorus and calcium are critical for healthy bones, while iron carries oxygen around the body. Selenium works as an anti-oxidant and zinc is crucial in wound healing. Other minerals regulate body fluid balance and support nerve function. Keep up to date with your vet about how much of each mineral your dog needs.

Now that you’ve gone through this list of all the essential nutrients a dog needs, you can confidently shop for the right food to give your canine buddy. Make sure to read all the package labels and see which over-priced or low-quality products you can avoid.

Good luck!