Nutrient requirements for dogs are published by the National Research Council of the National Academies (NRC) and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Requirements for proper dog nutrition are the percentages of the 6 organic components of food to meet a dog’s daily allowance: protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, water.
For good dog nutrition, protein should comprise 21-26% of the food. The difference between active, low-active, lite and puppy foods is the percentage of protein. Proteins are critical in the proper development of bone, muscle, blood, tissues, hormones, enzymes, and for the proper function of the immune system.
In dog nutrition, the protein ingredient is the most expensive component. The source of this protein is critical. There are 22 amino acids that make up proteins and 10 are critical for daily dog nutrition.
Meat protein is closest to human quality!
The source of the protein determines its quality. Meat protein is closest to human quality. Animal protein can be any part that contains protein including skin, hoofs, hair and lips, so it is often not digestible. Lower digestibility of protein means a lower amount of nutrients available to the dog for growth and maintenance of cells. Pick food with at least 2 animal sources of protein in the first 5 ingredients listed. Best sources are whole meats or single-source meats (i.e. chicken meal versus poultry meal). Vegetable or grain protein (soy, meat byproducts, crude protein, anything with “gluten”) is often unusable protein that can stress the kidneys. Low-quality ingredients are not absorbed well and can produce loose stool. Generally, the better quality protein sources have higher digestibility along with higher cost.
A better quality product is more cost effective since you get better dog nutrition for the dollar spent.
For good dog nutrition, carbohydrates should comprise 42% of food and include rice, potatoes, pumpkin, corn, barley and pasta. Both carbohydrates and fats are sources of energy. Fiber is a carbohydrate that aids in nutrient absorption, bowel regulation, and controlling caloric intake by providing satiety. But, fiber is not a good source of energy.
In good dog nutrition, usable fats should comprise 15-20% of food. Fats are most vital to dogs with high-energy requirements as they provide twice the energy per gram than carbohydrates or protein. Usable fats include chicken fat, sunflower/canola oil, fish oil, lactose-free dairy. Tallow fat is unusable. Fats provide palatability of food, and are needed for even-tempered energy levels, healthy skin and coat, digestion, and stable body temperature.
A balanced diet is the best approach to correct mineral intake.
In good dog nutrition, minerals and vitamins each comprise about 1% of food. Nerves, muscles, cells all require minerals, which interact to produce chemical enzymes. Too much of one or more minerals, as in indiscriminate supplementation, can negatively affect others. Although the amount of vitamins required is small, they are needed for thousands of biochemical functions. Again, a balanced diet, without indiscriminate supplementation, is the best approach.
In good dog nutrition, water is the most important component and the easiest to feed correctly. Be sure that fresh, clean water is available at all times.
Generic brands can include meat from dead, dying, diseased, or decaying animals, and indigestible fats.
Dog food is classified into 3 groups based on quality. Generic brands can include 4-D meat from dead, dying, diseased or decaying animals, and indigestible fats. Premium food is made from higher grades of meat and higher quantity of usable fats. Holistic feed and raw food, homemade diets include human grade meats, digestible fats and a grain carbohydrate mix of high standard. It is often hormone-free and calorie rich so less bulk is required to meet dog nutrition guidelines. Homemade dog nutrition is becoming increasingly popular, especially in light of recent dog food recalls due to toxic raw ingredients from China. However, homemade diet should be prepared in close consultation with your veterinarian to ensure balanced canine nutrition.
Now that you understand the differences, to be a true guardian, feed your dog a quality premium diet.
Also, look to avoid artificial preservatives (BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin), artificial colors and sweeteners (corn syrup, sucrose, ammoniated glycyrrhizin).
In proper canine nutrition, diet must reflect weight, age, activity level, as well as possible medication considerations. Diet therapy is available for heart conditions, kidney problems, bladder conditions, food allergy and severe obesity. Your dog’s health and longevity depend greatly on the quality of nutrition it receives.