Nutrition -The Foundation of Good Health
You don't have to know all this stuff to be able
to feed your pet, but just in case you are
interested in basic information on the nutrition
of your pet, then we've covered the main
components of your pet's diet.
A quality complete food will provide all the
nutrients that your dog needs, and is far easier
to control because you can feed a measured amount
Proteins are made up of amino acids which are the
basic building blocks of life, being essential
components of living cells. Proteins are a major
part of an animal's diet because the body cannot
synthesise some of the amino acids in sufficient
quantities (Dietary protein contains 10 specific
amino acids that dogs cannot make on their own.)
Dogs cannot survive without protein in their
diets. Dietary protein contains 10 specific amino
acids that dogs cannot make on their own. Known as
essential amino acids, they provide the building
blocks for many important biologically active
compounds and proteins. In addition, they donate
the carbon chains needed to make glucose for
energy. High-quality proteins have a good balance
of all of the essential amino acids.
An increased intake of protein is required during
periods of growth, pregnancy and lactation.
However, too much protein in the diet can lead to
its conversion by the body into fat, which is
undesirable, so consideration needs to be given to
the protein content of food at specific life
stages of a pet's growth.
Because dogs are descended from omnivores, they
are not strict meat eaters. They are remarkably
adaptable to a wide range of ingredients, texture,
and form in terms of what they will eat. Though
many dogs may prefer animal-based protein, they
can thrive on a vegetarian diet. Regardless of
whether the protein comes from plant or animal
sources, normal adult dogs should get at least 10%
of their total calories from protein. Older dogs
appear to require somewhat more protein to
maintain their protein reserves, perhaps as much
as 50% more.
Dietary fats, mainly derived from animal fats and
the seed oils of various plants, provide the most
concentrated source of energy in the diet, as well
as giving an acceptable texture and 'mouthfeel' to
the food. They supply essential fatty acids that
cannot be synthesized in the body and serve as
carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins. Fatty
acids are involved in many aspects of health, from
the cellular level upwards.
Essential fatty acids are necessary to keep your
dog’s skin and coat healthy. Puppies fed
ultralow-fat diets develop dry, coarse hair and
skin lesions that become increasingly vulnerable
to infections. Deficiencies in the so-called
“omega-3” family of essential fatty acids may be
associated with vision problems and impaired
learning ability. Another family of essential
fatty acids called “omega-6” has been shown to
have important physiologic
effects in the body.
Arachidonic acid is one of the essential fatty
acids. Dogs can manufacture this from linoleic
acid or gamma-linolenic acid. Cats can not.
Arachidonic acid is found in animal fats which
must therefore be included as part of the diet.
Like dogs, cats also require linoleic acid,
another fatty acid.
Omnivorous animals get some of their energy from
carbohydrates. This food group includes both
simple sugars (such as glucose) as well as complex
sugars (e.g. starch) which consist of chains of
The major sources of carbohydrates in commercial
dog foods are cereals, legumes, and other plant
foodstuffs. So-called absorbable carbohydrates,
including glucose and fructose, can be directly
absorbed and do not need to be digested by
Digestible carbohydrates are readily broken down
by intestinal tract enzymes. Fermentable
carbohydrates include certain starches and dietary
fibers that pass undigested through the small
intestine to the colon, where they are fermented
by microbes into short-chain fatty acids and
gases. Some studies suggest that fermentable
fibers may aid in the
regulation of blood glucose concentrations and
enhance immune function. Carbohydrates may be
converted by the body into fat.
An animal cannot survive for longer than a few
days, or even hours without water. There is a
continual loss of water through skin, urine,
faeces and breathing, and this must be replaced
either as fluid or through the breakdown of food
ingested, which is why it is most important that
an adequat esupply of fresh water is always
abvailable to your pet.
Vitamins and minerals
Vitamins and minerals help to regulate the body
processes. Most cannot be synthesised and
therefore must be provided in the diet.
Interestingly, unlike humans there is no dietary
requirement for vitamin C in most pets, as they
can synthesise it from glucose.
Cats lack the enzyme which can convert
beta-carotene to retinol, the active form of
Vitamin A. Therefore, they require a preformed
Vitamin A, which is present only in foods of
animal origin. Many animals can synthesize niacin,
a B vitamin, from the amino acid tryptophan. Cats
can not manufacture it in sufficient quantities,
thus require higher amounts in their diet.
A number of minerals have been discovered to play
a part in the regulation of body processes, the
requirements for some being greater than others.
Calcium and phosphorus are crucial to strong bones
and teeth. Dogs need magnesium, potassium, and
sodium for nerve impulse transmission, muscle
contraction, and cell signaling. Many minerals
that are present only in minute amounts in the
body, including selenium, copper, and molybdenum,
act in a wide variety of enzymatic reactions.
Only very small amounts are needed however, and
excess can sometimes result in ill health, as
these can be toxic in high doses.
The body needs fuel to power it day by day.
Energy is used up every time the body performs
muscular work, such as moving or even breathing.
The most efficient source of energy in the diet is
fat, which is quickly converted by the body into
usable energy. Carbohydrates and proteins are also
sources of energy, but to a smaller extent.
The body can usefully store energy as fatty
tissue, and in times of shortage these will be
used up - hence the weight loss when on a diet.