Choosing a proper, healthy and nutritive diet for our dogs can often get confusing. While dogs are classified under the order “Carnivora”, their diet is not only composed of meat. Generally, their physiology and digestive tract indicate that dogs are strict carnivores, but over the last few thousand years, vegetables, grains, and fruits were highly incorporated into dogs’ diets. For this reason, dogs can now be classified as omnivores, which need all kinds of nutrients to be incorporated into their diet, just like us humans.
The classification of nutrients is narrowed down to four components: carbohydrates, lipids, protein, and vitamins/minerals. These components guide us to choose a perfect, nourishing diet for ourselves and similarly for our dogs. Each animal species needs a specific percentage of these components in its diet, which varies between individuals and breeds. According to this, you would want to learn your dog’s needs for these components and act upon that to choose the most adequate nutrition. Dogs generally need almost 50-60% carbohydrates, 15-30% protein, and 5-10% of fats. Surprisingly, the biggest part of a dog’s meal should be composed of carbohydrates, some of which are obtained from fibers that can be found in some vegetables and grains.
As mentioned before, a healthy dog meal should be composed of the 4 macronutrients which will provide a nourishing and beneficial diet. But our knowledge about these nutrients is not very sufficient as we should pay attention to certain important details. For example, your dog’s daily intake of protein will not be helpful unless the protein portion provides all or most of the essential amino acids needed by your dog. These amino acids are crucial for metabolic and synthesis activities but cannot be synthesized by your dog’s body thus they need to be taken in through ingestion.
Additionally, proper incorporation of the beneficial lipids into your dog’s diet is also important. Generally, when we say fats, our minds always imagine greasy and harmful oils which will only downgrade our dog’s general health status. But in fact, your dog needs an amount of 5-10% of lipids in his diet to achieve healthy skin, hair, and a proper immune defense. There 2 types of fatty acids and these are saturated and unsaturated ones. The unsaturated ones are known to be liquid at room temperature and they include the essential fatty acids which are highly beneficial for your dog’s health. They include omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids which are known to promote cell growth and improve health status.
Carbohydrates are a major component of a dog’s meal. They come in the forms of sugars, starches, and fibers, each of which has its role in the metabolic events occurring in the body. Carbohydrates mostly provide energy as starches and sugars and improve digestion and gut health as fibers. Therefore, the addition of fibers to the diet as vegetables and grains is required. Moreover, we should never forget the 4th Macronutrient which includes vitamins and minerals that are crucial for immunity and many physiological functions in the body. The most important vitamins needed for your dog’s body are vitamins A-D-E-K in addition to the B-complex. These along with phosphorus and calcium should be necessarily included in any dog’s diet.
Many possible factors contribute to canine obesity, and this is because excessive fat storage in the body does not only depend on the diet. In fact, some factors include age, breed, gender, and the environment of the dog. For example, certain dog breeds are more susceptible than others to obesity including pugs, beagles, and golden retrievers. Therefore, genetics play a huge role in this event. Additionally, the environment and the dog’s daily routine are also important factors in this calculation, because if your dog has 3 nourishing meals per day and spends their time lying down, this might be an alarming obesity situation.
Generally, obesity which is not related to genetics, the environment, or exercise levels, is mostly caused by an unhealthy harmful diet. Obesity generally occurs when the body takes in energy in the form of calories, which are not fully utilized by the body and are then stored as fat cells. For example, a simple obvious cause of obesity in dogs is that you provide a bigger portion than your dog actually needs. This mostly promotes the storage of excess energy as fats, especially if your dog doesn’t have an adequate exercise routine. The presence of some fat storage in the body is useful for maintaining energy and for body insulation but can be harmful if it exceeds the threshold levels.
In cases where the fat storage does exceed the acceptable level in your dog’s body, physiological problems and issues will start to arise. Obesity in dogs is often linked to heart disease, diabetes, and joint problems. Heart problems will begin to arise due to the high amount of cholesterol in the blood which can clog some peripheral blood vessels, or even large arteries and veins. Moreover, diabetic issues will show up due to the inability of the pancreas to supply an adequate amount of insulin to regulate blood sugar. And lastly, joint problems such as arthritis are prominent in obese dogs due to the fact that they need to bear a much heavier load.
As it is for us humans when obesity occurs in dogs certain procedures and diets should be taken into consideration. Providing a weight loss diet plan for your dog will be no easy task for you or for them. The first thing you want to do when making changes in your dog’s diet is the gradual implementation of the new diet while slowly eliminating the old one. This is important in order to make sure that your dog’s digestive tract gets used to the new diet and to prevent an upset stomach. Secondly, you would want to start to increase the protein and fiber percentages in your dog’s meal, while moderately removing carbohydrates and fats.
Basically, when introducing a weight loss diet plan for your dog, your main goal is to minimize the amount of ingested calories while trying to keep the portion of the food the same. This will promote the feeling of a full stomach while making it easier for your pet to lose weight. This means that you have to minimize the number of fats and carbohydrates ingested in a diet while compensating it with protein and fiber. For this reason, you have to choose your dog’s food carefully. If you are feeding your dog canned food, try to choose the foods that are low on carbs but high in protein, and this is often easy to find among manufactured dog foods.
On the other hand, if you would like to make your feeding recipes at home, the procedure is a little more complicated. Firstly, you would want to take your dog to the vet and ask them to calculate the number of calories that your dog needs in general. Then you would ask them to recommend a diet plan where they specify the percentages of the macronutrients in the feeding portion. A veterinarian will most likely recommend a protein portion of 45% with a decreased carbohydrate to 50% and a 5% lipid portion. The percentages may vary according to the diet plan that your vet might recommend, but in general, we try to aim to increase the protein portion.
As we discussed previously if you are aiming to perform homemade food portions for your dog follow up with the previously mentioned percentages. So basically, you will fill half of your dog’s plate with carbohydrates, which will mostly include fibers. The most beneficial vegetables which can be ingested by your dog, and which contain high fiber include broccoli, sweet potato, peas, carrots, and much more. These will not only provide the necessary vitamins and minerals, but they will also promote the feeling of a full stomach. Additionally, you can provide your dog with some vitamin and mineral supplements if you feel like they’re not getting it from the food.
Afterward, you would want to pay attention to your dog’s protein portion. You can provide some boiled chicken, and meat and you can also supply them with some meat broth which is highly beneficial for their immune system. Make sure to supply a small amount of broth as it can be very high on lipids. Moreover, you can provide them with some fish as a protein portion, as it also contains the essential fatty acids that your dog needs. Omega-3 and omega-6 have high availability in marine animals, and therefore fish consumption will be perfect to provide protein and fatty acid requirements.