It is no coincidence that well fed dogs are usually the happiest and healthiest dogs. Just like people, dogs need to eat a well balanced diet to maintain their health and live long, active lives. Dog nutrition is very similar to human nutrition, but dogs are not people. They are unique animals with dietary needs based on centuries of evolution. While dogs are more omnivorous than pure carnivores like cats, they are not true omnivores like human beings. They evolved from wolves, so they tend to do best on meat based diets.
Important nutrients to consider when planning a dog’s diet include water, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Often overlooked, water is a necessity to sustain life and maintain good health. It helps transport food through the digestive system and makes up around 70% of a dog’s weight. Proteins are essential for building body structures and for driving metabolism, while carbohydrates provide an extra energy source and contribute dietary fiber to aid digestion. Fats are necessary for many body systems, and contribute to making foods taste good to dogs. Although only needed in relatively small amounts, vitamins and minerals are necessary components for any healthy canine diet.
While there are general rules for good dog nutrition, the best diet for any dog will be based on its individual needs. A good diet balances all of the important nutrients and takes into account a dog’s age, activity level, health, reproductive status and current body condition. A truly excellent diet not only allows a dog to survive, it promotes optimum health and longevity.
Owners sometimes overlook the importance of fresh, clean water in dog’s diet. However, good hydration is a cornerstone of canine health. Drinking an appropriate amount of water allows a dog to digest its food properly, maintain appropriate body temperature, produce adequate blood volume and appropriately carry out important metabolic processes. In fact, dehydration is a greater danger for dogs than starvation. Healthy dogs can survive losing up to half of the fat and protein in their bodies, but losing less than a tenth of their bodies’ water is potentially deadly.
So, how much water does a dog need each day? In general, the answer depends on the size of the dog and its age. Each day, a healthy adult dog needs close to an ounce of water for every pound of bodyweight. Nursing mothers and dogs doing heavy physical activity need more water than more sedentary house pets. Puppies need more water than adults. They should take in an ounce to an ounce and a half of water per pound per day. Dogs do not need to actually drink their entire water requirement if they eat a canned diet. Canned food contains a significant amount of water. However, canned food cannot fill a dog’s entire daily requirement. All dogs do need to drink some fresh water every day.
Many veterinarians recommend offering a dog free choice access to water...