Canine Nutrition Fundamentals

Canine nutrition plays an important role in maintaining optimal health conditions in dogs. Although there are several commercially available diets that are suited to the varying needs of pets, it’s best to learn the fundamentals of food that are necessary in varying amounts in the diet. Some owners prefer to feed their pets a diet that incorporates raw food, or holistic diets, as these may be more beneficial to their dogs. Regardless of the type or brand of food that’s available, owners should understand the basic components of food that are necessary to most dogs.

Fundamentals of Canine Nutrition:

  • Proteins
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fats
  • Vitamins and minerals
  • Fiber


A pet’s body requires proteins to promote good health, tissue growth and repair, muscle formation and good skin and nails. Proteins contain amino acids that are necessary to regulate normal body functioning. Healthy pets are capable of synthesizing non-essential amino acids by themselves. Essential amino acids are available in good sources of protein. An ideal source of protein that contains essential amino acids is lean meat. Diets that include eggs, dairy and grains also provide dogs with proteins that are necessary for the body.


Carbohydrates provide the body with energy that’s required by the dog to carry on routine activities. Carbs are broken down into sugars such as glucose, which promotes adequate cell function. The two types of carbohydrates present in food are simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates.

Simple carbohydrates are available in starchy sources of food and sugar. Complex carbohydrates are present in vegetables and whole grains, and are more beneficial as they provide the body energy over a longer period of time. Sources of carbohydrates include oatmeal, rice, wheat and corn.


Although dogs can produce certain fats internally, they require essential fatty acids such as omega 3 and omega 6. These fatty acids help to insulate and cushion the pet’s body. Fats are generally stored in the adipose tissue. Some fats help in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins, and are also used as a source of energy. Pets suffering from arthritis symptoms will often require additional supplementation of fatty acids. Fats are available in both animal and plant sources. Animal fats are present in fish oil, pork and beef. Plant sources include safflower, corn, cottonseed, canola and flaxseed.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins such as A, B, D, E and K are an essential part of canine nutrition, as they provide essential nutrients to various parts of the body. They promote a healthy nervous system, strong bones and healthy eyes. Pets also require folic acid and biotin to maintain normal body functioning. Most commercial diets contain minerals and vitamins that are essential to maintain optimal health. In addition, pet owners can use herbal roots and products in order to control individual pet concerns.


Fiber is not a nutrient in itself, but helps facilitate easy digestion and proper elimination. Pets fed diets rich in fiber ward off diseases such as obesity and diabetes mellitus. Fiber also relieves the gastrointestinal tract and prevents constipation and diarrhea. However, fiber should be fed in adequate amounts, suited to the pet’s age and health conditions.

In addition to the basic fundamentals of a dog’s diet, pet owners may choose to administer supplements, if they benefit the dog. Any changes in diet should be gradual, in order to prevent gastrointestinal intolerance.