Dog Food Nutrition Guidelines

Dog food nutrition guidelines vary from dog to dog. The amount of food and the type of nutrients a dog needs depends on the canine's activity level, age, size and health needs.

Essential Nutrients a Dog Needs

Water is the most important nutrient a dog needs in his diet. Almost 70% of a dog's body weight is made up of water. A little bit of water can be found in dog food, but fresh, clean water should be given to a dog on a daily basis.

Proteins are essential to a dog's diet. Up to 27% of a dog's daily food intake should contain protein. This nutrient is known as a building-block that helps reproduce and restore cells, tissues, hormones, antibodies and more. Protein can be found in meats, fish and eggs. Vegetables and soy are sources of incomplete proteins that will need to complement other incomplete proteins like corn or beans.

Fats are a concentrated form of calories that help build cells and produce hormones. Fats have two times more calories than protein and carbohydrates. These nutrients help absorb vitamins, provide insulation and protect vital organs. Some types of fats need to be added to a dog's diet as a supplement. Examples of this are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which help repair and reduce inflammation in the body. A dog with allergies can also find some relief when his diet is supplemented with an omega-3 fatty acid. Too much fat, however, can cause a dog to be overweight and have health problems.

Carbohydrates provide a lot of energy and are important for the digestive health of a dog. Some dog experts even state that carbohydrates play an important role in a dog's reproductive health. This nutrient provides the glucose and fiber a dog needs.

Vitamins are important to a dog's metabolism. Since some essential vitamins cannot be produced naturally by a dog's body, foods that contain vitamins should be included in the food.

Minerals in food do not provide energy to a dog. However, they are important to the health of a dog's teeth and bones. They also help maintain an appropriate balance of fluids in the body, and aid in a dog's metabolism.

Special Dietary Needs

The dietary needs of dogs are different depending on their age.

A dog in his senior years will need to consume fewer calories while eating the same amount of protein. Nutrition is important in senior dogs for maintenance purposes. The diet of a senior dog can be supplemented with an omega-3 fatty acid called gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and antioxidants.

Adult dogs need the right balance of nutrients to help make sure muscles, the immune system, tissues and joints stay strong. A good diet can help a dog's body repair itself if it's hurt.

Puppies, during their first four weeks of life, do very well with their mother's work. Afterwards, he can start eating puppy chow, which should be 30% protein.

Basic food nutrition guidelines are the same for every dog. However, variations in quantities may need to be made according to the size of the dog and his age.