Healthy Dogs: Veterinarian Advice on Diet and Nutrition

Veterinarians recommend a balanced diet to keep dogs healthy. But with all the dog foods available on the market today, how do you know which one is the best? Educating yourself about dog nutritional requirements and dietary no-nos is the first step towards ensuring that your dog's diet is healthy and balanced.

Dog Nutritional Requirements

A dog's diet should contain the right balance of protein, lipids, fiber, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals to ensure good health. Your dog's diet should consist of the following ratios of these nutrients:

  • 30% protein
  • 5% lipids
  • 5% pure fiber
  • 50% carbohydrates
  • 2% calcium and phosphorus

These ingredients can already be found in prepared dog foods, but if you're preparing your dog's food at home, make sure you research the nutritional value of the ingredients you're using so that your dog's nutritional requirements are met.

Dog Nutrition and Feeding Tips

Veterinarians recommend feeding your dog a food made with chicken, beef, lamb, or fish listed as the first ingredient. These meats are high in the protein your dog needs.

A food high in omega-3 fatty acids can help give your dog more energy and maintain his overall health, including heart and brain function.

If your dog becomes constipated, he may be suffering from a lack of fiber in his diet. Add a little Metamucil, wheat bran, canned pumpkin, or even mineral oil to his food.

Puppies and pregnant dogs have different nutritional requirements than healthy adult dogs. Make sure you feed your puppy a food specially formulated for his needs. Your pregnant dog may need additional calcium and other nutrients; your veterinarian can ascertain this during a prenatal exam. Elderly and obese dogs also have differing nutritional needs; feed them a food specially formulated for their needs.

Your dog needs a constant supply of clean fresh water to remain healthy. Also, it's a good idea to feed your dog smaller portions two to three times a day, rather than one large portion once a day.

Dietary Don'ts and Warning Signs

There are some things you should never feed your dog:

  • Table scraps- they can make him fat, and they can also cause gastrointestinal upsets such as diarrhea or vomiting.
  • Chocolate
  • Grapes
  • Citrus fruits
  • Cat food
  • Walnuts
  • Onions
  • Raw bones

If you are feeding your dog raw meat, take care that it is fresh and of good quality, to lower the risk of foodborne illness.

If your dog eats feces or grass, this may be a sign of gastritis, a condition in which your dog experiences discomfort due to a high level of acid in his stomach. Gastritis can occur when your dog eats something that disagrees with him, becomes overexcited, exercises too much, or eats too much too fast. Gastritis usually clears up on its own within 24 hours; however, if it's accompanied by projectile vomiting, abdominal bloating, or any other symptoms, see your veterinarian right away.