Nutrition for Dogs

Knowledge about the best nutrition for dogs can make a huge difference in your dog's health and happiness. Feeding your dog the proper nutrition can positively affect her behavior as well as her physical health and longevity. If you try to mimic the diet of a dog in the wild, you give your domesticated dog the best chance for good health. Research shows that a biologically appropriate raw food diet, also known as BARF, is the healthiest for dogs from young to old. Some commercial dog food is also quite good, and variety is key.

Your Dog Is Wild on the Inside

Today's domesticated dog has a digestive system that is very similar to dogs in the wild. Your dog's nutritional needs are fairly similar to that of her wild ancestors from an evolutionary perspective. The modern dog can tolerate raw food and will do very well with the nutritional value.

What Dogs Eat in the Wild

In the wild, dogs mostly eat animals that they kill as well as fruit and plants. While wild dogs can tolerate some grains, they seem to prefer a mostly animal protein diet. The body is made to handle the kind of diet that would result in a hunting, nomadic life meaning a lot of variety and going a few days without food. Dogs still can benefit from a 12 to 24 hour fasting period which allows their body to detoxify and gives their digestion a rest.

The BARF Diet

The best diet for dogs involves a high amount of protein combined with moisture and raw bones. Vegetables and fruit supplement the diet but are not central. The dog digests moisture through the intestine so blood and moisture-rich flesh are important for proper hydration. The raw bones are filled with necessary minerals while other ingredients such as raw apples and carrots provide vital vitamins. When eating raw food, the dog can eat smaller amounts because there are no fillers or calories from unnecessary sources. Lean muscle develops and fat is kept to a minimum. The BARF diet can help dogs with allergies and other physical as well as behavioral problems.

Integrating Commercial Dog Food

While raw food is best, there are ways to choose healthy commercial food for your dog. Moist food is important to keep your dog hydrated even if fresh water is always available. Look for formulas that have whole ingredients and are low in grains, particularly corn. Dogs tend to not do very well with soy, corn and artificial ingredients. If the protein primarily comes from "chicken" versus "chicken meal" or by-products, it's a more natural source of the food. For dogs with food allergies, try venison and buffalo as the sources of protein.