Canine Nutrition

Canine Nutrition

By Carol Pentz

We have been raised in the belief that dog food companies have the best interest of our canines in their best interest. As with our nutritional needs, corporations tend to make dog foods visually appealing to humans, not always with dog’s health coming secondary to profits.

Let’s delve into the factual information we all need to recognize beyond the fancy and appealing packaging. Many of the FDA regulations have minor, if any, affect on nutritional or safety for our unconditional best friends.

Of great importance, we must grasp the reality of the evolution of dogs. Derived from wolves, nature originally instilled some changes for ease of life for the future of dogs. At that point humans took over the designing of breeds to suit their needs. No matter how severe the newly created breeds became, the nutritional requirements remained the same.

Dogs are considered carnivores, however the entire animal of which the hunted, was consumed including the vegetation the prey has ingested. When discussing the nutritional needs of dogs, this must be kept in our minds.

Firstly, and of grave importance is the issue and primary requirements of protein and amino acids. Often the percentage of protein is displayed, but the necessity escapes the layman. In our early school years, we were taught “the building blocks” needed to live. Protein is composed of amino acids and dogs cannot create these on their own. These 10 essential amino acids are an extremely important to create proper growth, bodily functions, as well as giving the carbon chains to produce glucose for energy. Thus you can see the invaluable need for easily assimilated protein. In the wild, dogs innately know when certain amino acids are lacking and eat accordingly. Instincts run strong, but now our domesticated dogs depend solely on their owners to fill requirements for a healthy existence.

Dietary fats and essential fatty acids are important to give energy and cell structure and function. Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are needed for proper skin, coat development, joint movement and development. Vision, learning ability and physiological effects are also created by essential fatty acids.  These cannot be synthesized by the body.  Without these dietary fats and essential fatty acids, there will be learning and brain dysfunction and the inability to absorb fat soluble vitamins.

(Illustration by Drs foster and smith)

Here, one can see a dog’s digestive tract, fairly simple but very effective. Dissimilar to a human system, there is little digestion initiated before the small intestines. The stomach starts the process with enzymes and liquefying the food. The small intestine is the area of absorption and breakdown of foodstuffs, reaping the benefits of proteins, amino acids and fats, plus vitamins and minerals. The small intestine is a mere one and a half times the length of the dog, a majorly difference to the digestive tract of humans. The small intestine widen into the large intestine which absorbs the fluids from the waste to hydrate the body. The large intestine is at best, eighteen inches long. As you can see, dogs need proper and assimilative nutrition. In the wild, dogs eat what their systems need; again the domestic dog is at the will of humans to provide a balanced diet. Knowing humans eat poorly, this ill behavior passes on to our pets.

When we discuss energy, these are the calories needed to produce that energy. The components of these calories consist of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. These carbohydrates are found in the digestive tracts of food animals, and the ingestion of fruits, berries, and grasses. These digestible “carbs” are broken down in the small intestine by enzymes. There are also fermentable carbs. Starches and fiber pass through the system with little nutrient assets, becoming fermented by microbes changing into short chained fatty acids and gas. As the canine has evolved throughout history, we need to consider the dog breed, activity level, age, and particular physical requirements. Puppies, pregnant or lactating females need the highest calorie AND protein level.

Vitamins and minerals are an area that are lacking in many diets. In the wild, the vitamins and minerals were balanced in the natural raw foods they ingested. Dog food, dry or wet has been cooked, diminishing the nutritional value of the food. Vitamins and minerals are depleted during cooking and processing. Another factor in relation to vitamin assimilation is the lack of sunshine and fresh air, with so many pets indoors for most of their lives. Vitamins A, D, E, K, and all of the B vitamins are essential for good health. There are at least one dozen minerals that would naturally be found in a dog’s natural diet which needs to be added to the making of their prepared foods. The quality and composition of any component in prepared foods must be questioned.

Loving our dogs, large, small, and in between; goes well beyond a pat on the head and a bag of food. We are their keepers and must be certain to give them the best nutrition. Remember, they give us an unconditional love, selflessly.

Carol Pentz

Dog food evaluation will be coming soon. How does your dog food rate?


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