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Nutritional Requirements for Canine Companions! What Every Dog Owner Should Know?

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dog food in a bowl

More and more pet parents are excited about the prospect of giving their dogs meals created right in their kitchen. While it can be done right, and when it is, it’s often superior to commercial foods, creating incomplete meals with large nutritional gaps is very easy.

 This is why a majority of veterinarians are against the idea of attempting these meals at home by yourself. ‘By yourself’ is the key phrase here.

This is why countertop homemade dog food makers that prep and cook your dog’s food while assessing the nutrient profile for gaps are so exciting. 

While they pretty much do all the work for you – you just provide the ingredients the preprogrammed recipes suggest – it’s still a good idea for every dog owner to learn the basics about their dog’s nutritional requirements. 

Proteins and Amino Acids

Essential for muscles and life itself, proteins are an absolute must in a dog’s diet. These proteins must supply all 10 essential amino acids (Arginine, Histidine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan, and Valine) which our dogs can not synthesize themselves.

We only need 9 essential amino acids as our bodies can make enough arginine, while our cats need 11 as they can’t synthesize taurine. There are a total of 20 amino acids that make up proteins.

Though premium meats are often chosen for their amino acid content, dogs can thrive on a vegetarian diet too. This diet needs to provide the 10 essential amino acids. Eggs make this task straightforward, but even they aren’t necessary.

Imagine trying to solve a puzzle with shaped pieces. That’s like mixing various plant-based ingredients to meet a dog’s nutritional needs. It sounds like a challenge, but it’s quite doable with the right combination.

Size, breed type, activity level, and so on can influence the exact amount of protein a dog needs –  this will be the same with the other macro and micronutrients.

While kibble often provides the minimum amount, many dogs prefer more protein in their diet. 

Some have taken this idea too far and recommend a high-protein diet where the macronutrient makes up the majority of the dog’s daily calories.

Research shows this isn’t preferable, and when allowed to freely eat, a study showed that the majority of dogs prefer fat to make up the majority of their daily calories. 

Excess protein isn’t as big of a concern, unlike excess fats and carbohydrates. 

Fats and Fatty Acids

dog food Fats and Fatty Acids

Dogs commonly consume fat when they eat meat, but dietary fats from seed oils with essential fatty acids can be a key component in your dog’s diet.

Essential fatty acids, such as omega-3s and omega-6s play significant roles in cellular function and structure. 

When creating homemade meals for your dog at home, you will need to keep a close eye, ensuring your dog is getting enough omega-3s, in particular EPA and DHA, in their diet.

Seafoods are rich in omega-3s, while omega-6s are found heavily in terrestrial land animals and plants. 

While omega-6s have essential benefits, Omega-6 fatty acids, like ARA or its precursor linoleic acid (LA), can increase inflammation in the body that omega-3s will directly combat, allowing them to only benefit the body. 

At the end of the day, fats are not the enemy, especially when it comes to our dogs. Plus, fats are flavor enhancers, making meals more enticing to eat. 

Carbohydrates and Grains

Carbohydrates and grains get a bad rap in dog food due to commercial foods, especially when in the kibble form, often relying on it to save costs.

Carbohydrates aren’t our dogs’ main source of overall energy. Carbohydrates are still good for energy on-demand, in particular, for dogs with a more active lifestyle. 

Carbohydrates are amazing at supplying energy to the brain, and a diet deficient in them, in particular, the sugar glucose, can lead to hypoglycemia – this can be offset with a high-protein diet thanks to gluconeogenesis, which converts glucose from noncarbohydrate sources.

Many carbohydrates break down into glucose and other sugars like sucrose. Bread, pasta, and rice are some classic examples of carbohydrates that break down into starches that are then broken down into individual glucose molecules. 

While most carbohydrates aren’t essential, fiber is and for most dogs should make up 2-4.5% of a dog’s diet. 

Energy Needs

When allowed to select their preferred macronutrient ratio instinctively, dogs prefer a ratio of around 30:63:7 (protein, fat, carbohydrate). You do not need to feed your dog this ratio, nor does it say for sure whether they would prefer it. 

An adult dog requires a balanced diet consisting of approximately 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. An equivalent amount of carbohydrates can accompany this. 

Provide approximately 2.25 times more calories from fat compared to protein or carbohydrates – this is easy as 1 gram of fat has 9 calories vs. protein/carbohydrates 4 calories per 1 gram.

It’s important to note that these recommendations are specifically for adult dogs. For puppies, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) recommends higher levels of both protein and fat in their diet to support their growth and development.

To determine just how many calories your dog needs in a day, Animal Medical Center of Chicago provides a very easy chart to quickly find a general idea. 

There are a plethora of calorie calculators online that can help you zone into the perfect number even more. 

You should always monitor your dog’s weight, especially when making a switch in their diet. Make sure to learn what a healthy weight looks like for your dog’s breed and whether they have been neutered/spayed. 

Li et al. (2012) set their ideal range at 15%–22% for male (neutered/unneutered) dogs and 15%–25% for female (non-spayed/spayed) dogs. 

Vitamins and Minerals

Our dogs need 9 essential vitamins (A, B, C, D, E, K, and Choline) and 6 essential minerals (Phosphorus, Calcium, Sodium, Potassium, Chloride, and Magnesium). 

According to a 2019 Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association paper, more than 8 out of 10 homemade dog food recipes featured multiple deficiencies of the vitamins and minerals above, with calcium, followed by phosphorus being the most common. 

This is because it is nearly impossible to give our dogs everything they need when solely relying on whole foods. 

Commercial brands have endless tools at their disposal to correct these common vitamin and mineral issues.

If you’re looking to create your dog’s food for them at home, you too, will need some extra support from supplements like omega-3 supplements and multivitamins with additional calcium support. 

Final Thoughts

We have only scratched the surface of pet nutrition — it’s a complex topic for sure. This is why when you’re looking to create your dog’s food at home, you need to be so careful when relying on yourself to do all the work. 

Doing that yourself is impossible for most pet parents, leaving them to rely on expensive commercial foods if they want to give their dogs the best diet possible.

This doesn’t need to be the case anymore thanks to dog food-making machines that assist you in every step of the process. Please ensure you follow their instructions closely and don’t wait to reach out to your vet if you have concerns.

Daniel Rowe
Daniel Rowe
Daniel is an experienced writer who specializes in canine topics. He has gained firsthand knowledge from years of research and engagement with dogs. This has given him deep expertise in breed profiles, behavior insights, and more. Fellow dog enthusiasts recognize Daniel for his authoritative content. He is dedicated to sharing reliable and trustworthy information. He is committed to enriching the lives of dog lovers through his writing.
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