Dog Nutrition

Your Complete Guide to Dog Care and Dog Training.

The ABC’s of Dog Nutrition


Your dog needs the same basic nutrients that you do. He requires daily amounts of protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Where the dog differs from human beings is in the amount and form in which these essential nutrients should be supplied.


Proteins are often referred to as body-building blocks and are necessary for growth and repair. They are biological compounds made up from various combinations of amino acids. Approximately 20 amino acids-capable of forming many combinations-intermix to form the different proteins. The known protein requirements of the dog are 18 to 20 percent of the daily ration.

Regardless of the form in which they are taken into the dog’s body, proteins are broken down into their component amino acids. Assimilation takes place and the amino acids are distributed and used for growth, body repair, heat and energy. If these amino acids are to be properly utilized by the dog, certain amounts of fatty acids, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals must also be present.


The importance of fat in the dog’s diet has been revealed in many dog nutrition experiments. Fat is a source of energy and heat. It is composed of essential fatty acids. Three of these fatty acids-linoleic, linolenic and arachidonic-are necessary in your dog’s daily diet. Linoleic acid is found in vegetable and animal fats, such as corn oil, linseed oil, pure lard, bacon grease, beef suet, etc. Linolenic acid is found only in oils. Arachidonic acid is present to a limited degree in animal fats.

Fatty acids have other functions besides providing heat and energy. The presence or absence of adequate amounts of these three fatty acids in the dog’s diet has a marked effect on his skin condition, nervous system and resistance to disease. Young puppies will show a definite reaction to the absence or insufficient quantities of the three essential fatty acids.

When young puppies are fed one percent or less fat in their daily diet, they develop dry, coarse hair and the skin becomes flaky or scaly. If this fat-deficient diet is continued, the pups have a peeling skin and falling hair. As the fat-deficiency progresses, the paws swell, followed by a reddening of the skin. When kept on a low-fat diet, puppies become highly excitable, shaky and timid. They are also more susceptible to infections than pups on a high-fat diet.

Although linolenic and arachidonic acids are necessary, the accent should be on linoleic acid. Of the three, linoleic is the most essential. And since it is readily available in pure lard, bacon grease, pork, beef and lamb fat, there is no reason why your puppy should suffer from a deficiency. Cod-liver oil, while a source of vitamins, will not provide any of the three essential fatty acids. It contains highly unsaturated fatty acids which have no preventive or curative effect on the fat-deficiency syndrome.


Carbohydrates are also a source of energy. They are present in green plants or vegetables as sugars and starches. In the commercial dog foods, carbohydrates are supplied in the form of fiber or bulk. Old wives’ tales to the contrary, dogs can digest limited amounts of starch, preferably cooked.


Minerals are needed to promote the proper growth of your dog. Calcium and phosphorous aid in the formation of sound teeth and bones, as well as blood. Iron, copper and cobalt are involved in the makeup of red blood cells. Iodine prevents goiter. There are other minerals, traces of which are needed to maintain good health.

Vitamins are food constituents necessary for the normal nutrition of the dog. All of the vitamins-A, the B-complex, D and E-are utilized by the dog. Vitamin C is synthesized within the dog’s body, so it is not necessary to supply it. A deficiency of vitamins can result in rickets, poor skin and hair, lack of appetite and nervous disorders.

Your Complete Guide to Dog Care and Dog Training.