What are the nutritional needs of a dog?

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Advances in animal nutrition are gradually allowing us to learn more about a dog’s nutritional needs, but there is still a long way to go.

The majority of pets depend on humans for food. In the past, these animals were able to select a wide range of food for food. However, due to domestication, it would seem that they lost this quality or did not maintain it. It is therefore important to know the nutritional needs of a dog to allow him to lead a fulfilled, long and happy life.

In general,  dogs need a set of nutrients that start with water, which is  essential for hydrating and transporting the rest of the nutrients. We also find carbohydrates, lipids and proteins, which are a structural and metabolic basis.

Finally, we find the vitamins and minerals, essential for the complete well-being of the animal. All these substances allow the dog to carry out its vital functions.

Water as the basis of a dog’s nutritional needs


Water is not only vital for maintaining hydration. In fact, seeing that an animal is hydrated also shows us that the reactions necessary to synthesize and break down nutrients through digestion can take place in its body. This is why water is the perfect culture broth for life.

It is important to know that the water needs of animals vary according to their stage of life, that is to say whether they are babies, adults or seniors. Living things can get water by taking it directly, either through food or from metabolic water. The latter is generated by the chemical oxidation reactions typical of organisms.

Energy in nutrition

Energy or caloric density is the amount of energy we can find in a unit of food. This is usually expressed in calories or kilocalories (Kcal). Each type of food provides energy to animals, depending on the composition of the food they are given:

  • 1 gram of fat provides 9.4 kcal
  • 1 gram of protein, between 5.3 and 5.8 kcal
  • and 1 gram of carbohydrates, between 3.3 and 4.3 kcal

To keep the dog healthy, it is essential to avoid an energy imbalance. This consists in giving the animal more or less energy than it would spend in a day. In this case, the dog could suffer from obesity or malnutrition.

Carbohydrates for dogs

Carbohydrates are compounds formed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. They can be classified in different ways. For example, whether they are easily absorbed or not, if they digest or simply pass through the digestive tract, if they ferment in the intestines, etc.

These substances are fundamental for the conservation of the organism and are stored in the form of glycogen. We thus have glucose, essential for the functioning of the nervous system.

The carbohydrate needs of dogs are not known exactly, but we know that they change with age or physiological state.

Be aware that dogs have metabolic routes that synthesize carbohydrates. They therefore do not need to get them through food. They are optional carnivorous animals and, in the wild, they obtain hydrates from the glycogen stored by their prey.

Cereals are a food very rich in carbohydrates. They are added to extruded kibbles from pets to lower costs as they are not necessary in feeding a dog.

Dog food and nutritional requirements

Fat or fat in canine nutrition

Fats are part of a dog’s nutritional needs. In addition to being their main store of energy, they have many structural and metabolic functions in the body:

  • They are around the nerve fibers to protect them
  • Cholesterol, a type of lipid, is a precursor to certain hormones
  • They constitute lipoproteins , which facilitate the movement of fats in the blood.
  • These are structural components of cell membranes, in the form of phospholipids and glycolipids
  • Because they are in the membranes,  they take care of transporting nutrients inside or outside the cells.

Through lipids, dogs get essential fatty acids, like omega-6 and omega-3. The exact amounts of these nutrients that should be part of the dog’s diet are still unknown. However, the omega-3 concentration should be higher.