A balanced diet is the key to your pooch’s long and healthy life. Each of the 5 main nutrients: protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals contribute extensively to the formation of a diet that is well balanced and will ensure that your pet is nourished from the inside out.
Much like human beings, dogs also require a specific composition of nutrients delivered through their daily meals in order to live a full and healthy life. This balanced diet is key to their cell maintenance, growth and proper bodily function. Following the guidelines set by the FEDIAF (The European Pet Food Industry), Right4Paws has a specially formulated diet which prides itself on providing balance and nutrition which is species and biologically appropriate, better for health and holds low obesity risk. According to the FEDIAF, a diet that is poorly balanced has the ability to cause serious harm to your dog’s health and can lead to a shorter life span. The nutritional requirements thus need to be prioritized and complete which means that your pet food must be able to provide all the necessary nutrients with each portion of food that is consumed by them in accordance with their life stage and activity levels.
The FEDIAF states that nutrition is one of the foremost factors that contribute to a pet’s long and healthy life. Aside from water, they recognize 5 key nutrients namely, Protein, Carbohydrates, Fats, Vitamins and Minerals. Let’s discuss each aspect individually.
Proteins are considered to be the core elements in the development and sustenance of various organs, bones, muscles, blood, immune system, nails, and coat. Dogs can even use protein to produce energy! People often say that they think that their dog needs ‘more’ or ‘less’ protein but it’s crucial for your pet to ingest the right amount of protein so that it can be easily digested and absorbed. Proteins consumed in excess quantities are ineffectual for the pet as they are neither stored in the body nor are they used to make more muscle tissue.
Proteins in pet food can come from various ingredients such as poultry, beef, pork, fish, eggs, corn, rice, peas or soybeans. However, it’s important for us to look deeper into our dogs’ food before deciding which sources to use as not all protein is made equal! The ‘usefulness’ of protein is defined by discussing ‘protein quality’ and varies depending on the origin of the protein, what it’s made up of, and how it is processed. The ‘quality’ of protein refers to how easily that protein is actually used by your dog. There are a few factors that determine whether we can consider a protein as high ‘Quality’ or not:
The right proportions of Amino Acids:
Proteins are made up of building blocks called ‘amino acids’. There are hundreds of different amino acids but only 10 of them are essential to be present in your dog’s diet. These all have different roles in your dogs’ body, so it’s important they get exactly the right balance of each one. If a dog gets too many of one amino acid, and not enough of another – they cannot function or grow properly. Think of growing a dog as being like building a bridge. It wouldn’t matter if you had all the bricks in the world if you didn’t have enough cement – you still couldn’t build the bridge. You need just the right amounts of each.
Meat and eggs are considered ‘high quality’ proteins because they have just the right amounts of each amino acid in just the right proportions making them easy for your dog to use. This indicates that meat and products like eggs or cheese are preferable when it comes to providing protein for a dog. Proteins can be taken from plants too – but in many vegetables and pulses the mix of amino acids that are supplied is just not quite right for a dog. It doesn’t mean you can’t use some vegetable protein for your dog, but it’s harder to get the balance right.
Digestibility of Protein Sources
Digestibility describes how much of the nutrients in food are broken down and used by the dog. It is no good putting lots of food in the front end if it’s indigestible. For example, grass contains protein – but this is no good to dogs as dogs cannot digest grass to get to this protein. In addition to having a less than ideal amino acid profile, plants often also have lower digestibility. This is because the plant fiber (from the cell walls of plant cells) and carbohydrate content lower digestion. This is another reason why it’s important to meet your dog’s amino acid/protein needs using proteins like meat, eggs and fish
Digestibility is also affected by processing. Overcooking can cause amino acids to form indigestible ‘complexes’ with carbohydrates forming Maillard Complexes. These complexes cannot be absorbed correctly. Excessive amounts of fiber and ash (minerals) can also interfere with digestibility – so pet foods containing a large proportion of plant ingredients, or where bone content is very high, will also suffer with reduced digestibility.
Carbohydrates are an important aspect of a dog’s diet as they are used by their body to provide immediate energy and are stored in the liver and muscle as glycogen. This is broken down into glucose which is one of the main sources of energy for tissues like the brain and red blood cells. However, carbohydrates aren’t the sole contributor to this process as in its scarcity, even proteins and other compounds can synthesize to form glucose which is why there is no minimum level of carbohydrates that are required to be present in pet food.
There are two types: digestible carbohydrates (starches and sugars) which provide energy and indigestible carbohydrates (fiber) which are important for stool quality and gut motility. Ingredients that are mainly plant based like corn, barley, peas, rice, wheat and potatoes are the main suppliers of carbohydrates. Dietary fiber is not an essential nutrient, but it has multiple benefits, such as promotion of a healthy intestinal microbiota, adequate intestinal transit, and satiation. Digestible carbohydrates further spare the use of animal protein, which is a limited resource in pet nutrition.
However, processes like grinding and cooking are required to be subjected to these carbohydrates in order for them to be easily digestible.
The role played by fats in pet food is to act as a source of essential fatty acids which are needed to make certain hormones and maintain the cell membranes. Certain Vitamins (A, D, E and K) can only be absorbed, stored and transported by fat. They also provide 2.5 times the amount of energy as provided by proteins or carbohydrates which is why fats are essential for diets that are consumed by active dogs.
Fats in pet food are derived from both animals and vegetables and are of 2 types- the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid families. Omega-3 fatty acids are pertinent for the reduction of inflammation and are needed for cell membranes. Sources including fish, shellfish and flaxseed are consumed to supply fats to the dog. Omega-6 fatty acids on the other hand are significant contributors to the tissue repair process and are supplied by vegetable oils.
Vitamins and Minerals
Major macro minerals needed by dogs include calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, chloride, and magnesium. Aside from these key minerals, trace elements like iron, copper and selenium are required for the body but in much smaller quantities.
When it comes to calcium levels in a dog, we need to be overly cautious while dealing with puppies. Unlike adult dogs, puppies cannot control calcium intake in the same way, meaning that they are more vulnerable to inappropriate levels of calcium in the body. Although puppies do need more calcium than adult dogs, excess calcium is just as bad as a calcium deficiency and can cause orthopedic ailments. Vitamin D plays a crucial part in the absorption of calcium. Fish Oil is one such source of vitamin D that will ensure that puppies are able to efficiently absorb the calcium in their diet.
Vitamins, although required by the body in very small amounts, are essential to enable many functions in the body. Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) for example is important in neurological function, and Vitamin B7 (Biotin) is vital in hair and nail growth. Dogs cannot make all of the minerals they need, hence their diet is required to provide them with these.
Minerals and vitamins are partly provided by the ingredients which deliver the major nutrients of protein, carbohydrates and fat and the other minerals and vitamins are added to the recipe.
Now that you have read in detail the benefits of each nutrient that is required to be present in pet food, you can feel free to compare them to our detailed description of the contents of our well formulated balanced diet which is found at the back of each pack and note why each high quality ingredient used in it is beneficial for your pooch. We have done our research, it’s time you do yours and make the right decision!