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Nutritional Balance for Dogs: Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat

Knowing what food is best for your dog can be a difficult decision to make, particularly when there are so many options available. When you add in any specific health problems such as pregnancy, glaucoma or  mitral valve disease, it can be difficult to know what is best. Many people incorrectly assume that since modern day domesticated dogs are descended from wolves, they should be eating a diet similar to that of a modern-day wolf.

While your dog might seem like a wild animal, their digestive systems are actually a lot more complicated thanks to thousands of years living as domesticated animals. So, it’s no to a purely carnivorous diet of raw meat, I’m afraid. Unfortunately, many modern day dog food manufacturers favour a high percentage of carbohydrates in their puppy chow, because this is cheaper to produce than a high protein dog food. In order to make sure you are giving your dog the best possible diet, there are a few things you need to look out for with their food.

Complete rather than complimentary

Make sure your dog’s food is described as complete rather than complimentary, as this means that your dog will be getting all of the nutrients and vitamins they need. ‘Complimentary’ is often used to describe things like treats, chews, and biscuits. These shouldn’t make up more than 10% of your dog’s daily intake.

Dry or wet?

This is really down to preference – both yours and your dogs. Dogs are far less fussy than cats, and some owners prefer to give their pet a diet of wet food, served at room temperature. The main difference is that wet food should be kept in the fridge once the tray, can or pouch has been opened, and it can’t be left in the dog’s bowl for more than one hour as it could begin to develop bacteria. Dry food is a little easier to store, as all you will need is an airtight container. If you are feeding your pet a dry diet, you will need to make sure they always have access to clean drinking water, as they won’t be getting as much moisture from their food.

Ideal composition

Dogs are omnivores, which means they can use carbohydrates as a source of nutrition. Carbohydrates also offer a good source of fibre, which can help keep your dog regular. Ideally, the carbohydrate content in your dog’s food should be between 30-70%. It’s also important that the food contains carbohydrates from ‘whole’ sources, such as barley, oats or brown rice. A puppy will need around 28% protein and 17% fat, while an adult dog will need around 18% protein and 9-15% fat. Not all proteins are equal, and owners should look for a protein source that is easily digestible for your dog. Egg and fish are among some of the best protein sources for dogs.

What if I run out?

If you run out of dog food, there are a number of things you can feed your dog in a pinch. Although it isn't a great option for the long term, a meal of brown rice and plain chicken can keep your dog's stomach full before you have a chance to hit the shops.