The Nutrients a Dog Needs

Posted: 2011/07/28 in Puppy Care, TIPS
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Nutrients are important to all living things, and dogs are no exception. Dogs are omnivores—they eat not only meat, but also grains, grasses, and other foods. They will even scavenge if they have to. Proteins provide nutrients to a dog’s organs, muscles, connective tissues, and bones. A diet lacking in protein can affect your dog’s immune system. Proteins are comprised of twenty-three amino acids. The ten amino acids that a dog’s body can’t manufacture, called essentials, must come from his daily diet. When cooking for your dog, make sure to use a variety of proteins, such as lean beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, duck, and even fish.
Carbohydrates provide energy and fiber. Some carbohydrates, like rice, are also good sources of protein. In your dog’s meals, use rice, pasta, oats (usually in the form of rolled oats), wheat berries, bulgur, barley, rye, or millet.

Just like children, most dogs need to acquire a taste for vegetables and fruits. I like to use canned plain pumpkin because it offers many vitamins and fiber, is low in calories, and is naturally sweet. Other vegetables to try include alfalfa sprouts, asparagus, broccoli, carrots, corn, green beans, peas, yellow squash, and zucchini.

The average dog should eat at least three 1⁄2 cup servings of vegetables and one 1⁄2 cup serving of fruit a day. To make sure that my dogs are getting theirs, I give them frozen vegetable/fruit puree. Here’s my basic recipe: Put the following ingredients in a blender or food processor: 4 ounces no-salt-added Italian plum tomatoes, drained; 1 cup cooked drained chopped spinach; 1⁄2 cup plain pumpkin; 1⁄2 cup cooked chopped green beans, drained; 1⁄2 cup unsweetened applesauce; 1⁄4 cup blueberries; 1⁄4 cup mashed bananas; and 1⁄2 cup baby carrots. Blend to a puree, pour into ice cube trays, and freeze. Once frozen (about 24 hours), remove from the ice cube trays and store in zippered plastic bags for up to 3 months. Healthy fats provide energy and vitamins. Fats can also affect whether your dog has a shiny coat.

They are important for the health of your dog’s eyes and brain, for blood clotting, and for reproduction. Soluble fats provide a dog with vitamins A, D, E, and K. Fish oil is the best source of fat you can give your dog. Choose high-quality vegetable oil, safflower oil, corn oil, sesame oil (great flavor in small amounts), wheat germ oil, sunflower oil, flax seed oil (an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids), or olive oil. Even cod liver oil a couple times a week is great for a dog’s coat. Note that cod liver oil, wheat germ oil, and flax seed oil must be refrigerated, as they can turn rancid if not kept cold.

■ Vitamins and minerals are the building blocks of any healthy organism, your dog included.

• Vitamin A is used for fat absorption and is necessary for a healthy, shiny coat; normal growth rate; good eyesight; and reproduction.
• Vitamin B protects the nervous system. It’s also necessary for a dog’s coat, skin, growth, and vision.
• Vitamin C is synthesized in a dog’s liver. It is added to foods because, although dogs can manufacture some vitamin C in their bodies, they can’t manufacture their daily requirement.
• Vitamin D promotes healthy bones and teeth.
• Vitamin E helps with proper functioning of muscles and internal reproductive organs.
• Vitamin K helps with blood clotting.
• Calcium and phosphorus must be given in the correct ratio to protect bones.
• Copper helps with strong bones and prevents anemia.
• Iodine prevents goiter in dogs, the same way it does in people.
• Iron provides healthy blood and protects against fatigue and anemia.
• Magnesium helps protect against convulsions.
• Potassium helps with a healthy nervous system.
• Zinc helps with normal growth and healthy skin and coat.

Commercial pet food manufacturers add vitamins and minerals to dry and canned pet foods to ensure a balanced diet. Although the meals in this book are healthy and well-balanced, make sure to add a vitamin/mineral supplement (choose one specially formulated for dogs, made of natural whole-food ingredients, and containing no preservatives or artificial ingredients) to make the meal nutritionally complete. Your vet can help you determine the proper vitamins and minerals to give to your dog in supplement form. Never add a supplement before or during the cooking process, or when food is still hot, as doing so will deteriorate its benefits.

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