Something to Eat Up! Understanding Dog Nutrition & Diet

April 1st, 2024

happy hound eating bananas

Food is a way for people to come together—it’s a universal language expressing care, nurturing, and love. It’s a social connector, a reason to gather with friends or cheer over something big. And this holds true when it comes to our dogs. They are our loyal besties, so of course, we want to indulge them with snacks and mouthwatering choices to convey how much we appreciate all the happiness they bring to our lives or celebrate the latest trick they just mastered.

Yes, there are so many ways we can love our companion—walks, cuddles, pets, kisses—but the power of food is another way we communicate our deep love for our dog. When they see their bowl or those treats and get excited and sometimes even hop around with so much joy, it makes us smile.

So, while there’s nothing wrong with food being one of the languages of our love, we do have to be aware that it’s nutritious and healthy, and we’re not overindulging them with too many treats. As with everything in life, balance is key! Too much of a good thing can lead to some health risks. As their biggest advocates, it’s our responsibility to fill their bowls with delicious, nutritious meals!
happy hound standing on a scale

Why A Good Diet Matters

Just like with a human diet, we all know good choices mean we feel so much better—more energy, our bodies feel good, and even our minds. Your pet pal will thrive under yummy yet high-quality food. When they feel their best, they can go on boundless walks or run in the park, chasing their friends.

Too little of the necessary sustenance means your pup pal could be experiencing some nutritional deficiencies affecting their overall health and leaving them feeling less than great. And too much, and your dog will eventually gain weight and be at risk of being obese, which can lead to other health problems.

Not getting the right food can lead to:

  • Bone & Joint problems like osteoarthritis and ligament ruptures
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Respiratory Issues
  • Skin disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Shortened life span
  • Poor quality of life

Consider Your Dog’s Unique Needs

When deciding how much and what type of food, consider these points below:

Weight: To start, understand what a healthy weight your dog should be at and adjust its dietary needs based on this goal. If they struggle to shed some of those extra pounds, their portion size or even type of food may need to be changed. Here’s a simple visual from the Animal Humane Society to help gauge if your pet is overweight. Always consult your vet to discuss your pet pal’s options. And if you feel your four-legged bud has added some inches, going to the vet could help catch some possible health issues before they get too serious.

Age: Your dog’s nutritional needs change as they get older. Puppies need specific food to help them grow and develop, while seniors can benefit from formulas designed to keep them as active and cognitively sharp as possible.

Lifestyle: If your dog is out and about running all over the place, heading to the dog park daily, or is your running partner every morning, they may need more daily calories. Less active dogs can stick with the average calorie intake recommended on most dog food labels. The type of breed and personality are something to consider as well. You may have a couch potato, and that’s okay; they will just need a different diet.
happy hound eyeing fried meat instead of vegetables

Dog Nutrition Breakdown

The basic nutrients include water, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins. All of these play an integral part in a dog’s daily diet to build and maintain essential body functions.

A little math to throw your way – many experts recommend a 20% protein to 12% fat for adult dogs. This equation ensures that your dog remains spunky and playful and always ready to chase that ball. The correct protein intake prevents muscle loss without the risk of excessive weight gain, helping to maintain just the right weight. Dog food companies provide this % on their labels, making it easier to determine if it has the %’s you are looking for nutrients.

While here, let’s dive in a little about these nutrients because it is helpful to know how they support our favorite furry friend.

Protein: Proteins are the building blocks for cells, tissues, organs, enzymes, hormones, and antibodies. They help with our pet pal’s muscles’ growth, maintenance and repair processes! Phew, protein is a pretty big deal! Animal-based meats such as chicken, lamb, turkey, beef, and fish are all great options for protein intake and your dog will love at least one of these!

Fat: Healthy fats like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are mood boosters! Found in fish oil, flaxseed, and certain oils, these fats keep their coats shiny, skin healthy, and their brain quick and sharp! Fats aid cell structure, hormone production, and the absorption of certain vitamins. They also provide insulation and protection for internal organs.

Carbs: Carbohydrates provide energy and give them their healthy intestine. Although there’s no specific requirement for carbohydrates, minimum glucose is necessary to fuel vital organs like the brain. Whole grains like brown rice and oats provide them with a steady energy source to keep their tails wagging all day.

Fibers: Fiber is a kind of carbohydrate that helps with gut health and manages diarrhea in dogs. This includes beet pulp, a common ingredient in dog foods. This may be a little TMI, but it also helps manage all their little toots.

Vitamins: Just like us, dogs need a variety of vitamins and minerals to stay healthy and happy. Look for dog food that contains a balanced blend of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus, and more, from vitamin A for healthy vision to calcium for strong bones. It’s what can give our pet pals extra immune health and a boost of energy, making it easier for them to spot that squirrel in the distance and chase it!

When feeding your pup pal a well-rounded diet, it is not necessary to give additional vitamin supplements. You may unknowingly be providing a toxic amount, resulting in various ailments like bone and joint pain, dry skin, kidney failure, and more. Only give supplements when recommended specifically by your veterinarian.

H20: Lastly, water is a big piece to a well-rounded diet. A fresh bowl of water to wash everything down and sip throughout the day will keep your dog hydrated. All of us could benefit from a little more water.
happy hound happy about kibble

What To Know About Dog Food

High-Quality Options.

AAFCO, a non-profit organization, establishes standards for animal feed and pet food in the United States. It establishes guidelines for the nutritional content, labeling, and safety of dog food products to ensure they meet certain standards of quality and adequate dog nutrition. Before you purchase locate the AAFCO statement, it’s one step towards knowing if you are getting a nutritionally-balanced dog food.

Everyone has a different budget, so purchase the highest-quality selection if possible. Sometimes, low-quality versions contain fillers. They add bulk but lack nutrition—common fillers like corn, wheat, and soy cause allergies and upset bellies. When scanning the label, choose food with real ingredients. If the majority listed are unfamiliar to you, check out some other options.

Taste Test

When it comes to choosing the right food, so many available varieties are lining the shelves to fill your dog’s food bowl. From kibble to wet food to raw diets, each has its perks. But remember, what works for one dog may not work for another. Just like us, they have their own little preferences. We know our dogs best, so you can read their cues and know if they’re not the biggest fan of their newest grub. Also, watch for any changes in their appetite, energy level, or stool. If you notice something is not right, it’s best to consult your veterinarian.

Portions Sizes

Using the instructions on a commercial pet food label is an excellent place to start when considering how much to feed your dog. Consider the frequency of feeding. Smaller dogs often demand more frequent meals than larger ones. Puppies and nursing mothers also need more frequent meals than adult dogs. If you feed your dog more than once a day, the food label may show the daily intake only, so divide the recommended amount.

Depending on your lifestyle and what works for your pup’s personality, offering food once or twice a day is advised. Keeping mealtime consistent is helpful since our pet pals love routine and will know when to expect dinner time.
happy hound lying in a pile of treats

It’s hard to resist a treat!

We love to shower our furry besties with all sorts of treats! I mean, for all the love they give us, they deserve it for sure. And lots of times, we need special goodies to reward them for their good behavior or for the latest trick they learned. But treats can add up fast, so here are some helpful tips so you don’t overdo it, but everyone will still be happy. So basically, it’s a win–win!

  • When training and frequently using treats, use tiny pieces. They won’t protest or even notice, we promise!
  • You can also set aside some of their kibble as “treats.” They’ll never know their dinner was missing a couple of pieces!

There’s nothing like seeing your furry baby content with a belly full of delicious, healthy food. The good news is that our furry friends are generally not that picky, so finding healthy and wholesome options won’t be difficult. It’s also a great excuse to hit the pet store together—they may just sniff out their next favorite meal!

Is that your dog’s tummy grumbling we hear? Happy Hound is all about giving dogs the best nutrition – here’s some of our recommendations and what we feed our little furry crew when they are with us.