Does the food I'm getting for my dog meet his nutritional needs? Am I feeding the right amount?

We often ask ourselves these questions because, as pet owners, we worry too much about the health of our canine friends.

As our knowledge of diet and health widens, the range of available food for our dogs also expands.

So, this article will give you a better understanding of the primary nutrients your dog will need as he grows older and how much is the allowable amount your dog can take in.

Basic Nutritional Requirements

What Are the Nutritional Needs of Dogs?

Dogs need six primary nutrients:

  • Proteins
  • Fats
  • Carbohydrates
  • Minerals
  • Vitamins
  • Water

These essential nutrients are part of the dog's regular diet and involve all the body's crucial functions.

The maximum amount dogs can tolerate on some nutrients are still unknown.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) develops nutritional guidelines as a basis for the nutritional content of most commercial pet foods.

So, make sure that you buy dog food that meets the AAFCO requirements.

Consult your veterinarian for more information on the specific nutrients your dog needs.

Proteins and Amino Acids

Dogs barely survive without protein in their meal diets. Protein contains ten specific amino acids that dogs can't produce on their own.

These specific amino acids, known as essential amino acids, provide the building blocks for many important biologically active compounds and proteins.

In addition, amino acids donate carbon chains to make glucose for energy.

High-quality proteins have a balance of all the critical amino acids.

According to studies, dogs can determine if their food lacks a single amino acid and will not eat it.

Dogs are selective in choosing food that is high in protein. However, dogs can survive a vegetarian diet as long as it contains sufficient protein and vitamin D.

Fats and Fatty Acids

Dietary fats derived from animal fats and seeds oils from different plants provide the most concentrated energy source for a dog's diet.

Fats supply essential fatty acids that dogs cannot make in their own body and serve as carriers for fat-soluble vitamins.

Fatty acids play a crucial role in cell structure and function. Aside from that, food fats enhance the taste and texture of dog food.

Essential fatty acids are necessary to keep your dog's skin and coat healthy.

Lack of omega-3 fatty acids can result in visual and learning impairments. On the other hand, omega-6 fatty acids have a strong physiological effect on dogs.

Your Dog's Daily Recommended Allowances for Protein and Fats

Daily Recommended Allowances for Protein and Fats for dogs

Energy Needs

All dogs need a certain amount of energy for their daily activities. Growth, pregnancy, lactation, and exercise increase typical energy requirements.

Energy comes from three dietary compounds:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Protein
  • Fats

Energy Needs of Growing Puppies

Growing puppies need twice as many calories per pound of their body weight.

You should start feeding him food about four weeks after birth if you have a puppy because the mother's milk is no longer enough.

The ideal food to feed to puppies is multiple, well-spaced meals.

Energy Needs of Older Dogs

Older dogs need fewer calories than middle-aged dogs because of decreased physical activity and slowed metabolism.

As dogs grow older, they become overweight. The blood glucose concentration of obese dogs takes longer to return to normal.

The destroyed carbohydrate metabolism of dogs would result in diabetes.

Energy Needs of Lactating Dogs

Typically, new mothers cuddle their puppies for at least six weeks. As the number of puppies increases, the mother's need for calories increases.

Therefore, owners of these dogs may need to start feeding the puppies with supplemental food early.

Average Daily Energy Needs for a Dog

Dogs Average Daily Energy Needs


Dogs need vitamins in their food, but only in low concentrations because vitamin deficiency in dogs leads to health complications.

Vitamin A deficiency in dogs includes motor and vision impairment, skin lesions, respiratory diseases, and susceptibility to infections.

Lack of vitamin E shows clear skeletal muscle breakdown, reproductive failure, and retinal degeneration.

Some vitamins, like vitamin D, are vital in small doses and toxic in massive amounts.

Dog's Daily Recommended Allowances for Vitamins

Dog's Daily Recommended Allowances for Vitamins


Calcium and phosphorus are crucial to the foundation of strong bones and teeth. Magnesium, potassium, and sodium for nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction, and cell signaling.

Dogs can either get too much or too little minerals in their diets.

A lack of dietary calcium causes secondary hyperparathyroidism. This disease results in significant bone loss, skeletal abnormalities, and pathological fractures.

As well, excess calcium results in skeletal abnormalities.

A Dog's Daily Recommended Allowances for Minerals

A Dog's Daily Recommended Allowances for Minerals

Different Nutritional Needs for Every Life-Stages of Dogs

There are various nutritional needs in every life-stages of dogs. Feeding them with all-purpose dog food may not satisfy their needs as a growing puppy or a pregnant or lactating mother.

Recommended by nutritionists, feeding your dog according to its stage in life (e.g., puppy, adolescent, pregnant, adult, and senior) can help maintain his overall health and well-being, as well as improve the quality of your dog's life.

Nutritional Needs of Puppies

Puppies need large amounts of food because they grow and have limited space in their stomachs.

Between 6 to 8 weeks, they need to eat four to six meals a day. As they reach six months old, the meal is cut to two to three meals a day because they are already about 75% of their adult size.

At the age of 8 to 10 months old, a puppy's growth is almost complete, and an average puppy can already switch to adult dog food by the period of 12 months old.

Nutritional Needs of Older Dogs

Diets for dogs over seven years of age have high protein content, lower sodium and calories, and fewer carbohydrates.

Many senior dogs' diet also contains prebiotics or probiotics to maintain a healthy intestinal microbial population, increase omega-3 fatty acids to fight inflammation, and glucosamine for joint health.

But it's always better to consult your vet for any recommendations about the best dog food for senior dogs.

Life Stages Nutritional Requirements
Puppy Increase levels of all nutrients
Adult Nutrients should fit the dog's lifestyle
Pregnant Increase protein, fat, and carbohydrate during the last week of gestation
Senior Moderate calorie intake and energy density to reduce risk of weight gain

How to Fulfil the Everyday Nutritional Needs of My Dog?

Still, puzzled on how to fulfill the needs of your dog? Here's a quick list to get you started on what to add to your dog's everyday meal:

  • A whole egg is the most bioavailable source of protein. One large egg can provide about 6 grams of protein.
  • Sardines are high in omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Aside from that, sardines are low in mercury.
  • Squash is high in vitamins A and C, full of antioxidant-rich carotenes, an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins E and B6, potassium, magnesium, and manganese.
  • Dark leafy greens are rich in vitamins A, C, E, K, and folate. They are also high in carotenoids that show to protect against cancer.
  • Oysters are a great source of copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc.
  • Sweet potatoes are full of fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, and high-quality carbohydrates.
  • Raw carrots are great for teeth and gum health, also with eyesight.

Fulfilling the Nutritional Needs of Dogs

Finding the Perfect Vet-Approved Recipe for A Homemade Dog Food

Before trying out any food and diet for your dog, it's essential to know:

  • How to have a balanced meal for your dog to get enough nutrients
  • What food should dogs eat or not eat

If you are one of the few considering a homemade diet, the best thing you can do is consult a canine nutritionist. This nutritionist will guide you in making a recipe that will guarantee a 100% nutritionally balanced meal.

But also, don't forget that your dog's nutritional needs vary because this will depend on his age, weight, level of activity, and health condition.

As these factors change, the diet of your dog changes too!

Nutritional Needs of Dogs: A Take-Away Message

The pet nutrition industry is very competitive. That's why choosing high-quality food for your dog is a big challenge.

With this, it's better to ask help from your trusted veterinarian to help you select a credible diet that can truly meet your pet's nutritional needs. And with questions you have in mind about a particular food, your excellent source of guidance is the veterinary team.

Frequently Ask Questions

Are There Breed Differences in Nutritional Needs of Dogs?

Experts have identified breed variations in metabolism and nutrient requirements for the past years.

Dog breeds born in specific locations, e.g., Arctic Circle and water breeds, can adapt to specialized diets typical in the place of origin.

Inbreeding and genetic differences individualize the pet's diet to optimize health conditions.

How Often Should I Feed My Dog?

Most pet dogs eat once or twice a day. In contrast, others benefit from eating two to three times a day.

Usually, large breeds eat twice per day, so they don't overeat and get bloated.

Veterinarians recommend that treats and table scraps never reach more than 10% of the dog's daily calorie intake. Because just like us people, overeating can lead to obesity and may result in health problems like diabetes and heart disease.

Regardless of the feeding schedule, avoid having your dog exercise vigorously after a large meal. Avoiding such activity can minimize bloat, intestinal obstruction, and other digestive disorders.

Also, make sure your dog has access to clean water all the time.

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