Every dog has his own unique nutritional requirements that vary depending on his age, weight, breed and general overall heath. The amount of food that you'll need to feed him will differ depending on the dog food that you provide. Higher quality dog food offers more nutrients, meaning it won't take as much food to give your Fido the nutritional requirements that he needs.

What Are Dogs Nutritional NeedsPoor quality dog foods don't offer as much nutritional value, so your dog will have to eat a larger quantity to meet his needs. If you've been asking yourself, “What are my dog's nutritional needs?,” the best place to find out is at your veterinarian's office.

In our recent interview on raw dog food diet, we already established that every dog is different. Normally, your veterinarian is the best resource to find out exactly what nutrients your pet needs. Some dogs may need a higher protein content and others may need additional vitamins or minerals to be in optimum health, but all dogs need the same key nutrients to survive.

While there is no specific dog food that's best for all dogs, there definitely is a way to manufacture dog food in a healthy, humane way. Studies have shown that human grade ingredients in pet food are much better for canines, and so is holistic approach to making dog food using USDA certified organic ingredients.

So is there a dog food brand that's 100% organic with FDA approved human grade ingredients? We've scoured the pet food market and taken a look at almost all commercial diets available for dogs to see if there is a healthy dog food brand that hits all the marks. See the analysis on what the best dog food brand today is.

Today I want to talk about those necessary nutrients and what you can do to ensure that your pet is getting the balanced diet that his body requires. There are numerous health problems that stem from a poor diet, so it's imperative that you make your dog's diet a priority. Taking the time to select the right food for your pooch could mean the difference between a long and healthy life or a life full of health issues and ailments for your dog.

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What Are My Dog's Nutritional Needs?

Dog Nutrition and What You Need to Know

Dogs need six key nutrients to survive:

  • Water
  • Protein
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fats
  • Minerals
  • Vitamins

A balanced diet is vitally important to your dog’s cell maintenance, proper growth and overall health and wellness. If he has special dietary needs, illness-related nutrient deficiencies or your veterinarian has prescribed a particular diet, you'll need to stick to that very closely. If not, he will likely be able to get all the nutrients he needs from high-quality commercial dog foods.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has developed nutritional guidelines for canines. The 2014 AAFCO dog food nutrient profiles based on dry matter include:

Nutrient Growth and Reproduction Adult Maintenance
Adult Maintenance
Crude protein 22.5% 18%
Crude fat 8.5% 5.5%
Linoleic acid 1.3% 1.1%
Calcium 1.2% 0.5% 1.8%
Phosphorus 1.0% 0.4% 1.6%
Potassium 0.6% 0.6%
Sodium 0.3% 0.08%
Copper 12.4 mg/kg 7.3 mg/kg
Zinc 100 mg/kg 80 mg/kg
Vitamin A 5,000 IU/kg 5,000 IU/kg 250,000 IU/kg
Vitamin D 500 IU/kg 500 IU/kg 3,000 IU/kg
Vitamin E 50 IU/kg 50 IU/kg
Thiamine 2.25 mg/kg 2.25 mg/kg

You can see the full list of guidelines and all the specifications in this report.

The six key nutrients required by a canine's body should all be monitored closely. They each help your dog's body to be healthy and function properly. If a nutrient is not included in his diet, your dog is sure to suffer negative health consequences.

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Water for Dogs

Water is just as essential to your pet's life as it is to yours. In fact, 60-70% of an adult dog's body weight is water.

Moist, wet or canned dog food will certainly meet your dog's water needs more so than dry food, but neither will give him all the hydration that he his body requires.

Your dog needs to have access to fresh clean water at all times, as a mere 15% water deficiency could result in death.

Protein for Dogs

Protein for DogsProteins are the building blocks of canine nutrition. They are the most important nutrient in your dog's diet and the one that you'll need to pay the closest attention to.

Proteins are needed for all aspects of development and growth. They are also very important in the structural makeup of your dog's immune system.

Not all cases require dogs to consume a lot of protein. Particularly, if your dog has kidney problems, then low-protein dog food brands should be your choice.

Your dog doesn't actually need the protein itself, but rather the amino acids that make up the protein. Dogs need 22 amino acids to survive and their bodies naturally make 12 of them. That means that the other ten must be consumed.

These amino acids include:

  • arginine
  • histidine
  • isoleucine
  • leucine
  • lysine
  • methionine
  • phenylalanine
  • threonine
  • tryptophan
  • valine

The reason that you'll need to be especially careful about the protein sources in your dog's food is because there is a wide difference in the quality of the protein sources used to make pet food.

The USDA does not have strict standards on the ingredients used to make pet food, so many manufacturers choose to use GMO's, animal by-products and other protein sources that are of poor quality.

Look for dog food that is made with a good quality, organic protein. There are also manufacturers who choose to use free-range protein sources. Make sure that the protein is antibiotic and hormone free as well.

RELATED: Dog Nutrition 101 – What Do Dogs Eat?

Carbohydrates for DogsBest Canine Nutrition for Healthy Dogs

Carbohydrates are used for energy, which every dog needs. Fibers are a type of carbohydrate that are beneficial to the intestines and aid in your dog's digestive health.

Many dogs have allergies to some of the most common grains used to add carbohydrates to commercial pet food including wheat, corn, rice, barely and oats.

There are also a lot of diseases linked to dog foods, and studies have shown that many of those diseases are caused primarily by the carbs, grains or additives in dog foods.

Fats for Dogs

Fats are another source of energy, believe it or not. In fact, they are the most concentrated form of energy in dog food. Fats provide your dog with twice the amount of energy that they receive from proteins or carbs.

Fats are a very important part of your dog's diet. They are needed to produce certain hormones, are required in order for the body to absorb and use certain vitamins and are essential in the structure of the cells in your dog's body. Fats also offer protection and insulation to some of the most vital organs.

Fatty acids are also vital for a healthy skin and coat. They keep your dog's skin moisturized and his coat shiny and healthy. Fats also give dog food taste and flavor, which entices your dog to eat his dinner.

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Minerals for Dogs

Minerals are not naturally synthesized by the body, meaning that they must be provided in the animal's diet.

Minerals help the body perform many functions and are an important part in the structure of bones and teeth. They also help to maintain fluid balance and are vital for many metabolic reactions as well.

Vitamins for Dogs

What is Best Healthy Dog Food

Vitamins are required for a dog to be healthy, but only in small quantities. Too much of certain vitamins can actually be detrimental to your dog's health. For this reason, you should always check with your veterinarian before giving your pet any vitamin supplements.

Like minerals, most vitamins are not synthesized naturally, so they must be obtained through the dog's diet. Vitamins are naturally found in many fruits and vegetables, which is why these ingredients are added to many commercial dog foods. It's also a good reason why you should feed your dog fruits and veggies as snacks instead of processed dog treats.

If you'd like more information about the 4 types of commercial dog food available and which diet may be best for your dog, make sure to read my previous column entitled 4 Different Types Dog Foods and Which One Your Dog Needs.

What are your thoughts?

What do you feed your dog? Have you ever studied dog nutrition to optimize your pet's daily eating habits and make him or her more healthy? What's the best and healthiest dog food brand in your opinion? Let me know in the comments down below.

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Samantha’s biggest passion in life is spending time with her Boxer dogs. After she rescued her first Boxer in 2004, Samantha fell in love with the breed and has continued to rescue three other Boxers since then. She enjoys hiking and swimming with her Boxers, Maddie and Chloe.