A Basic Guide to Canine Nutrients
By Claire Bannister MSc
Foods to Include
Protein (20- 30% of diet) – provides essential amino acids and essential fatty acids.
Found in meat, fish, eggs, lentils, legumes, dairy
Proteins are the building blocks of the body and are essential for many functions including skin cell renewal, muscle repair, hair growth, creating hormones and enzymes, blood manufacture and immune system function.
Too much protein can cause high energy and/ or weight gain. Although excess protein is excreted through urine, too much can also cause kidney and liver problems due to the difficulty in processing it.
A diet high in meat can alter the calcium/ phosphorous ratio in the body leading to hyperparathyroidism, an imbalance of the parathyroid, leading to an excess of parathormone, affecting bone manufacture.
Found in grains and cereals, fruit, vegetables and plants.
Dogs do not need carbs in their diet but cereals and grains can provide energy, bulk, fibre and vitamins to the diet.
Processed carbs are basically sugar and only provide a quick burst of energy with little nutritional value. Try to find wholegrains such as oats. Excess carbs are stored as fat in the body for future use so too much can lead to weight gain.
Carbohydrates can also provide fibre which is important in clearing out the digestive system, keeping it functioning correctly.
Plants, fruit and vegetables are an excellent source of easily digestible carbs, fibre and vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants that are involved in all processes in the body.
Cereals are often used to bulk out food because it is cheaper than protein.
Dogs on high sugar diets will fail to get the correct nutrients and could become obese. High sugar content and weight gain can cause diabetes and heart disease.
Fats/ oils – provide essential fatty acids (omega 3 & 6)
Animal fat, oily fish, dairy.
Lipids are essential for insulation, vitamin absorption, nerve function and provide twice the amount of energy of protein or carbs.
Excessive fat can cause weight gain and fatty organs, leading to poor function and disease. Weight gain also contributes to heart disease, respiratory disease, joint problems and lethargy to name a few.
Vitamins & Minerals
Vitamins and minerals are found in all foods and vary from one to the other in proportion.
A wide range of meat, fish, fruit and vegetable is needed to provide the full spectrum.
Vitamins have many uses in the body and often work in conjunction with other nutrients, therefore a deficiency of any one could lead to illness.
Like vitamins, minerals have many roles and are essential to all physiological processes including nerve function, bone formation, hormone manufacture and the transportation of oxygen in the body.
Calcium and phosphorous are the most important.
Deficiency/ excess symptoms are wide and varied from dull fur to eye problems, internal organ dysfunction and impaired brain processes to poor bone growth.
Excessive calcium can cause bowel impaction and may be responsible for bone and joint problems, such as hip dysplasia in growing dogs
Foods to Avoid
Alcohol a small amount can be fatal.
Avocado is not fatal but may cause sickness, especially the skin.
Chocolate and caffeine contain the same chemical, theobromine, which cannot be digested and removed from the dogs’ body. This means it is constantly reabsorbed becoming more concentrated each time. A lethal dose is approx. 56 grams per Kg of body weight.
Dairy is not fatal in itself but because dogs are unable to process it effectively it can cause dysfunction leading to illness, especially digestive problems.
Excessive fat from meat can lead to pancreatic problems.
Grapes, including rains and currants, are highly toxic, causing kidney failure.
Macadamia and peanuts are poisonous to dogs and have a toxic effect on the body. Swap peanut butter for almond butter instead.
Allium family (onions, garlic etc.) are dangerous due to high concentration of sulphides which can cause anaemia and an inability to transport oxygen around the body as efficiently. Quite large amounts are needed to be fatal but even small amounts can have a detrimental effect. Don’t forget to check for onions as an ingredient or flavouring in our foods, such as powdered gravy, that we might give as table scraps.
Raw eggs fed regularly can lead to a decrease in the ability to absorb a B vitamin due to an enzyme in the egg (this is inactivated when cooked), which can cause skin and coat problems as well as neurological problems.
Raw yeast/ yeast dough can be fatal because it swells in the stomach.
Xylitol is a sugar substitute found in many products, so please check carefully before giving anything sweetened to your dog. You should avoid this anyway, but sometimes they deserve a special treat! Xylitol is toxic to the liver and may cause liver failure.