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The essential nutritional requirement for your Dog

A detailed essential nutritional guide for keeping your Doggy healthy and a long life…

Essential nutrients for your Dog

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Survival is necessary and nutrient-rich food is required to survive.

Moreover, The essential nutritional requirement for your Dog in order to maintain their health, grow and survive.

Nutrient requirements of Dogs are different from human beings. Poor diet or unbalanced diet can trigger health issues such as obesity, liver dysfunction, kidney failure may shorten your canines life.

Feeding a proper amount of a well-balanced diet to your dog is vital for its overall health and well-being.

Your canine need extra care and love. Without proper knowledge about nutrients all what you do unknowingly causes more harm than good to your canine companion.

Therefore,  it’s better to understand what nutrients your Doggy needs. How much nutrients do you need to feed your canine.

Studies says improved nutrition helps Dog to live longer healthy life. Thus,  it’s important to know all the details regarding the nutrient required for your Dog.

In simple these are the six basic nutrients water, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins required as part of the dog’s regular diet. The nutrition provided has to be complete and balanced.

Let’s get into detailed information and learn more about the essential nutrition required for your Dog.

Water – Necessity to survive

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Water is the main nutrient which cannot be avoided at all. Dog can survive with a few amount of protein or fat, but if your dog even loses 10% of the water in his body, his life may be in danger. Your canine body has to be hydrated all the time.

Did you know? A dog loses moisture in urine and feces daily by panting and sweating to a limited extent from the pads on its paws.

Give fresh and clean water every time. The amount of water needed for each dog relies on a number of distinct factors like, including the diet, temperature, environment, amount of exercise, and health condition of your Dog.

Water content in Dogs food

  • Canned food has 60 to 80 percent moisture content,
  • Dry food 3 to 11 percent of water,
  • Semi moist foods contain only 25 to 35 percent of water, but that all is not enough for your Dog, fresh water has to be provided.

Water accounts for 70 to 80% of the lean body mass of a young dog. Doggy eating canned food will drink less water compared to Dog eating dry food.

Important function of water

Regulating body temperature, break down and carry nutrients to the cells, flush out body waste, helps in digestion, nutrient absorption, proper functioning of organs and nervous system.

Summary: Water is the main nutrient for a dog to survive. Providing adequate amount of water to your dog will keep it healthy and hydrated.

Proteins- Supplies energy

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Protein is a macro-nutrient made up of amino acids, the building blocks of life. Your Dogs body need 22 amino acids ,among which 12 amino acid its body synthesizes itself.

Amino acids

The other 10 amino acids essential in the diet of dogs: arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine has to come from other external food.

“These 10 amino acids are not included in every Doggy Food.” Therefore confirm your Dog gets all 22 amino acids essential in their diet.

Need of protein

Each combination of specific amino acids correlates to another protein, including enzymes, hormones, DNA, red blood cells, hair, skin, bone, and muscle.

Dogs protein demands differ with age, level of exercise, temperament, phase of life, health status, and dietary protein quality.

It’s your duty to check whether the food given by you provide all amino acid required for a Dog to stay healthy. Some food might be lower in amino acid while some food may be high. 

Therefore, do confirm that your canine gets all required 10 amino acid in their dietary plan. 

You can go through the labels of Dogs food and confirm the amino acid content in it.  Commercial Dogs foods contain a combination of plant and animal based protein, in order to meet the amino acid requirements in a canine’s diet. 

Puppies, lactating and pregnant Dog need twice the amount of protein compared to young and adult Dogs.

Animal source proteins are better to dogs because they are easier to extract and digest rather than plant sources proteins.

Protein is necessary at every stage of Dogs Life, it’s necessary to build muscle tissue, new skin cells, grow hair.

Proteins are found in vegetables, grains, oil seeds, legumes and muscle meat, eggs.

Cereal protein foods (wheat, corn, barley) have little nutritional value for animals. Muscle meats, eggs and organ meats (like liver) provide a lot more protein.

Amount of protein to be included in diet of a Dog

30-50 percent of your Dogs diet must include protein based on age and activity. Generally more protein is required for puppies service dogs and elderly dogs. The healthy adult dog should receive at least 40 percent of the protein and 50 percent for puppies.

Summary: Protein is an unavoidable energy needed for your Doggy. Do confirm that your Dog food has all essential amino acid required for a Dog to stay healthy.

Carbohydrates- Source of energy

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Carbohydrates(1) is the main source of energy for the body, which include sugars, starches, and dietary fibers.

They provide energy and are a source of bulk in the diet.

Carbs (including fruit and vegetables) should not make up more than 30-50 percent of the balanced diet of a dog, including 2-5 percent of fiber.

It is not an essential nutrient, if you provide adequate protein and fat to your doggy. But Healthy carbohydrates provide essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants.

When energy demands are high, like during growth, pregnancy, and lactation, carbohydrates can become conditionally essential.

Cereals, legumes, and other plant products are the main sources of carbohydrates in commercial dog products.

Carbohydrates can be divided into two section soluble and insoluble carbohydrates.

Soluble carbohydrates: Including glucose and fructose, can be absorbed straight and do not need to be digested by enzymes. Soluble carbohydrates are broken down and absorbed as glucose to be used as energy.

As canine has a short digestive system. Therefore, fermentable carbohydrates (in-soluble carbohydrates) like starches and dietary fibers,  which are readily broken down passes through the small intestine to colon. Where they are fermented by microbes into short-chain fatty acids and gases.

Dog’s get carbohydrates from Dog-friendly vegetables, fruits, legumes and gluten-free grains.

“Carb deficiencies can lead to potential problems with fertility and whelping. On the other hand obesity is caused by excessive carbohydrates.”

Summary: Carbohydrates play a major role in encouraging metabolism, which contribute a portion for your canines well-being.

Fat- Maintain optimal health

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Fat is a macro-nutrient made up of fatty acids. Saturated or polyunsaturated together form essential fatty acid necessary for Dogs health.

It is the major storage form of energy source in the Dogs body that gives more than twice as much energy to your dog as carbohydrates and proteins do.

Fat provided by the diet also helps dogs maintain healthy skin and a shiny, healthy coat, improves reproductive efficiency and kidney function.

Dogs body cannot synthesize fatty acid, so it has to be provided through Dogs Food. Linoleic acid, Omega-6, Omega-3 these fatty acids is very important for Dogs healthy life.

Dietary fats, extracted primarily from animal fats and seed oils from different plants, provide the required energy.

Dogs get fat from Low-mercury fish and fish oil also from plant-based oils, such as flax-seed and hemp seed.

Common fats used in dog foods include chicken or pork fat, cottonseed oil, vegetable oil, soybean oil, fish oil, safflower oil, and many more.

Fat is necessary to keep your dog’s skin and hair healthy. Provide healthy fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats to your Dog, and limit or avoid saturated and trans fats.

Fat deficiencies lead to dull fur, delayed wound healing, lack of energy, heart problems, deficits in growth and dry skin. Overweight can lead to obesity and liver disease.

Summary: Fats supply energy to the body and support it perform a variety of functions.

Minerals and Vitamins- Necessary to sustain life

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Micro-nutrients like minerals and vitamins are, which is necessary for building bones and keeping them strong.

Minerals are inorganic compounds that Dogs body needs, to maintain proper metabolic functions. There are twelve minerals that is known to be essential nutrients for your Dogs.


Calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, magnesium 

Trace minerals:

Iron, zinc, copper, iodine, fluorine, selenium, chromium

Calcium & Phosphorus:

For strong bones and teeth. A lack of calcium leads to poor growth rickets and seizures

Magnesium, Potassium, and Sodium:

For nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction, and cell signaling. A shortage of magnesium causes convulsions, muscle weakness, and anorexia. 

Kidney and heart problems are the effect of missing potassium.
Sodium shortages cause hair loss and poor growth.
Excess sodium has been linked to hypertension in dogs.


Synthesis of blood components and energize metabolism. Deficiencies in iron or copper result in anemia 


Boost the immune system skin function, wound healing and increase the quality of your Dog’s skin and fur. A lack of zinc follows poor growth and skin and infertility 


Helps to absorb iron which participates in the synthesis of melanin and bone growth.


Production of thyroid hormone for metabolism. Iodine shortages trigger goiter, loss of hair, and lethargy. 


Defense against oxidative  damage

A dog can manufacture some vitamins on its own, but he cannot make minerals.

Functions of minerals in the body include:

  • Building bones and teeth
  • Clotting and muscle function
  • Building hemoglobin
  • Aiding in protein synthesis
  • Tissue repair
  • Immune system
  • Fat metabolism
  • Thyroid function
  • Vitamin B12 production
  • Vitamin E synthesis
  • Amino acid synthesis
  • Water balance
  • Nerve function

Day to day diet a balance amount of dietary minerals must be provided to Dog in their food.


Vitamins are organic compounds that participate in variety of metabolic function in Dogs body. There are two types of vitamins, water soluble and fat soluble.

Vitamins soluble in fat (A, D, E and K)

Vitamins soluble in water (B and C)

Fat soluble vitamins are stored in fatty tissues and liver and uses as needed basis. Whereas  water soluble vitamins cannot be stored, it has to come from the diet given to Dog.

The remaining water-soluble vitamins are filtered through the kidneys and urinated out between four and eight hours after ingestion. As such, they must be present at each meal.

Functions of vitamins in the body are:

  • Protecting skin
  • Vision
  • Bone growth
  • Energy metabolism
  • Amino acid metabolism
  • Fat metabolism
  • Nerve function
  • Increasing calcium absorption
  • Aiding cell membrane function and reproduction
  • Blood clotting

Vitamin A


  • Helps in Weight loss
  • Acts as antioxidant
  • fights disease
  • Trans-membrane protein transfer
  • Vision & skin health

Found in: Carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, fish oil, & eggs. 

Vitamin D


Found in:  Fish oil, egg yolks, beef & cottage cheese. 

Vitamin E


  • A powerful antioxidant
  • Defense against oxidative damage
  • Excellent for eye and skin health
  • Essential for cell function and fat metabolism 

Found in: Leafy green vegetables (like kale), seeds (such as chia seeds), & whole grains. 

Vitamin K


  • Activating blood-clotting ability
  • Keeps bones strong

Found in: Green leafy vegetables are a good source of vitamin K. Vitamin K is also found in liver, meat, milk, and egg yolk

B vitamins (biotin, folate, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, thiamine(3), vitamin B-6, and vitamin B-12)


  • Important for cell growth
  • Red blood cell and nervous system function
  • Energy metabolism

Vitamin C


  • It is an important antioxidant.
  • Promotes immune boosting which helps in healing & fights illness
  • Reduces inflammation and cognitive aging

Dogs can synthesize vitamin C in their liver, but in some cases supplementation may offer more health benefits.

Found in:  Many fruits & vegetables, such as potatoes, green beans & zucchini.

Some common nutrient-rich food for Dogs

Lean beef

Low in calories and rich in essential amino acids. Lean beef promotes the immune system of Dogs, hair growth and energy

Wild Omega Rich Fish

Packed essential omega 3 oils, wild omega rich fish like salmon and sardines are excellent for your Dogs cardiovascular system,coat and vision.


Rich in vitamin C, Beta carotene and enzymes. Papaya is excellent for digestive health, reducing heart disease and inflammation


Chock full of diverse vitamins. Excellent fruit choice for Dogs. Contain beta carotene, Alpha Carotene and Zeaxanthin.

Brown Rice

High in fiber, selenium and manganese. Brown rice is also rich in antioxidants and help stabilize blood sugar levels

Green Peas

Contains unique phytonutrients that provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Low fat and also contains omega 3 Fatty acids

Okinawan sweet potatoes

High in fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and B-vitamins. Sweet potatoes are much healthier than regular potatoes


Great detoxifying and cholesterol reducing vegetable. good source of Vitamin A,D ad K


Great source of phytonutrients, antioxidants and Vitamin K. Helps support your Dogs bone health. Help combat damage and oxidative stress.

So, what’s the takeaway

If you are providing home made food to your Doggy. Apart from this you have to add food supplement to meet all the nutritional needs. So that your Doggy gets a complete and balanced diet, the essential nutritional requirement for your Dog.

It should be noted that, if you are feeding commercial Dog food labeled “complete and balanced” with all nutrients than, you need not supply extra nutrition.

Reference and further reading

(1) “Carbohydrates in pet food

(2) Vitamin D Toxicity in Dogs

(3) Role of thiamine (vitamin B1)

Written by Your Dog Advisor

It's me Divya, hope you got some new information today. I am the executive editor for Petting My Dog. I and my team provide the most accurate and in-depth tips and advice on dog care, dog food, and training from industry experts, dog trainers, veterinarians, groomers, and animal scientists. We help dog owners effortlessly choose the best dog supplies on the market. We buy, test, review, and rank dog products to help you avoid the bad products and purchase only what's best for you and your dog. Come join us in this movement to keep your pet Dog actively happy. Read more about our editorial process here. Veterinary Review by: Dr. Alexandra Hukill, DVM. Stay updated and subscribe to our newsletter.

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