The key to keeping any dog fit and healthy is to feed it a balanced and nutritious diet. A good diet should consist of the correct balance of Fats, Carbohydrates and Proteins which are then broken down by the body into micro nutrients to furniture all living cells with their nutrition to function and survive.
For our canine friends it is not only important to feed a complete balanced meal containing all three macros but it is also important to make sure that any diet contains quality human grade ingredients (where possible) and from a good source.
How do these macros work for dogs?
There are arguments that a dog’s diet should be high in protein and that there is no need for carbohydrates. Whilst high protein is needed to build up the dog’s body and muscle with amino acids, in domestic dogs, carbohydrates can be useful since dogs have evolved to become omnivores as opposed to being carnivores like their wild ancestors were, with carbohydrates giving added benefits to their digestive tract.
Carbohydrates breakdown to sugar and this is where a dog will burn its energy store first, so those dogs who are exercising more will benefit from a balance of carbohydrates in their diet. With the complex carbohydrates (low GI vegetables and green vegetables) being more beneficial as they also breakdown into non soluble fibre and keep the intestinal tract moving, nutritional absorption and poop formation will be helped.
Finally fats, these are required to help with energy levels, muscle and cell function as well as anti-inflammatory and skin and coat properties. The fats in a dog’s diet should be a balance of both saturated and unsaturated otherwise it could lead to inflammation of joints and other health problems. With a fat cell being a lot larger than a protein or carbohydrate molecule they are easily digested by our canine friends and are essential to their health.
Water the most valuable source
There is one valuable nutritional source however that is often overlooked and that is water. There is a myth that dogs on a raw fed diet do not need much water as their diet is high in moisture; however their body still needs to take on water in order to aid both the function of digestion and also to replace those fluids lost through:
Panting – the main way a dog regulates their body temperature
Urine – The use of water to drive through the kidneys and take any impurities with it.
Poop – This has water in it to help keep stool movements regular. With constipation meaning there is a lack of water in the diet to diarrhoea when water lost will be high and those lost fluids need replacing.
The call for water will also be naturally high when the dog is hot, is feeling anxious or has been subjected to exertion in order to replace those fluids that are lost mainly from panting. As the organs start to age in senior dogs they may also require more hydration and will tend to drink more.
As for those dogs on a kibble diet water is more essential in order to help breakdown their food, which can have water content as little as 7%. For an animal whose body is made up of roughly 80% water, its essential to their health that fresh water is available at all times for them to keep their levels topped up.
What does water do for our dogs?
Water is needed at the very start of the digestion process in order to help break those macronutrients into micronutrients this is called hydrolysis and in turn facilitates the transportation of those nutrients to every living cell in their body.
The transport of these nutrients keep brain levels topped up and in turn helps with cognitive brain function, producing an alert and bright dog. There are studies in humans that dehydration leads to a lack of blood flow to the brain which makes us feel tired and less alert, and more recently has been linked to feelings of anxiety and depression.
Water also helps to absorb and carry away any heat from internal organs that are working hard and help regulate temperature.
Whilst most owners are aware in the summer months that dogs exposed to heat and the sun need to stay cool, hydration should be monitored all year round. Dogs living in heated homes or sleeping by the fire still need to stay cool and keep those all-important water levels topped up in order to regulate their whole system and thrive.
Louise Tool is a food technologist and founder and creator of Furr Boost voted the Best Product (food and drink) at the PetQuip Awards 2022. Furr Boost in a balanced and nutritional smoothie drink designed to meet all the hydration needs of your dog containing meat, fruit and vegetables. Visit www.furrboost.com