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Dog Nutrition Facts


Facts About Dog Food

Dogs have many of the same nutrition requirements at ourselves. They need a balanced diet containing protein (meat), carbohydrates (cereals), and fat...with vitamins and minerals as well.  Almost all types are suitable for dogs except liver. Liver will act as a laxative in a canine's body and for this reason, it should only be fed in moderation.  You may have seen TV commercials showing a dog who is craving liver snacks...however one must keep in mind that those manufactured treats are basically artificially flavored (and colored) and do not have a base of actual real, fresh liver.  It is best to not feed too many foods to your dog that have artificial coloring and such...We will discuss this further along.

Canned VS Dry

IT does not seem so long ago that conscientious dog owners insisted on feeding pets fresh meat, using prepared foods only as a standby.  Indeed, a diet of water and suitable meats and biscuits do meet the basic food requirements of the dog.

However, today many manufactured dog foods have been scientifically prepared to meet the nutritional requirements of a dog and can offer your canine family member a healthy diet.

The 2 choices that an owner will have is between caned foods which will contain soft, moist food or a dry dog food (to which water or a low salt broth can be added).

The dry foods do increase a dog's thirst, so owners should not be alarmed if their dog seems to suddenly drink (and urinate) more if switching from canned to dry.  Dry food also contains more preservatives than canned dog food.

Generally, most veterinarians do not recommend the semi-moist types of food, because they lean towards to be quite high in salt and sugar. Dogs do not need this much salt and sugar in their diet. In addition, sticky, sugary foods can contribute to dental disease.

While dental cavities are related in part with humans to the amount of sugar in the diet, dental cavities is rare in dogs. Tooth loss can happen to a dog due to  gingivitis and periodontal disease, where inflammation and infection of the gum tissue causes loosening and retraction of the gum tissue around the tooth, which eventually leads to tooth loss. Sticky, sugary foods can contribute to the development of gingivitis and periodontal disease. Therefore, it is recommend to feed a  recommend a high quality dry or canned food.

For large-breed dogs, most people choose a dry food, for several reasons. Larger breed dogs require a larger amount of food than smaller dogs, and dry food is easy to carry, store and prepare. Because canned food contains a much larger percentage of water (usually 80-85%) than dry foods (typically 10% or less), dry food is ordinarily more cost-effective to feed on a per-serving basis, specifically when feeding a premium-quality food.

Many people also choose to feed their pets dry food in the trust that dry kibble has a noteworthy scraping or wiping action on the teeth and will slow the buildup of plaque and tartar. Dry food does exercise the mouth during chewing. But, the average dry kibble really does not provide very much scraping to the teeth. When the tip of a tooth comes into contact with regular dry kibble, the kibble shatters before the tooth can infiltrate far enough into it for any scraping to take place. There are specifically designed dental diets on the market, with a kibble intended to hold together longer, allowing more tooth connection before the kibble breaks apart. This does allow for more of a wiping effect on the tooth, but even these diets are enough for full dental care. (Brushing is a must).

While canned foods may promote somewhat faster growth of plaque and tartar, plaque and tartar will still ultimately collect no matter what type of food is fed. Consistent home care, yearly dental exams, and professional cleanings as needed will still be crucial for ideal dental health.

Smaller breeds of dogs understandably eat less than larger dogs, and so canned foods may be more of an option cost-wise here. Nevertheless, smaller breed dogs often have more crowded teeth, providing areas where plaque and tartar easily accrue. Occasionally owners tell us that their dog is used to canned food, and rejects dry food. These dogs can still be fed canned food, however home care needs to be expressly stressed, and these dogs are likely to need a yearly professional cleaning.

See Also:
  Dog Training Facts - Excellent step-by-step facts for owners of pups and dogs!

  Dog Breeding Facts - Safely and ethically breeding your dogs to create amazing litters.

  Why Dogs Do Things- No extra words, just the FACTS. Learn exactly why dogs do the things they do!

Switching Foods

Any puppy should not have a fast change in diet. In fact, when a puppy is 1st brought to a new home (normally at the age of 8 weeks), most reputable breeders will give the new owners a sample of the food that the pup has been eating in order to give them a bit of time to purchase that brand themselves.  It is a dog food fact that a puppy of any breed can be negatively affected by a sudden change in diet.

For many, this could mean developing hypoglycemia...which is a rapid drop in blood sugar levels. The symptoms include weakness and dizziness.  If left untreated, the pup can slip into a coma...and it can be fatal.  For this reason, owners should always have Karo syrup on hand (since other elements such as stress can also cause this). The syrup must be rubbed into the gums of the pup while he or she is being rushed to the closest vet or animal hospital.

For toy and small breed dogs, any time that an owner wants to change to a new food, it should be done slowly.  Therefore, for puppies and for all small breeds, it should be done as such:

Week 1:  3/4 old food mixed into 1/4 new food
Week 2:  1/2 old food mixed into 1/2 new food
Week 3:  1/4 old food mixed into 3/4 new food
Week 4:  Now you can have your pup or dog on just the newer dog food.

How Often
All dogs should be free fed (allowed to eat fresh food any time they wish) until they are 3 months old.

Toy and small breeds should be fed 3 times per day until they are 2 years old.  From 2 years on, they can be put on a 1 meal a day or a 2 smaller meals a day plan...along with snacks.

For medium sized to large breeds, they should be fed 3 times per day until they are 1 year old.  From 1 year onward, they can be fed one large meal a day or 2 smaller meals....along with snacks.

Most puppies will have a bowel movement approximately 20 minutes after eating.  The process is quick because bowel muscles are not yet fully formed.  Slowly and steadily as the dog grows older, those muscles finish growing strong and the dog will have better control to hold onto their needs until they are taken outside.

It is never recommended to feed a dog right before he or she is ready to go to sleep for the night.  For just about any breed, you will want the last meal at least 2-3 hours before bedtime.


Proteins are the building blocks in dog nutrition. They are one of the most significant nutrients in the nutrition and are presently one of the most widely questioned. For around 20,000 years as dogs, and for several million years before that as wolves, the only difficulty canines had with protein was receiving enough of it. Dogs ate a mostly meat diet which made protein the main ingredient.  With their meat diet they also got a good portion of fat and a slight amount of fiber and carbohydrates, but predominantly they ate meat.

The discussion about protein started during the time of World War II when manufactured dog foods became more obtainable and they began to be substituted the traditional meat and meat by-product diet. In the beginning, the inexpensive forms of leftover meat were put into the food with little concern for taste. Nonetheless with the awareness in health as related to diet, a whole new generation of dog foods have come into the marketplace. These quality fares test the earlier foods by endorsing a product that is better than ever for our pets. At the middle of debate for the newer products is protein, its source and quantity.

Why do dogs need protein? Proteins are essential for all phases of growing and development and are imperative for the immune system. Furthermore, they are burned as calories and can be transformed to and stored as fat.

In reality, our pets do not need the protein but they need the building blocks that make up the protein, amino acids. There are 22 amino acids that dog require. Animals can synthesize 12 of them. The remaining ones must be ingested. The ones that the animals cannot synthesize are called essential amino acids. They are arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. Dogs can synthesize taurine, and consequently, it is not added in their food.  A shortage in any of the amino acids can lead to health-related issues.


Every protein source comprises of different levels of amino acids and each protein is diverse in its capacity to be broken down into amino acids. Some are better for pets than others. The ability of a protein to be used by the body and its amount of usable amino acids is abridged as protein quality (biological value). Egg has the highest biological value and sets the standard for which other proteins are judged. Egg has a biological value of 100. Fish meal and milk come in a close second with a value of 92. Beef is 78 and soybean meal is 67. Meat and bone meal and wheat are 50 and corn is 45.


Protein requirements vary from species to species and can vary greatly during the rapid growth stages and for elderly animals with compromised kidneys. I will explain some of the special circumstances that require altered levels of protein but as a rule the following levels apply.

•    Puppies:  28% protein, 17% fat
•    Adult dog: 18% protein, 11% fat
•    Pregnant/Lactating dog: 28% protein, 17% fat

Too Much Protein

In theory, if a healthy animal eats too much protein, some gets excreted in the urine and the rest just gets used as calories or is transformed to fat and does not cause any injury. If you dog has a kidney problem, however, high protein diets are not suggested. The other issue is that next to marketing, protein is the most costly element in the food and why pay for more than you need. Most pet food companies meet the minimum recommended requirements and add a little extra to be safe.

Understanding the Label

The easier way to deal with labels is to obtain a reputable quality brand of dog food for the activity level of your dog. This is what most owners do and the average dog does just fine. But if you have a dog with special protein needs or want to search out the best possible food for the money then you must dive into the label and try to understand it.

As stated above, not all proteins are alike. The citation of protein level on the bag or can is not a listing of the percent of digestible protein, it is only just a listing of percent protein.

In high quality foods, digestibility is between 70 and 80%. In lesser quality foods the digestibility could drop to 60% or less. The way to define the digestibility is not very scientific but it does work... By looking at the ingredients and seeing the order in which they appear we can roughly conclude the digestibility.

The ingredients are listed in order of weight.

If the first ingredient is chicken or lamb we can assume it is a good quality protein source. Chicken by-product or other meat by-products are not as good, this can legally mean chicken beaks, chicken claws and other undesirable elements. Meat and bone meal are even worse.

If grains are listed, they are not as digestible sources of protein and contribute heavily toward the carbohydrate load.

Some companies will list a meat source and then three different forms of corn, hiding the fact that the main ingredient is corn but just divided into three different products

Large Breed Dog Food Facts

How to feed large and giant breed puppies has fueled the present disagreement over protein in the diet. In the past, we fed all puppies the same regardless of breed. There have been numerous studies that show feeding the large and giant breed puppies a lower protein and fat diet may reduce the occurrence of bone and joint problems including hip dysplasia. Because of this research, some of the large pet food manufacturers are manufacturing foods explicitly for large breed puppies. They claim to be lower in fat and protein, have a distinct blend of calcium and phosphorous, and infer that they reduce bone issues.

Within any brand of dog food there is a change in fat and protein between their large breed brand and their regular puppy food. But if you compare between brands you will see that some large breed foods are greater in protein and fat then numerous regular puppy foods. While the belief of lower fat, protein, and calcium levels may be good in concept, in practice, the newer foods will make a substantial difference in the occurrence of bone growth complications.

If cost is not a consideration, then the premium large breed formulas would be a good choice, but if you do your homework you can find a good quality general purpose puppy food that will do just as good a job for a lot less money.

To Conclude the Protein Dog Fact Issue:

Protein is an important element of your dog’s diet. The preponderance of premium foods do a decent job of providing satisfactory protein sources for the varous life cycles of your pet. There are different protein needs for different species and life cycles so feed the correct one. Large breed dogs may have distinct protein needs but read the labels cautiously and make sure you are getting what you pay for.

Vitamin Facts

Most dogs receive a complete and balanced diet - including necessary vitamins and minerals - from manufactured dog food.  Dogs fed a homemade diet may need supplements.

It is a dog nutritional fact that if a dog already eats a balanced diet and receives excess portions of some vitamins and minerals, they could be harmful.

Excessive calcium can cause skeletal problems, especially in large-breed puppies; excessive vitamin can harm blood vessels and cause dehydration and joint pain. Excessive vitamin D can prompt a dog to stop eating, damage bones, and cause muscles to atrophy.

Supplement Facts

Some are needed and some simply do not work and will not do as promised.

Fatty acids can help coats look better. Fish oil supplements also can reduce inflammation.

Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E also reduce inflammation and help aging dogs with memory problems.

It should be noted, however, that no canine supplements have ever been tested for long-term use side effects.

Regulation Facts

The FDA oversees animal supplements.

The council sets labeling guidelines, requires adverse event reports for problems with supplements and investigates some products to check whether they contain the amount of ingredients that are on the label.

Choosing The Right Supplement

  • Read labels. Recognize the name of the ingredient you’re looking for, so you won’t be misled by fakes.
  • Look for a lot number on the product, which is a sign that the company has set up quality control checks.
  • Be not trust ones that sound too good to be true, such as those that say they alleviate diseases like parvovirus, cancer, and hip dysplasia.
  • Look for certification from an organization that has independently verified a supplement’s contents.
  • Do not give supplements formulated for humans to a dog!


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