What Every Dog Owner Should Know About Nutrition

Dogs have been our loyal, loving companions for thousands of years. From working breeds that assist humans to the cozy lap dogs that snuggle up with us, our four-legged friends play many important roles in our lives. But did you know that proper nutrition is the key to keeping your pup happy and healthy?

The Building Blocks of Life

Just like humans need a balanced diet, dogs require certain essential nutrients for growth, energy, and well-being. These include proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water. Each one serves a vital function in a dog’s body.

Proteins, built from amino acids, help repair and build muscle, skin, nails, and other tissues. Fats provide energy and support healthy skin and coat. Carbs fuel activity levels, while vitamins and minerals regulate everything from bone development to digestion.

Tailoring Nutrition

Nevertheless, not all dogs have the same nutritional needs. Factors like age, breed, size, and activity level make a difference in their dietary requirements. For example, growing puppies need more calories and nutrients per pound than adult dogs.

Larger breeds like Great Dane and St. Bernard may require dog food formulas with higher protein and specific mineral ratios to support their massive frames. Highly active working dogs would need more fats and proteins compared to a lapdog.

Life Stage Needs

The first step is considering your dog’s life stage. Puppies have very different dietary needs to adult dogs or senior pups. Their little bodies require maximum nutrition for rapid bone and muscle growth.

Most experts recommend feeding puppies a complete and balanced “puppy” formula until they reach around 80% of their expected adult weight and height. The extra protein, calories and minerals help support their development.

Adult dogs in their prime can eat an “adult maintenance” formula meeting AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) standards, which lists the minimum required nutrients. Older senior dogs may benefit from diets lower in calories with boosted levels of antioxidants, glucosamine, and other joint support.

Reading Dog Food Labels

So how can an owner determine if their dog’s current food meets its needs? Look for an AAFCO statement certifying the food provides complete and balanced nutrition. The ingredient list shows everything that goes into the formula. High-quality options will feature proteins like real chicken, beef, or fish first.

Remember, there is no one “best” dog food for every pup. It depends on their individual requirements and sensitivities. Consulting vets, breeders or canine nutritionists can help evaluate if the current food is working or if dietary adjustments are needed.

Obesity and Healthy Treats

One of the biggest nutrition issues vets see is pet obesity from overfeeding or unhealthy snacks. Dogs should maintain a trim, hourglass shape when viewed from above. Visible ribs or significant weight swings indicate improper portions or poor-quality food.

For rewarding and treating, stick to healthy dog food from a company like Nextrition, and simple lean proteins like cooked chicken or hard-boiled eggs for snacks.

Feeding Fresh and Raw Diets

Some owners also choose to prepare their dog’s meals using a combination of fresh, whole food ingredients like:

  • Lean proteins like chicken, turkey, beef, or fish.
  • Vegetables like broccoli, carrots, and spinach.
  • Complex carbs from rice, oats, or sweet potatoes.
  • Healthy fats from oils like olive or coconut.

Raw food diets strictly feed dogs an evolutionary, meat-based diet with no cooked or processed ingredients. Both homemade and raw require careful planning to ensure complete nutrition.


No matter which dog food you select, commercial, homemade, raw or a combination, the most important thing is ensuring your canine companion receives all the protein, fats, nutrients, and calories necessary for their age and lifestyle.