Nourishment of Dogs- An Overview

If you pet a dog, you would very well realise that if you are your doggo's first love, their food has to be their second. They can jump, hop, attack, pet, love, all on the command of their favourite food. Food is the riding armour of all the pet parents and trainers to manipulate dogs to do all they want. This love goes way back to the genealogical beginnings; the law of the jungle dictates this supremacy of food. It is just not their love, but their source of living too. Unlike humans, who find indirect mediums to get to the food, dogs prioritise better and easier. Hence a woke pet parent must keep a tap at their needful food requirements and keep an eye on their second love diligently.


Dogs generally in their puppy-hood are still on the developmental stage for building their taste buds, so they are inclined towards exploring newer foods. Although not just in the puppy stage, some dogs carry this habit throughout their lives; they thrive on the prospect of amazing food that could prove to be their new favourite. In addition, they love switching foods, owing to their expansive taste preferences. These dogs are called Neophilic dogs.

The counter to Neophilic dogs are the Neophobic dogs. They are what we normally call fussy eaters. Although once the taste buds are developed, the dogs tend to make a fixed choice of their food preferences, they like to stick to their already explored flavours rather than taking the plunge every time.

Although fussy, Neophobic dogs tend to assume a position of advantage, as they do not consume everything in front of them. It saves them from consuming toxic food items too.

While the world is divided between the polarities of veg and non-veg, dogs sit in the corner enjoying the best of both worlds. Hailing from the biological family of Carnivora, it is their tooth structure that makes them a part of this community. The intestinal tract and oral anatomy help them ingest and digest plant and animal foods equally well.


Apart from indigestibility, the next level of food selection takes us to the quality of food. Researches have revealed that it is not the source of proteins or nutrients but the quality and digestibility of these aspects that make a difference in a dog's health. Hence, it is called Nutrient Bioavailability.


Years of domestication had to result in imposing certain human characteristics on our pooches. The fact that their eating preferences ended up mimicking their hoomans testifies to this years-long association. The carnivores of the jungles have transformed into omnivores of human households. Yet, some dog analysts and lovers strictly insist on keeping their diet as close to their inherent, primarily carnivorous diet. The proportionate ratio of 4:1 is what the ideal animal, plant-based food is supposed to be.

But ultimately, as an awakened and pragmatic dog parent, it would have been apparent to you by now that the importance of digestibility over sources prevails, which makes the debate mentioned above irrelevant.

A dog requires a combination of water, minerals, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, proteins in their diets. This wholesomeness of nutrients makes the canine body strong and healthy, irrespective of the source. After various researches and multiple revisions, with the advent of newer knowledge, the Association of American Feed Control Officials( AAFCO) presents guidelines for the specifications of these nutrients in a canine's body. The body universally certifies this composition to help dog nutritionists all across the world.

We have formulated this series to educate our readers of the guidelines and then the specifications of these nutrients gradually.

AAFCO broadly divides the lifetime of dogs based on certain broad categories such as their breed based on their size and the phase of their life. As an already large breed dog would not be preferred to continue with a more gaining diet, but a stable one. Similarly, a puppy in the growing stage or a lactating mother would require more nutrient quantities than a dog inclining towards the grey of its life. There is a proper quantification of dry matter given by AAFCO. Dry Matter refers to the material reminiscent after removal of any water.


After many revisions, it is decided universally that the caloric requirement is 4000 kcal ME/kg for dry matter (DM), where ME stands for metabolisable energy.


Protein is a major source of nutrients in the jungle, as wild animals thrive on hunting. Thus, a minimum value of 22.5% is recommended by AAFCO to meet the general needs of a growing and reproducing dog. Amino acids are derived from this energy source; there are many derivatives such as methionine and phenylalanine.

Although there is no upper limit for proteins in a canine body as a wolf can store food for a long period, there is a maximum limit for amino acid; lysine, 2.8%, can induce depression in growing reproducing dogs.


The minimum requirement for a dog in the growing and reproduction stage is 8.5%, whereas the Adult canine body only requires a 5.5% share of fatty acids in the total stake. Fatty acids or fats are an extremely blue line to work with, as if it can benefit a canine body in its building years, it can transform dangerously in old age; excess could lead to problems like a fatality.


The minimum cap set by AAFCO for calcium and phosphorus is 1.8% and 1.6%, respectively, for the growing and lactating canine bodies. In contrast, it is set at 1.8% Calcium and 1.6% Phosphorus for the adult canine body. The ratio for minimum calcium and phosphorous stands for 1:1, while maximum calcium to phosphorus is 2:1.



Potassium is set at a minimum concentration of 0.6% in dry matters. However, there is still a lack of information regarding the maximum limit for Potassium in dog food.

Sodium and Chloride

For sodium, 0.08% is the minimum acceptable concentration in excellent dog food. For Potassium, it is 0.12%. All in all, it is recommended that it must hold a ratio of 1:1.5.

A maximum cap for salt, which is a derivative of sodium, is not maintained because before the adverse effects on health, salt first triggers the palpability of the dog food.


The magnesium concentration in excellent dog food should be at least 0.06%; there is no maximum limit set for magnesium due to the lack of relevant studies.



The minimum addition of iron is set to 40mg/kg by AAFCO in dog food. There is no maximum limit set till now, but manufacturers of dog food are still advised not to exceed the minimum limit as it can go against their healthy lifestyle.


Copper is recommended for a growing and lactating dog body at a minimum level of 7.3mg/kg, and for an adult body, it is 12.4mg/kg. No upper limit has been set for copper for the same reasons as that of iron. Copper oxide is strictly kept at bay for usage in dog food for its poor bioavailability.


The minimum concentration of manganese in dog food is 5.6 mg/kg and 7.2mg/kg for adult dogs and growing and reproducing dogs, respectively. A peak of lactation could witness an even higher level of manganese, but the above mentioned is considered the normal concentration in dog foods.


Zinc is set at a minimum concentration of 100 mg/kg and 80 mg/kg for growing and reproducing and adult dogs, respectively. There is no upper limit set for zinc.


Iodine universally is set to be at a level of 1.0 mg/kg. However, iodine is tricky to play with, as its excess can negatively affect a dog's body. Therefore, it was considered prudent to set a maximum limit for it, which is 11 mg/kg.


The minimum concentration of selenium in dog food is 0.35mg/kg. A reader needs to note the difference between selenium and total selenium concentration in dog food. Other nutrients in dog food might also contribute to this selenium concentration, increasing the total concentration.


While there are multiple vitamins required by a dog's body in different phases of its life, from fat-soluble vitamins and vitamins A, concentration is important and ever-present in dog foods all across. AAFCO has set a limit for vitamin D to be 3000 mg/kg.

To better understand objectively, we provide you with the dry matter's table, so it becomes the perfect guideline for you to check the quality of the dog food that you have been feeding your pooches. We have equipped you with the needful; it is your responsibility to make the best decision for your dog and look for the best quality products at pet store online.

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