A guide to understanding dog food nutritional tiers.

The food pyramid is a concept that helps humans understand the breakdown of what we need from our diet everyday to live a balanced life. The ratios of carbohydrates, proteins, dairy, fruit and vegetables (and the naughty stuff) is all arranged to showcase the optimal way for us to get the most nutrients from our diet. While dogs might not have their own food pyramid, the idea behind it is definitely relevant to them. Their nutritional needs are specific, and the breakdown of the key ingredients is important to get right. Just like humans, they have a recommended daily intake of protein, fats and carbohydrates, as well as vitamins and minerals. Of course, every dog is different and will benefit from different ratios of certain ingredients, but here’s some things to keep in mind when choosing their food.

Protein

Dogs are classified as omnivores – unlike cats, who are obligate carnivores – so they can have a more diverse diet. That said, animal protein should be a key ingredient. It’s estimated that an adult dog’s diet should comprise of 15-30% protein. This does not include performance dogs, though. When you are choosing your dog’s food, a good source of protein should be listed as one of the first three ingredients. The protein source should be specifically named, too. For example, “salmon” rather than “fish”, or “chicken” rather than “poultry”. These are some of the key ways you can ensure you dog is getting their recommended protein intake from good quality ingredients.

Fats

Good fats are an essential part of a dog’s diet. Animal fats, certain oils and fatty acids, including omega 3 and 6, not only make your dog’s food more inviting to them, but also promote skin and coat health. They are also important as an energy source for your dog. Fats should make up 10-20% of your dog’s diet.

Carbohydrates

While humans seem to have classified carbohydrates as a sometimes treat, our dogs do need them every day as an energy source. The carbohydrate source should be one of the top three ingredients listed on the packet. Popular sources of carbohydrates for dogs include wheat and barley. Some dogs will have intolerances to grains, but there are many grain-free formulations on the market. These pet foods rely on rice, potato, sweet potato and corn as the key source of carbs. Carbohydrate content will depend on your pet and the specific food you choose, but generally, 25-40% carbohydrates is considered a moderate amount.

Vitamins and minerals

Dogs need a number of vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. Not only will they draw from the vitamins in the carbohydrate, protein and fat sources in their food, but scientific pet food formulations also add additional vitamins and minerals. Each different formulation will include different rations, but good things to look out for on the label include B vitamins, Vitamin C and E, zinc, omega 3 and 6, and DHA.

As dogs’ nutritional needs are so specific, it’s wise to rely on scientifically formulated dog food to deliver the nutrients they need. Good quality dog food will have a clear breakdown of the nutritional tiers of the food so you can ensure it is formulated for your dog’s best health. Feel free to chat to your local Petbarn team member to find the best food for your pet.