Your dog's diet needs to be both complete and balanced.
What does that mean?
Complete means that the diet must contain all the essential nutrients that your dog needs. Balanced refers to ratios of nutrients relative to each other.
Why is this important?
I think that we all understand that a deficit in an essential nutrient will have a negative impact on the body.
Excess can cause just as much trouble. Fat soluble vitamins and almost all minerals are toxic at high levels. Excess calories lead to obesity. Too much of any good thing will put an unnecessary strain on the body.
More isn't more and less isn't more either.
To complicate matters further, some nutrients mutually compete with one another; omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are a good example. High levels of one will inhibit the metabolism of the other. Proteins (amino acids) are rather forgiving but can also become an issue for dogs on a low protein diet.
However, the most difficult nutrients to balance are minerals.
According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), there are 12 minerals that are essential for dogs:
Each of these has a unique, irreplaceable function in your dog's body.
It is important that your dog's diet provides essential minerals in the right amounts and proper ratios.
One of the important relationships to be aware of is the calcium to phosphorus ratio. Your adult dog's food should contain one to two parts of calcium for every part of phosphorus. For growing puppies the ideal ratio is even narrower.
You probably know that calcium and phosphorus are important structural components of bones and teeth.
Minerals are not just about bones and teeth!
- Minerals play a role in many enzyme-based reactions.
- Minerals are responsible for helping to maintain the proper balance of fluids within the body.
- Minerals play a part in aiding the movement of oxygen in the blood stream.
- Minerals are partially responsible for the transmission of nerve impulses and muscle contraction.
- Minerals are necessary for the production of many hormones.
Providing sufficient amount of phosphorus through the diet isn't hard, as it is present in meats, fish, even is some grains, as well as bones. Having too much phosphorus in the diet is a more common problem.
Providing enough calcium to keep up the proper calcium to phosphorus ratio is the tricky part.
Calcium is harder to come by and not always readily digestible. Not all dogs are able to absorb calcium from bones or bone meal, and not all dogs do well with dairy. Kelp is a good source of calcium, but frequently dietary supplements are used.
Further more, high phosphorus levels interfere with calcium uptake.
Other minerals that can also influence one another include copper and iron, phosphorus and sodium, zinc and magnesium.
Iron is needed in red blood cells to transport oxygen.
Copper is important for the proper formation of cells.
Sodium is needed for proper fluid balance, transfer of nutrients and the elimination of cell wastes.
Are you discouraged from cooking for your dog yet? Don't be.
It can be done. But I recommend sticking with quality recipes from reliable sources, or better yet, have a veterinary nutritionist or holistic/TCVM vet formulate your dog's diet.
Monitoring how well your dog's diet works is just as important as who formulates the plan. Jasmine gets her recipes from a nutritionist, but her first recipe contained dairy products that didn’t work for her. We had to change her formula.
Two dietary supplements formulated specifically to balance home-made canine diets are Hilary's Blend (Canada) and Balance IT (US). These also come with recipes. Though a custom recipe(s) with consideration to your dog's age and health are ideal.
I do believe that a home-made diet made with quality ingredients is superior to most commercial processed foods.
But I also believe that balanced nutrition is just as important as ingredient quality.
It's your dog's health,
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