Dogs and humans have different digestive systems, but we both suffer when our meals are repetitive, bland and boring.
If you want a happy dog with a strong body, the first step is to ensure a varied and balanced diet with plenty of tasty, natural ingredients.
Vitamins and minerals are responsible for performing hundreds of doggy health tricks, from metabolising and immunity to building to cell production, vitamins and minerals are essential to a happy, well-functioning dog.
Essential minerals can be split into macro minerals, which your dog requires in large quantities, and microminerals, which they require in trace quantities.
Here, veterinary surgeon Dr Linda Simon from online dog retailer Pooch & Mutt, explains more about what they are, what they do, and how you can be sure your pet is getting enough of them.
Your dog’s diet should be made up of the following food groups:
Protein - Foods such as red meat, fish or poultry are super important for bodily function in dogs. They contain amino acids that produce energy and form the building blocks of skin, nails, muscles and bones.
Carbohydrates - Carbs are mainly used as a source of energy. They aren’t essential in a dog’s diet but help absorb vitamins and minerals and have an important purpose. Grains and potatoes, for example, are an excellent carb for dogs.
Fats - Getting the right amount of the right fats and fatty acids is vital for a dog’s health. Omega-rich fats such as salmon oil ensure a healthy nervous system, protected internal organs and a comfortable coat and skin.
Water - Your dog is about 70% water and needs topping up regularly! Water regulates body temperature, flushes waste, transports nutrients to cells and digests food - to name a few of its vital functions.
Essential dog vitamins
Vitamin A - Often found in eyecare supplements, vitamin A is great for eyesight, growth, foetal development, cell function and immunity.
Vitamin B’s (there’s more than one!) - B vitamins are generally responsible for internal functions such as energy regulation, enzyme function and metabolism. B-6 is especially important as it’s vital for various cell, hormone and immunity processes.
Vitamin C - An important antioxidant which reduces inflammation and slows cognitive ageing.
Vitamin D - Vital for strong bones and muscle health, vitamin D is known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’.
Vitamin E - Defends against cell degeneration in dogs, especially in the eyes and muscles, and helps with reproductive issues.
Vitamin K - Ensures your dog’s blood is able to clot.
Choline - Often used for dogs with epilepsy, choline ensures healthy brain and liver function.
Calcium and Phosphorus - These two minerals work together in your dog’s body to build healthy bones and teeth. Among other functions, calcium also promotes a healthy nervous system.
Sodium, Potassium and Chloride - The three main electrolytes in your dog’s body which play a crucial role in fluid balance.
Magnesium - A multi-faceted mineral, magnesium plays an important role in building bones, enzymes and intracellular fluids.
Sulphur - Helps reduce skin irritation in dogs, such as itchy, flaky or greasy skin.
Iron - Though a micromineral, iron is one of the ‘big dogs’ when it comes to minerals, performing a huge number of functions - not least, carrying haemoglobin and oxygen around your pooch’s body and strengthening their immune system.
Copper - Copper helps absorb iron into your dog’s body and also helps to form skin, fur and connective tissue.
Zinc - Among other functions, zinc plays an important role in immunity - a deficiency can mean your dog isn’t protected from infection.
Iodine - Iodine helps with your dog’s metabolism and thyroid hormone production.
Chromium - Chromium helps with the uptake of glucose. Diabetic dogs are more in need of this mineral in order to feel the effects of insulin.
Manganese - Lots of functions come from manganese - it metabolises protein and carbohydrates into fatty acids, helps maintain dogs’ bones and joint cartilage, and produces energy.
Selenium - Selenium is an important mineral for its antioxidant qualities and for balancing your dog’s metabolism.
How to feed your dog more nutrients, vitamins and minerals
Squeezing the right amount of nutrition into your dog’s diet can be easy or trickier, depending on whether you feed them commercial dog food or homemade food.
If you buy dog food
All commercially available dog food in the UK should legally be vet-approved, and so long as they’re labelled ‘complete and balanced’, they’ll meet the minimum requirements for dog nutrition.
To do more than the minimum, though, choose pet food brands that pride themselves on using simple, high-quality ingredients - thoughtfully put together with your dog’s physical and mental well-being in mind.
If you feed your dog homemade dog food
Making your dog meals from scratch has been found to be a riskier option, as your pooch may not receive everything they need to be healthy. Daily cooked chicken, for instance, means they will miss out on a lot of essential nutrients. Any owner wishing to pursue this option should work alongside a canine nutritionist.
If your dog likes the taste of various types of meat, fish, fruit and veggies, you could be on to a winner - but you will need to use supplements to balance out any deficiencies.
What are dog nutrition supplements, and does your dog need them?
If your dog has specific health needs or is a puppy, it may benefit from taking supplements alongside its regular dog food.
Dog supplements and health foods can be really beneficial for developing puppies, dogs with stiff joints or mobility issues or those with sensitive tummies.
They can be easily sneaked into your dog's food as they taste delicious and come in easily digestible powder, tablet and oil formats.
Consider the following before stocking up:
- Research which supplements your pooch might need based on their health, age and breed and where they might need a boost, considering their diet.
- Avoid choosing any or all supplements in the misguided belief that ‘anything will help’. Feeding your dog vitamins and minerals they don’t need can be harmful to them, so be sure to follow recommended dosage guidelines.
- Check with your vet before you feed your dog supplements, as they can offer informed guidance based on your pooch’s unique needs.