What nutrients do dogs need?

What’s in dog food?

The food you feed your dog is crucial to its health. Our pets need a wide range of nutrients for their bodies to function properly.

The best diet for dogs should be nutritionally balanced and palatable.

It is important to remember that dog nutrition is distinct and different to humans. There are 6 nutrient classes which a dog must have to function properly proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water.

To achieve this balance dog food manufacturers blend mixtures of ingredients including meat and fish, with vegetables, cereals, vitamins and minerals to produce foods that will satisfy the nutritional requirements of a dog. Owners feeding this way can have complete confidence they are meeting their dog’s nutritional needs.

Over the decades pet food manufacturers have developed the nutritional expertise to ensure they incorporate the latest advances in dog nutrition.

This broadening knowledge of pet nutrition and food technology has transformed the pet food industry remarkably over the years. It is now widely recognised by the veterinary profession that pets are living longer, healthier lives as a result of improved nutrition. (PFMA)

Dog nutritional requirements

The six nutrient classes explained:


Proteins are made up of building blocks called amino acids that are required for a dog’s body to function properly. Proteins build and continuously repair body tissues and form healthy muscle, skin and hair. They are also essential in defending a dog’s body against disease and are a source of energy in the diet. Protein is available through a number of sources including meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, cereals and nuts. An insufficient amount of protein can lead to poor growth, loss of muscle and dog skin problems.


Fats have a number of nutritional functions; they are a concentrated source of energy and a source of essential fatty acids. Apart from the nutritional benefit they also help to make the food taste good and enjoyable for the dogs. Sources of fat include meat, fish, dairy products and oils. Although consuming fat is essential for health, too much fat is linked with a number of diseases including obesity potentially leading to joint problems. To avoid this follow the feeding guide on the dog food and adjust accordingly to the breed and activity level of your dog if you feel this is too much for your dog. If you aren’t sure ask your vet for advice.


Carbohydrates aren’t essential nutrients for dogs however they are eaten as a source of energy for dogs. Too little carbohydrates in the diet can lead to low level of energy. Too much can lead the body storing this as fat. Dietary sources of carbohydrate include corn, rice, wheat and root vegetables.


Vitamins are essential for life. They help maintain growth, vision, healthy skin and coat, wound healing and enhance normal function of the immune system and protecting against diseases. Sources of vitamins include meat, fruits, vegetables and cereals.


Minerals are required for growth and bone formation and are an essential component of many enzymes. Minerals such as calcium and phosphorus are essential for strong healthy bones and teeth. Minerals will always be in a good quality complete manufactured dog food.  Natural sources of minerals include meat, fish, eggs, dairy products and nuts.


Water is essential for life and is the most important nutrient. A dog will survive for a very short period of time without water and a loss of only 10% from the body can result in death. Water has essential functions in the body including regulation of temperature and transporting nutrients around the body. Dietary sources of water include meat and vegetables. Ensure your dog has access to drinking water at all times.