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Carbohydrates, Minerals and Vitamins In Your Dog’s Diet

Many owners still view the dog as a solely carnivorous feeder, but the reality of the modern dog is that he is a versatile, omnivorous eater. The dietary needs of the dog have evolved since his domestication. Most dogs have swapped the baron fields of Europe for the comfort of a basket or bed in a centrally heated home.

Dogs, by and large are less active today than they were 40 or 50 years ago. That is, if our own lifestyles are anything to go by. Less need for us to exert ourselves physically and certainly less of a desire to do so in the absence of that need.

Changing Times

Our dogs don’t need to hunt and so they expend less energy in pursuit of their food. In times gone by our dogs would hunt in order to feed, in order to give enough energy to hunt again. This is clearly not the case in modern times.

Most dogs get used to being routinely fed and they actually acquire tastes of their own rather being happy to simply eat what’s available to provide them with enough calories to simply exist.

Modern dogs don’t gorge in order to stock up on calories and they can afford to be more picky with their dietary regime (this is still quite rare though, most dogs will still try to stuff themselves, but they no longer need to).

Already we can spot various reasons why the canine diet has changed. They no longer need large amounts of fat to stay warm, our houses do that for them; they no longer need huge amounts of energy to hunt with, so their survival requirement for protein is diminishing and they no longer need to gorge on a day’s worth of food as we provide it to them in nice, pre-proportioned amounts on a regular, daily basis.

There is a significant difference between humans and dogs in their need for carbohydrates and in their ability to digest them.

The digestive tract of a human is longer than that of a dog, and the formation of jaws and teeth is entirely different.


A dog’s digestion starts in the stomach.

Dogs’ teeth – all 42 of them – are built to tear flesh apart. Dogs gulp their food as fast as they can, which then reaches the stomach with no digestion having taken place at this stage of the process.

Human digestion starts in the mouth. A human chews food with 32 teeth, which have flat surfaces for grinding and breaking down food. Enzymes contained in the saliva contribute to this breakdown of the food, which is being digested before it even reaches the stomach.

What Are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates come in two forms, simple and complex.

Simple carbohydrates come from grains such as wheat, corn, rice, oats, soy and millet. They break down into starches and sugar when properly cooked. Complex carbohydrates come in the form of various fibers such as brans, hulls and peanut shells from the outside of plants. A small amount is needed for proper digestion and stool formation. Nutrients are obtained from both sources, but most come from simple carbohydrates.

The main source of carbohydrates are acquired in plants. There is also one source of carbohydrate that comes from meat called glycogen, but it is only found in small amounts in the liver and muscles. If your dog is not getting enough carbohydrates in his diet, the liver has to do extra work to make glucose from proteins. On the other hand, when your dog is getting enough carbohydrates in his diet, his body will not have to use proteins to get its required amount of glucose, therefore, saving these precious proteins to be used to for other jobs that they are required to do.


Vitamins are not considered to be building blocks, and they are not necessarily required for the production of energy. However, they are important in your dog’s health in a number of ways described below.

1. Dogs need vitamin A for healthy skin and coat. Skin conditions and poor coats have been associated with lack of vitamin A and/or vitamin B.
2. Vitamin B is responsible for a healthy immune system.
3. Studies have concluded that vitamin C prevents dogs from getting hip dysplasia.
4. Dogs need vitamin D for healthy teeth and bones. Deficiency in this vitamin produces weak teeth and brittle bones.
5. Vitamin E is an excellent source of antioxidants. Deficiency in vitamin E can lead to heart problems and several types of cancers.
6. Vitamin K is used for blood clotting.


Unlike other nutrients, minerals are used by the body in a more comprehensive way. Below are examples of some of the ways minerals benefit your dog:

1. Minerals such as calcium and phosphorous are required for strong bones and cartilage.
2. Minerals are needed for the nervous system to function properly.
3. They help promote muscle metabolism.
4. They are used in the production of hormones.
5. Minerals transport oxygen in the blood.

It is important to know that too much or too little of a certain mineral can affect the functions of other minerals in your dog’s body. In addition, there are also cases where the action of one mineral depends upon the action of another mineral. For example, the minerals iron and copper work hand-in-hand to produce hemoglobin. Iron is necessary to produce hemoglobin in red blood cells while copper is equally important for hemoglobin formation. One will not be able to function properly without the help of the other.

Evolution Of The Canine Diet

Dogs have evolved as meat eaters and although they need some grains, their health and longevity tend to be better served on a diet containing more animal protein than protein derived from grains.

Think about the origin of the dog. It is unrecorded in history that wolves lit fires and cooked grains picked in fields! But there were whole carcasses available which did contain everything needed for wolves to survive, including predigested vegetable matter in the intestinal tracts of their prey. The perfect ‘ready meal’ for the canine consumer, if you will.

Allergic reactions to grains can occur in dogs which is why it pays to always question whether you are feeding your dog the most appropriate diet.

Modern Pet Food

The pet food industry today is vastly different to the one operating just 10 or 15 years ago.

More competition for your business in the grocery aisles means pet food manufacturers simply have to produce a wide range of products catering for a whole host of different canine dietary requirements.

After all, if you feed your dog on a commercial product and it results in your pet’s behaviour changing, large, runny stools being produced, excessive weight gain or weight loss or even worse, it’s to be expected that you’d reevaluate what you were feeding and you’d more than likely take your custom to another product.

5 Top Tips

Learn to understand pet food labels:

Many diets are developed with a particular dog in mind i.e a Middle aged, low activity large breed. If a formula developed for a low activity large breed is being given to a highly active, small Terrier it goes without saying problems can ensue and, at the very least, the dog would not be getting an ideal diet.

Speak to manufacturers:

Most of the pet food companies nowadays operate help lines, in many cases operated by full trained (if not slightly biased) dietitians. Use this to your advantage. Call them and quiz them on why their food would be perfect for your dog. Ask if they have specially formulated products which might not be readily available in the high street, and if not, where can you purchase them from? Call a range of different companies and make a genuinely educated decision on what the most suitable nutrients your dog requires.

Don’t rely on pot luck:

You wouldn’t feed yourself by pot luck i.e. going to the shops, picking the food with the most colourful packaging or the one with supported by the most charming advertising campaign as your staple diet for evermore. It’s incredible how many dog owners do just this though. Educate yourself to know exactly what your dog needs in their individual diet, learn what it us you should be looking for on the label, what you should be looking to avoid and then go find it.

Mix and match:

Variety, as they say, is the spice of life. This applies equally to your dog. Whilst it’s understandable that commercial pet food make for a convenient life and it’s certainly true that pet food standards have evolved enormously, don’t be afraid to mix and match occasionally with your dog’s diet. Raw meat now and then will often be seen as a welcome treat. Be careful not to feed it as well as a normal meal but don’t be scared to add some variety to your dog’s feeding regime. Some owners occasionally miss a whole day once in a while simply to keep their dog’s primal, hunter/scavenger instincts primed.

Make feeding fun:

For many dogs, their whole day is focused around food. They get so excited at the mere thought of receiving their meals, treats and expeditions to the fridge. Once you know what your dog should be eating in a day, why not consider splitting it up into smaller meals and making your dog really work for it? Hide food, scatter it, ask your dog to ‘perform’ for it, use it as treats when out on a walk rather than using other foods as rewards in addition to their daily required intake which could lead to obesity.


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My name is Jasmine Kleine. I am a qualified vet nurse and a passionate animal advocate. I write professionally about pets and animal health.

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