The Dog Food Pyramid: A Feeding Guide for Your Furry Friend
Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, meat & beans. These are the levels of the food pyramid for humans according to the USDA. With the right balance of each of these food types, we can ascend to a healthier state, improving feelings of strength, vitality, energy, and so many other benefits. This pyramid is well established, posted all over elementary school cafeterias, in magazines and on any nutrition website. But what about the food pyramid for our pets? Dogs have their own hierarchy of nutritional needs that pet parents should be aware of.
The dog nutrition pyramid looks different from that of our own. At the foundation is water - without which nothing else would be possible; followed by protein, carbs, fats/oils, fiber, and lastly but very importantly, vitamins & minerals.
The base of the pyramid, water, is a foundational component of dog nutrition. Every essential bodily function is facilitated through water. It plays an important role in regulating nutrients, aiding in digestion and absorption as it transports nutrients in and out of cells throughout the body. What’s more, it stabilizes body temperature, improves joint lubrication, stimulates cognitive function, and provides a cushion for the spinal cord and brain.
As a standard rule of thumb, our pets should be intaking about 1 ounce of water for every point of body weight. Historically, dogs have relied on 70-80% of their diets to include hydration. Diets today, consisting of standard products such as kibble, only contain around 10% hydration. It is in good practice to add liquids such as water or bone broth to your dog’s meal to make sure they stay hydrated.
The biggest portion of dogs’ diets should be protein. Protein provides critical essential amino acids (the 10 amino acids that need to be replenished through food). In addition, collagen, one of the most discussed supplements for pets, is also one of the most abundant forms of protein in a dog’s body.
Without a well-supported protein diet, your canine companion will never climb the pyramid. Insufficient protein can cause dogs to suffer in skin health, lead to muscle, tissue, tendon, ligament, and cartilage issues, experience weight loss, deficiency in healthy blood cells, and so on. As you can see, protein is a key foundation of their diet.
Today, dogs are classified as omnivores, which means they can achieve their essential amino acid requirements with a combination of plant and animal-based sources. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) establishes that commercial dog food must provide 18-22.5% crude protein. However, studies have shown that dogs are more healthy when provided a diet of around 30% protein. Protein-rich toppers and meat-based treats are a great supplement for our pets to help them achieve that ideal protein content.
At a similar level, carbohydrates make up a significant portion of dog diets. Carbohydrates contribute strongly as a source of energy for the brain and cells through the glucose they supply. An ideal dog diet includes around 25% of carbohydrates.
Nutrient-rich complex carbohydrates are an important addition to dog diets, as they provide a supply of vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, minerals, and even protein beyond what is expected. They also play a valuable role in preventing harmful conditions such as obesity and diabetes. Look for those ingredients on the nutrition labels of your dog’s pet food and supplements!
Next on the pyramid are fats, made up of what are known as “fatty acids” that are necessary for dogs because they cannot produce them themselves. With subjectivity to age and activity level, dogs should have around 15-25% of their diet comprised of fat.
There are various Omega-3 fatty acids that aid in healthy brain development, skin and eye strength through the increased retention of moisture and strengthened immune function. Some sources of these fats include flaxseed oil, fish oils, sunflower oil, and eggs.
Nearing the top of the pyramid, fiber plays a major role in digestion and intestinal health, valuable in dog diets in smaller quantities. As with humans, fiber strengthens dogs’ digestive tracts helping develop beneficial bacteria in the intestine. This aids in maintaining balance in the digestive system and stops bad bacteria from overgrowth.
To maintain optimal health, dogs need 2.5-4.5% crude fiber in their diets. Some great sources of crude fiber include pumpkin pulp, flaxseed, apples, and probiotic chews.
Vitamins & Minerals
At the top of the pyramid are vitamins and minerals. Once basic nutrition needs are met, satisfying the foundational levels, dog nutrition should be customized to your dog’s needs. Vitamins and minerals can improve function in many areas, such as bone health, skin care, energy balancing, maintaining metabolism, strengthening the nervous system, etc. Many commercial diets meet the AAFCO’s requirements to be “complete and balanced,” yet do not require supplementation of vitamins and minerals.
Together, vitamins and minerals should equate to less than 10% of your dog’s diet, yet meeting this level through manufactured pet food is nearly impossible without introducing your furry friend to supplements. Minimally processed food and treats are critical to best meeting your dog’s needs, and understanding what vitamins can do for your dog can increase their health in areas they might be struggling.
Building Your Dog’s Nutrition Pyramid
If we are what we eat, our dogs’ nutrition should be given as much consideration as our own. Dog diets have the power to control many aspects of their health, as well as their mood and energy levels. While many of the dog food options today satisfy the lower levels of the dog food pyramid, many pets’ diets lack vitamins and minerals that can transform their health for the long-term.
Download our pet pyramid to see how well you’re balancing your dog’s diet! Furvor has put in the work for you to create scientifically balanced supplements for your dog’s diet through our bone broth toppers and chews. Our bone broth complements every layer of the pyramid, and importantly develops a firm foundation for your dog’s health with nutritionally dense proteins such as collagen that provide all essential amino acids for your dogs. Our functional chews complement our bone broth by providing targeted vitamins and minerals for both preventative care and supporting areas where your dog may be struggling. Click here to learn more.