Take a look at your dog food package. Do you see the statement “complete and balanced” for your dog’s life stage? If so, the food contains all of the nutrition your dog needs for a healthy diet. This means the food is intended to be his only source of nutrition, which is why you won’t see it written on treats. But what exactly makes up healthy and balanced dog food diets?
Technically, to be qualified as “complete and balanced”, the dog food must meet or exceed the minimum nutrient profiles established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), or pass an AAFCO feeding trial. In order to meet the minimum nutrient profiles, the food must contain the appropriate proportions of ingredients to provide all the essential nutrients from the following nutrient groups: protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins, and minerals. Water is also a necessary part of a complete and balanced diet and should be provided in addition to food that is complete and balanced with respect to all other essential nutrients.
Protein plays a vital role in your dog’s health and the functions of his body. It consists of amino acids, which help support muscle growth, development and replenishment. Excellent sources of protein in dog food include both animal and plant-based sources. If high-quality protein is the #1 ingredient, like in the Purina ONE® SmartBlend® line of premium dry dog foods, it may be a good choice for your dog.
Fat performs multiple functions in a dog’s body and is an important component of healthy and balanced dog food diets. Fatty acids not only provide energy and help the body absorb vitamins, but they also promote healthy skin and a shiny coat. Your dog’s taste buds also benefit, because fat helps make the food more flavorful.
Carbohydrate is an essential nutrient because it provides dogs with sustained energy. Great sources of carbohydrate include rice, wheat, corn and barley. In addition to carbohydrate, grains deliver antioxidants for immune system support and fiber to help promote digestive health. When the grains are used whole, such as whole grain wheat, they provide even more fiber and antioxidants than refined grains.
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins and minerals are added to dog food formulas to help keep dogs healthy. If your dog food is “complete and balanced” for your dog’s life stage, there is no need to give your dog any additional vitamin or mineral supplementation unless advised by your veterinarian.
Water is a very important part of a dog’s diet. It helps keep all systems in the body functioning properly. Dog foods do contain some moisture, with wet foods containing a higher percentage than dry kibble. However, it’s critical to offer your dog plenty of fresh, clean drinking water every day.
In healthy and balanced dog food diets, all of these ingredients work together synergistically to nourish dogs from the inside out. However, the exact percentages will vary in different dog food formulas, and the amount your dog needs depends on his size, life stage and activity level. Consult your veterinarian if you have any questions.