Just like us, dogs need to eat a healthy, balanced, and nutrient-rich diet. This means that they need a good blend of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Exactly how much of each of these components your dog may need will depend on their age, weight, physical health, lifestyle, and whether they are experiencing any medical conditions. Some health issues that can occur in our canine companions can be improved by altering their diet and providing improved nutrition.
Every animal is different and has different nutritional requirements. If your veterinarian has recommended that you boost a certain nutrient within your dog’s diet, it’s almost always because they have developed a health condition that would benefit from a dietary change. For example, arthritis is a very common condition, particularly in older dogs. Dogs who develop arthritis are often recommended to have glucosamine, chondroitin, or a combination added to their diet. This is because these substances have been proven to help alleviate pain and joint wear caused by arthritis (as well as other conditions, like hip dysplasia). Although glucosamine and chondroitin are naturally occurring, it’s hard to consume enough of them through food, so supplements are usually recommended.
Another reason why your veterinarian may recommend that your dog has additional nutrients in their diet is because they are getting older. Senior dogs may not absorb nutrients as easily, and this can mean that they develop a nutritional deficit. Identifying this deficit with your veterinarian and providing appropriate supplementation can help your dog live a longer, happier life.
So, what is the best way to add nutrients to your dog’s food? Let’s find out!
Vegetables are a great way to boost the nutrition of older animals because they are very high in nutrients, but low in calories. This is important since older pets are prone to putting on weight if they regularly consume more calories than they are burning every day. Steamed vegetables are also good for dogs who have dental problems since they are soft and easy to eat. NOTE: Onions and garlic are toxic to dogs at high enough doses, so avoid using these as a food supplement.
Dogs evolved from wolves, who typically eat a diet that is around 50% protein. Our dogs are not wolves, so the levels of protein and carbohydrates in their food can change throughout their lives. Some diets, including those which are kibble-based, can be higher in carbohydrates than protein, meaning that they could do with an increase of this important nutrient. If you don’t want to add any more meat, popping a boiled or scrambled egg on top can be just as effective and often less expensive too. There are conditions in dogs that also require lower protein in which adding protein can be dangerous, so be sure to discuss any supplementation with your veterinarian. NOTE: Avoid frying eggs in oil or butter to help prevent severe diseases like pancreatitis or gastroenteritis.
Although dogs aren’t necessarily known for their love of fish, there are plenty out there who will happily devour a fish dinner. Oily fish are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids which are proven to be good for your dog’s skin and coat, as well as being valuable as immune system regulators, anti-inflammatories, and brain-boosters. Stick with leaner fish like salmon, baked or broiled to avoid the same issues with butter and oil as above. Commercially-prepared fish oil supplements can also be added to meals. NOTE: Fish packed in oil, like sardines, can cause severe diseases like pancreatitis and gastroenteritis and should be avoided.
Yogurt is a natural source of probiotics which have many benefits for the digestive system. It’s also inexpensive and easy to feed. Just be sure to stick to a high-end natural plain yogurt to avoid giving your dog unnecessary extra sugar or other additives.
There are some vitamins and minerals that are difficult to boost through extra food alone, and in this instance, as well as if you are worried about your dog putting on too much weight, supplements may be a better option. There is a huge range of supplements available, most of which can be slipped into your dog’s usual diet where they’ll be eaten unnoticed. Ask your veterinarian if you believe that your canine pal would benefit from nutritional supplements.
For more tips on how to add nutrients to your dog’s diet, or to speak to us about any concerns that you have about what your dog is eating, please call Animal Hospital of Padre Island in Corpus Christi, Texas at 361-949-8200.