The digestive health of your pet is of utmost importance for a long happy life. What they eat determines their quality of life, their immune system and their energy levels throughout the day. Understandably, it can be quite confusing trying to pick the right dog food for your fur child when they all claim to have the most optimal nourishment for them.
The key to finding out what is good and what isn’t is to check out the nutrition levels of the products and understanding what your dog needs throughout the day. To understand this, we will be looking at the recommended nutritional levels for dogs as stated by the FEDIAF Nutritional Guidelines For Complete and Complementary Pet Food for Cats and Dogs (September 2020).
The FEDIAF is the trade body representing the European pet food industry. To understand the nutritional requirements of dogs, we will be referring to the “Recommended nutrient levels for dogs – Unit per 100 g dry matter”. The tables have been provided for reference while reading this article.
It is important to keep in mind that the FEDIAF prescribes the nutritional levels for pets irrespective of the ingredients they come from. This makes vegan pet food just as good for your pets as food derived from animal ingredients as long as the nutritional levels are met.
So, what is complete pet food? This is what the FEDIAF has defined it as:
Complete pet food means pet food which, by reason of its composition, is sufficient for a daily ration (Regulation EU No. 767/2009 adapted). When a complete pet food is fed for an extended period (i.e. covering the whole period of the life stage) as the only source of nutrients, it will provide all the nutritional needs of the particular animals of the given species and physiological state for which it is intended.
In simpler words, complete pet food is one which when given to them for a long time, such as their whole life, as the only source of nourishment will serve all the nutritional needs for the species and help it achieve the physiological state that it was supposed to be at.
For dogs, there are 10 important amino acids that need to be there in their diet.
Proteins are a very crucial element for your dog’s physiological health. Not only do they aid in proper growth but are also crucial for the proper functioning of their immune system, tissue repair and even for transporting oxygen in their blood.
For adult dogs, according to the FEDIAF, due to the high digestibility of proteins in the study, it was found that the energy intake was around 130 kcal (550 kJ)/kg BW.
Protein can be derived from both plant and animal sources which allow vegan food options to substitute for the proteins present in meat.
There are two types of carbohydrates according to the FEDIAF, starch and sugar. Along with that, there are indigestible fibres as well. The indigestible fibres are very crucial for proper gut functioning and should be paid close attention to.
Sugar are those which are easily broken down by the dog’s digestive system and directly absorbed into the bloodstream for energy. Starch is the more complex sugar molecule that needs to be broken down into simpler elements such as glucose molecules to be absorbed. However, with these glucose molecules, what needs to be kept in mind is that they can be stored in the body of the dogs for later use in the form of glycogen. What can be a possible problem is that if the dog consumes too much carbohydrates and does not exercise enough, it can lead to obesity in the animal.
Then there are the fibres. Fibres aid in the proper digestion, gut functioning and bowels of the dog. These are mostly indigestible components in their food. These fibres, therefore, help in gut functioning and proper digestive health as well. Fibres support vegan food as they can be found in plants and grains such as oat bran, beetroot pulp, carrots, broccoli, wheat germ, kelp and apples.
There are two types of mineral that fall under this category – macrominerals and trace minerals.
Macrominerals consist of elements like calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. Calcium and phosphorus are very important for your dog’s diet since they help with bone-building and maintaining healthy and strong teeth. Magnesium works alongside calcium and phosphorus and helps absorb it into the dog’s system. A deficiency of calcium and phosphorus will lead to weakness and physical malformations. It is also helpful in muscle growth and proper nervous system functioning in dogs. However, an excess of these can also lead to abnormal growth and deformities.
Sodium, chloride and potassium help maintain the fluid balance inside and outside of the body’s cells. They aid in proper nerve function and heartbeat function. An imbalance in social and chloride can lead to fatigue and dehydration in the dogs. Foods that are rich in sodium and chloride are whole grains, sweet potatoes and beans. Great sources of potassium in vegan dog food include spinach, carrot, zucchini and banana. These also make great vegan dog treats!
Trace minerals include those such as zinc, copper, selenium. Zinc helps maintain your dog’s immune system and gives it a beautiful fur coat and healthy skin. Copper helps in bone growth and maintenance. And selenium too helps boost the immune system.
Vitamins are compounds that help maintain proper metabolic function in dogs. Some vitamins that are crucial for your dogs are:
- Vitamin A
- B Vitamins
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin important for proper growth, immune function and cell function. B Vitamins are a group of vitamins that mostly aid in nervous system function red blood cell synthesis, glucose generation, immune response and hormone regulation. Dogs can naturally synthesize Vitamin C and it is useful in reducing inflammation and cognitive ageing. Vitamin K is a very crucial compound that aids in blood clotting. Ingestion of certain poisons such as rat killers can obstruct this blood clotting ability and may head to the dogs haemorrhaging to death if not treated immediately.
The basic function of fate is to provide energy to your dogs throughout the day. Apart from that they also play a crucial role in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin A and Vitamin K. Fats promote growth and development and help maintain skin and coat health.
While it may be tricky to find fats that are not derived from animals, they can still be found in plant oils such as flaxseed oil, walnut oil, canola, kidney beans, leafy vegetables. Vegan dog foods do have plenty of options to meet the nutritional requirements of dogs.