Dog Nutrition: Learn About Vitamins, Supplements, & More

Four Minutes
Aug 19, 2022

We all want our furry friends to live happy, healthy lives. That means ensuring their meals and treats contain valuable nutrients to keep their teeth, bones, coat, and energy in tip-top shape. While you should look at the dog food nutrition label on your pup’s canned dinner, there are also other ways to support your dog’s diet — through vitamins, powders, and other supplements. If you’re not sure where to start, or you just want to make sure your dog’s kibble is up to par, read more to learn about your dog’s nutrition.

Why Is a Dog’s Nutrition Important?

The food a dog eats can directly impact their health, and providing your dog nutritious food:

  • Supports healthy brain function
  • Builds strong muscles
  • Promotes healthy skin and a shiny coat
  • Maintains teeth and bone health
  • Prevents diseases

Knowing that a dog’s nutrition contributes to their overall health, you can begin to make informed decisions about your pup’s diet.2 Whether you choose to feed them kibble or opt for alternative diets, all that matters is that it’s approved by your veterinarian and they enjoy it! Consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your dog’s nutrition or if you feel they’re lacking in a certain area.

Nutrients that benefit dogs

Of course, the nutrients that support dogs’ vital functions are abundant. There are six main nutrients to keep an eye out for in your dog’s daily diet: water, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients can be found in a variety of kibble and raw food diets, and some could benefit your dog more than others. Regardless of what food you choose, be sure to give your pup plenty of water, as it’s a vital nutrient for several bodily functions. Here are the other quality nutrients for your dog that make up a balanced diet, broken down by category:3

  • Proteins: Amino acids
  • Fats: Linoleic acid, omega-6, omega-3
  • Carbohydrates: Sugars, starches, fiber
  • Vitamins:Vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, B-complex
  • Minerals: Calcium, phosphorus

Most kibble and wet foods contain all of what your dog needs nutritionally, but supplementing their meals with treats or dog-safe people foods like certain fruits and vegetables can also help. Just be sure to not overdo it — remember, treats and other goodies should only make up about 10% of your dog’s daily diet.4

How Much to Feed a Dog and Keep Them Healthy

How much you should feed your dog depends on the types of meals they eat, as well as their size, breed, and level of activity. Active dogs tend to need more food to keep them full and energized, whereas less active dogs need less to keep their body functioning.

A good baseline for feeding dogs who eat dry kibble:5

  • Toy breeds (3 - 10 lbs.): ⅓ – ½ cup per day
  • Small breeds (10 - 20 lbs.): ¾ – 1⅓ cups per day
  • Medium breeds (30 - 50 lbs.): 1¾ – 2⅔ cups per day
  • Large breeds (60 - 100 lbs.): 3 – 4½ cups per day

Another rule of thumb is to feed your dog 1½ cups of food per 10 kg of body weight for smaller breeds, 1 cup per 10 kg of body weight for larger breeds. Understanding how to read a dog food label can also help you better understand the quantity, density, and the ingredient makeup of the food in your container.

If you’re not sure how much your dog should eat, what type of food they should eat, or if you want to change their diet in any way, always consult your vet. They can help determine your dog’s ideal diet for their body weight and breed.

Dog Diets and Supplements

There are plenty of tried and true options to feed your dog that can fit your lifestyle and benefit your dog’s health. Beyond the basic kibble and wet food, dogs can eat a variety of human foods, raw foods, and even supplements to support their overall wellness. If you’re not sure where to start, learn more about different diet options, toppers, and supplements below, and always talk to your vet to get their expert insight.

Homemade dog foods

Depending on advice from your vet, you may decide to try homemade dog food. Similar to when your dog has an upset stomach, plain boiled chicken and rice is the go-to remedy. Homemade dog foods are cooked, healthy options for your dog to obtain nutrients while ensuring you understand all the ingredients that go into their body.

Raw food diets

Raw food diets can bring a lot of health benefits to your pup. It’s a great option for weight management and nutrient-dense foods. Keep in mind this diet isn’t right for every dog so, as always, be sure to consult with your vet before putting your pal on a raw food diet.

Dog food toppers

Dog food toppers can be a fun way to spice up your dog’s kibble and provide additional nutrition. It combines the benefits of homemade and raw diets by adding in raw or cooked meat, or even premade toppers from the pet store.

Dog supplements

Similar to human supplements, dog supplements help to make up for the nutrients your furry friend may not get in their daily meals. These supplements come in many different forms, but they can support joint functions, skin and coat, digestion, and even anxiety. Supplements aren’t always necessary, but your vet may recommend them if they notice your dog is vitamin deficient or could use a boost.

A Fed Dog Is a Happy Dog, But Be Safe

While a fed dog is usually a happy dog, be sure you’re aware of your dog’s nutritional needs and talk with your vet before making any major dietary changes.

Accidents can happen. Your dog may ingest something that causes an adverse reaction, doesn’t sit well with them, or may even be toxic. Emergency vet visits can be costly, but having pet insurance may help offset some of those expenses. A dog insurance policy from MetLife1 can give you peace of mind and help keep your furry friend safe and healthy.

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.

2 ”The Benefits of Proper Nutrition,” PetMD

3 ”The Facts About Dog Nutrition,” Fetch by WebMD

4 “How Many Treats Can Your Dog Really Have,” American Kennel Club

5”Are You Feeding Your Dog the Right Amount?,” PetMD

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