Here you can find answers to frequently asked questions about dog nutrition. A wealth of other helpful information can be found in the expert contributions on the various topics.
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Cereal grains such as wheat, corn, barley and oats are one of the main ingredients in many dog foods because they are cheap sources of carbohydrates and calories. However, many cereal grains add very little value to a dog's diet as they provide almost exclusively carbohydrates and their vitamin, mineral and dietary fibre content is significantly lower than that of vegetables, for example.
At the same time, these carbohydrates are usually digested very quickly, which rapidly gives rise to a feeling of fullness, but this is followed all too soon by the return of hunger pangs. Due to this property, carbohydrates found in grains are suspected to cause high fluctuations in blood sugar levels under certain circumstances and thereby to increase the risk of diabetes in the long term.
In addition, like many people, more and more dogs are experiencing gluten allergies and intolerances. For them, gluten-free and grain-free/cereal-free diets are always the best alternative.
Since in the wild the dog feeds mainly on prey (and not on wheat, for example), the food you select for your dog should consist mainly of protein to ensure a species-appropriate diet.
Minerals are essential nutrients that the body of the dog cannot produce itself and that must therefore be obtained from food. They function as building materials and regulate metabolic processes.
Minerals contribute to a healthy acid-base balance. Calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, chlorine, potassium and sulphur occur in high concentrations and are also known as electrolytes. Trace elements are only required in small amounts but are essential for life. These include iron, copper, zinc, iodine, fluorine, chromium, cobalt, nickel, molybdenum, manganese and selenium. The mineral content in the body of the dog is relatively high because his digestion is focused on whole prey. Prey contains a lot of blood, which in turn contains many minerals.
Every cell in the body of your dog consists mainly of proteins. These are composed of 20 different essential amino acids your dog needs for the formation of bones and cartilage, muscles and organs, skin, hair and nails. Hormones are protein compounds that control important metabolic processes. The immune system also utilises protein, but it is generally not used for energy production. Only in emergency situations (starvation diet) does the body break down protein-rich muscle mass for energy production, especially if the muscles are not being used. That is why exercise is so important for overweight dogs, since when they exercise, energy is then generated from fat reserves. The more similar the body’s amino acid pattern is to that of the food consumed, the more effectively the proteins can be utilised.
Meat, dairy products and eggs contain high-quality proteins. Medium-quality protein is found in organs and connective tissue and low-quality protein in cereal gluten, vegetables and legumes.
Animal proteins are therefore of greater value for the dog, but vegetable protein sources such as peas and potatoes contain neither fat nor cholesterol and are therefore the perfect addition to any food mix.
A change in diet is very straightforward in most cases, but there are a few points that should be noted. If you have been feeding your dog a particular dog food for a long time that contains certain sugars, which are added to the food to make it more palatable to the dog, as is the case with many cheap dog foods, your dog might have a hard time accepting a new food. In this case you should not make the switch immediately but phase in the new food slowly over several days so your dog can get used to the different taste.
If your dog is generally sensitive to food or prone to intolerances, you should also make sure that the switch to the new food takes place slowly.
In order to make this the gradual change in diet you should first mix just a small amount of the new food with the old food and then increase this amount over the course of a few days until you are only feeding your dog the new food. This ensures that the dog can slowly get accustomed to the new food and that his stomach has time to adjust gradually to the change in diet.
For a long time, people assumed that a low fat diet was healthy. Then, however, someone noticed that the natives of Greenland ate almost exclusively fatty fish, whale and seal meat – and that they were bursting with health. This was due to the polyunsaturated (omega-3 and omega-6) fatty acids in the food the Greenlanders obtained from the sea. Among other things, these are important for brain development, the nervous system and the vision. They keep the arteries elastic, improve blood flow and have anticoagulant and anti-inflammatory properties. Omega-3 fatty acids are what makes canola oil so valuable.
Oxygen is vitally important and “free radicals” are oxygen compounds that are part of the natural metabolic processes in the body. If production of these compounds gets out of control, however, they trigger diseases and accelerate the ageing process. This “oxidative stress” may occur due to poor nutrition, physical or emotional stress, environmental pollution or injuries. Particularly when inflammatory processes (arthritis, allergies) or infections occur, there is an increased volume of free radicals. However, nature provides its own protection: antioxidants – certain vitamins, minerals, enzymes and phytochemicals which react quickly with the aggressive oxygen compounds and render them harmless. The most important antioxidants in food include beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, selenium, zinc, polyphenols (which, for example, give beetroot its colour), phytoestrogens (for example contained in flaxseed).
Fibre is composed of largely indigestible plant components. There are water-soluble fibres (e.g., pectin and mucilage) and water-insoluble fibres (such as inulin and cellulose). In food, fibre gives rise to a pleasant feeling of fullness and contributes significantly to general good health. It keeps blood sugar levels balanced, stimulates bowel movement and regulates digestion. Since fibre binds water, it is especially important to drink plenty of water when consuming fibre-rich food. Whole grain products provide valuable fibre; in grain-free/cereal-free food this function is performed mainly by vegetables and potatoes.
The mineral zinc is a trace element. In dogs, it is found primarily in the skeleton. It is a component of insulin in the pancreas, but also occurs in the Tapetum lucidum, the mirror-like surface in the choroid of the eye, where it is partly responsible for twilight vision. Zinc has a positive influence on the immune system in general and wound healing in particular. It protects the cells from free radicals (antioxidants).
Phytic acid, in combination with high amounts of calcium, can affect the absorption of Zinc, as can high amounts of calcium in combination with copper. Young dogs may therefore exhibit deficiencies if they consume excess amounts of cereal grain and soybean meal. Adult dogs need approximately 1 mg of zinc per kg of body weight. As with all other vitamins and minerals, zinc requirements change due to growth, pregnancy and during lactation. Zinc is found in offal such as liver, heart and lungs, as well as in beef, seeds, nuts, yeast, cereal grains and eggs.
In young dogs, a poor appetite, abnormal lesions such as crusty spots on elbows, nose, eyes and along the ear or hair loss can indicate a zinc deficiency. Adult dogs are prone to pigmentation abnormalities affecting individual hairs, particularly on the head, and a weakened immune system.
Biologically speaking, humans are omnivores; dogs are not. Although dogs do need some nutrients that are found in plants, one should not draw the wrong conclusion that they can tolerate human food. Some foods that are harmless to us can be dangerous or even fatal to dogs. These include alcohol, avocado, raw beans, raw potatoes and sprouted potatoes, garlic and wild garlic, chocolate and cocoa, raw pork, stone fruits, grapes and raisins, onion and the sweetener xylitol. Talk with your vet about the symptoms and visit him immediately if you are not sure if your dog has ingested any of the above foods.
Please note that the portion information on the package is to be regarded as a rough estimate. The most appropriate portion size for any dog depends on many individual factors and should be determined over the course of a few weeks.
The appropriate amount of food mainly depends on the build and level of activity of your dog. If your dog is underweight, you should feed him a bit more food. If your dog is overweight, you should reduce the amount of food a little. If you are not sure what weight would be ideal for your dog, your veterinarian can give you some tips.
We recommend that you check the weight of your dog regularly and adjust the amount of food in case of significant fluctuations. In particular, due to the changing levels of activity over the years, the amount of calories your dog requires will also change. Changes in metabolism such as those observed in senior dogs or pregnant bitches may result in increased or decreased energy requirements.
Herbs contain minerals and trace elements such as potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, folic acid, iron, copper, zinc, manganese and selenium which are important for a dog. When consumed in the proper quantities, they support and boost the metabolism as a whole. To this end, herbs contain many vitamins such as vitamin C, a free radical scavenger and natural antioxidant that strengthens the immune system. Carotene and vitamin A support cell metabolism. Silica is an important nutrient and building material for the rapidly growing cells in the skin and coat. Herbs also contain secondary plant compounds (flavonoids, carotenoids) that counteract free radicals and boost the immune system as well as tannins, bitter-tasting compounds, essential oils, mucilage and large quantities of chlorophyll. This green plant pigment helps build new blood cells and aids in digestion, detoxification and wound healing.
After fat, carbohydrates are the second most important source of energy for a dog. While humans begin digesting carbohydrates in the mouth, dogs only really begin to absorb them in the small intestine. Carbohydrate-rich ingredients must therefore be processed or crushed before ingestion in order for the dog to be able to utilise the nutrients and active ingredients they contain at all.
Carbohydrates are sugars that are classified as simple or complex sugars depending on their structure. The latter include, for example, vegetable starches, glycogen and (crude) fibres. Complex sugars are broken down into simple sugars during digestion so that the body can absorb them. If a dog receives more carbohydrates than he can use, he stores them in the liver and muscles to release when needed. If there is a long-term oversupply, the body converts the carbohydrates and stores them as fat reserves. The dog becomes overweight.
Calcium stabilises bones and teeth and is responsible for blood clotting and for muscle and nerve function. It is essential to balance the ratio of calcium and phosphorus. The body must equalise the phosphorus content with calcium obtained from food. If this fails, it draws on the calcium reserves in the bones. A pure meat diet may result in calcium deficiency. Puppies need plenty of calcium and phosphorus to build bone mass. Nursing bitches pass on calcium through the milk, which must also be compensated for through the diet.
Nutricanis dog food with its well-balanced recipes helps to prevent a calcium deficiency permanently.
Generally, you are free to decide how often you feed your dog. What is important, however, is to keep track of the total amount of food your dog eats, as people often unconsciously feed their dogs more when they give them several meals a day.
It is very common to feed a dog once in the morning and then again at night. You can vary the amounts and feed, for example a third of the total daily amount of food in the morning and the remaining two thirds in the evening. Try to find out what best suits the individual needs of your dog.