Dogs need to be fed a balanced diet at all their life stages. A balanced diet is one which consists of all the essential nutrients needed for a dog’s optimal health and normal physiological functioning of the body. Getting adequate amount of micronutrients (vitamins & minerals) from diet can help prevent many acute & chronic conditions.
Balancing a diet involves evaluation & analysis of every single nutrient present in the ingredients that form part of your dog’s diet. To ensure that your dog’s meals are completely balanced, it should be formulated by a Certified Nutritionist. An unbalanced diet will lead to deficiencies over time and subsequent decline in health.
If your dog’s diet is not formulated and balanced, you can follow the steps given below to build a meal that covers as many essential nutrients in the diet as possible.
Step One: Understand your dog’s caloric needs
The amount of calories an adult dog needs will depend on age, metabolism, and activity level. Most often dog parents overestimate their adult dog’s activity levels, and end up feeding more. On the other hand, a puppy’s energy needs are underestimated. A puppy’s caloric needs is often higher than his adult counterpart. You can use an online dog calorie calculator to determine how many calories your dog needs each day. These calculators use a variable to determine the final number depending on your dog’s activity level. So, make sure to input it accurately. The energy levels also change based on whether the dog is spayed/neutered or not. Spayed/Neutered dogs have lower caloric needs than intact ones.
Step Two: Select bioavailable ingredients
In order to ensure highest uptake of nutrients from food, it is important to feed your dog what he is meant to eat as part of his specie. Even though dogs can survive on a high carbs diet, they need protein & fat as primary source of macronutrient. Plant proteins are not bioavailable to dogs and they cannot absorb & assimilate the nutrients from plant sources as effectively as animal sources. In order to feed a balanced diet and avoid deficiencies to build up, feed at least one ruminant meat, one poultry source and any one type of fatty fish.
Most common ruminant meat sources in India is Goat meat.
Poultry can be Chicken, Duck, Quail, Turkey etc.
Fatty fish sources are Sardines, Mackerel, Anchovies etc
Include a variety of vegetables. Complex carbs like oats, quinoa can also form a beneficial part of the diet.
Step Three: Select the appropriate source of Calcium
Calcium is the most important nutrient in your dog’s diet. Dogs need a sufficient amount of Calcium for stronger bones, teeth, nails & coat.
Raw meaty bones are the best source of Calcium for dogs. Poultry bones such as Feet, Wings, and Necks are the safest choice of bones for your dog. Raw meaty bones are a rich source of not only Calcium, but also Phosphorus & Magnesium. However, not all bones have the same calcium content. For example. Turkey Necks have much more calcium than Chicken Necks even though there is not much difference in their bone percentage.
You can also feed other sources of calcium like egg shell powder & calcium carbonate supplements. But these sources lack Magnesium and can lead to deficiency over time. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of Magnesium. So, if you choose to feed eggshell powder or calcium supplement to your dog, make sure you also add a Magnesium rich whole food to balance the calcium in the diet.
Step Four: Add adequate amount of B-complex
Dogs that are fed liver every day have sufficient source of B-complex Vitamins in their diet. In absence of Liver, feed other Vitamin B rich ingredients such as leafy greens, eggs, peas, or brewers yeast supplement. Vitamin B-12 is the most important vitamin of all for dogs. In case of home-cooked vegetarian diets or diets without livers, an appropriate B-12 supplement should be added to your dog’s diet every day!
Step Six: Feed colorful vegetables & fruits
Phytonutrients are compounds that give vegetables & fruits their vibrant colors, distinct tastes & smell. Phytonutrients have anti-inflammatory, antioxidative and anti-cancer properties. Red ones (watermelon, cranberries, red bellpeppers) have antioxidative properties, orange & yellow (carrot, pumpkin, banana, yellow zucchini) are heart-protective and green ones (broccoli, spinach, kale, cabbage) have cancer blocking chemicals etc. While prepping vegetables, make sure to boil & blend before feeding your dog. Feeding mashed & blended vegetables will allow for optimal absorption of nutrients.
Step 7: Feed at least 50% diet as protein
While selecting the main ingredients in your dog’s diet, make sure you pick bioavailable sources of protein. Dogs need sufficient amount of amino acids in their diet. Deficiency in amino acids will lead to heart, liver and kidney disorders. Rich sources of amino acids for dogs – animal protein sources (Chicken, Red meat, Organs, Fishes etc), Eggs, Paneer, Quinoa, Peas etc. Animal sources of protein are bioavailable and should supply more than 50% calories in your dog’s diet.
Step 8: Add other beneficial Ingredients
Adding the following ingredients in small quantity can prove beneficial to your dog’s health:
Pumpkin seeds – rich source of magnesium and fats
Chia seeds – rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids
Wheatgerm oil- rich source of Omega 6 and Vitamin E
Turmeric powder – has anti-inflammatory properties
Spirulina powder – has anti-oxidative & anti-inflammatory properties
Kefir – is good for a balanced gut health in dogs
The best way to make DIY efficient is to include a variety of ingredients and note down what to feed your dog a week ahead. Switch up the ingredients in the next week and include at least two to three new ingredients.