- C05ED56FCC59DDC6B4237897DA50105C

Canine Nutritional Overview

Understanding the nutritional requirements of your canine is important to ensure they are able work at their best. This article presents the basic fundamentals of canine nutrition to help handlers gain a better understanding of what these requirements are.

Nutrition can be defined as the processes by which an animal takes in and uses food for growth and tissue repair. There are six major classes of nutrients: water, protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.

K9 Water Requirements.png


Making certain that your canine is hydrated is critical since 70% of their body is comprised of water. So how much water does your dog need to drink a day? The amount is mostly determined based on weight; the table to right provides a quick reference chart that will assist in determining approximately how much water your dog needs.


The primary function of protein is to build and repair body tissues and structures. It is also involved in the synthesis of hormones, enzymes, and other regulatory peptides. Additionally, protein can be used for energy if calories or carbohydrate are insufficient in the diet. The biological value of protein demonstrates how efficiently canines can utilize them.

Note: 30% of your canine’s daily protein intake will go directly to maintaining its fur.

Amino Acids

Proteins are comprised of 20 amino acids which the body uses to create its many different proteins. There are two general classifications of amino acids: essential and nonessential.

Amino Acids.jpg

Essential proteins are those that cannot be produced in the body and must be obtained through food consumption. The 10 essential amino acids are Arginine, Histidine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan, and Valine.

The second group of amino acids is termed nonessential because the body can manufacture them from food. The 10 nonessential amino acids are Alanine, Asparagine, Aspartic acid, Cysteine, Glutamic acid, Glutamine, Glycine, Proline, Serine, and Tyrosine.


Fats provide the largest concentration of energy in the K9’s diet and supply the fatty acids that are vital building blocks that are essential for maintaining normal healthy cells. Fats assist in making the diet more palatable, plus aid the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, E, D, and K. Additionally, the essential fatty acids Linoleic and Linolenic are sources of omega-6 and omega-3.


Carbohydrates are neutral compounds of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. These can be found in a large group of organic compounds occurring in foods and living tissues including sugars, starches, and cellulose. Canines do not need carbohydrates because their bodies can get energy from protein and fats alone. It should be noted that many dog foods use carbohydrates as the primary source of calories. Whole grain carbohydrates can provide critical iron, minerals, fiber, and other beneficial nutrients. Carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables also provide minerals, fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and some protein.


The digestibility of starches is determined by being cooked. Therefore, starches should be well cooked or else they will likely ferment within the canine’s large intestine.


Fresh, wholesome foods provide the best source of vitamins, which are the organic substances that are vital in the conversion of calories to energy. Lowell Ackerman, DVM, states “All of the vitamins needed by your dog on a daily basis could be provided by a fraction of a teaspoon.” Vitamins are divided into two groups, fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K and water soluble.

Vitamin recommendations are based on caloric consumption. Every 1000 kilocalories (explained later) of food should contain a certain level of each vitamin. The table below presents these requirements per 1000 kilocalories for both growing and fully grown dogs.

IU = stands for International Units and is used for the measurement of drugs and vitamins.  ug = stands for the metric measurement micro-gram which is one millionth of a gram.  mg = stands for milligram and is one-thousandth of a gram.

IU = stands for International Units and is used for the measurement of drugs and vitamins.

ug = stands for the metric measurement micro-gram which is one millionth of a gram.

mg = stands for milligram and is one-thousandth of a gram.



Minerals are inorganic substance that are not made by living things. Minerals are found naturally in soil and water and are absorbed by plants which are then consumed by your canine in their food. These inorganic materials comprise less than 1% of your canine’s body weight but are essential to many important functions, such as growth, strong bones, and teeth.


A calorie is a unit of energy and is defined as the amount of heat energy required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius. A kilocalorie (kcal) is equal to 1,000 calories. A canine’s energy needs are based on its body weight and body surface area to account for heat loss. Energy requirements per pound of body weight are greater for smaller canines than larger breeds. Adult canines below the age of 2 or over the age of 10 need 20% more calories than canines between 3 to 7 years of age.

There are two acceptable formulas that can be used to determine the daily caloric requirements for your canine.

Daily Caloric Formulas.png

The following chart serves as a quick reference guide to assist in determining your canine partners daily caloric requirements based upon solely upon their weight.

Daily Caloric Requirements for Adult Canines.png

What to Look for in Commercial Foods

The following list outlines what you should be looking for when purchasing commercial dog foods.

  • High quality named animal proteins listed as the first ingredient and ideally appearing more than once at the top of the ingredients list.

  • Fat should also come from a named source.

  • Whole fruit, vegetables and whole grains which contains grain kernel.

  • Natural preservatives like tocopherols (vitamin E) and vitamin C or antioxidants like rosemary extract.

What You Should Avoid in Commercial Foods

This list provides areas of concern in commercially available foods that should be avoided.

  • Avoid foods that use generic “meat” meal as the primary ingredient. The actual type of meat should be named.

  • Refined grain products, gluten and mill run.

  • All by-products, added sweetener (usually listed as grain fragments); artificial preservatives (ie. BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin propylene glycol) and artificial flavors or colors.

read more articles

Protection Group Square Logo.png