15 Evidence-Based Dog Nutrition Tips

Just Google the words “Dog Nutrition Tips” and you will be assaulted with a deluge of search results. There are literally thousands of so-called tips. But which ones should you trust?  We breakdown 15 evidence-based tips for your dog.

1. Stick to Natural Commercial Diets

Keep your dog’s commercial diets as natural as possible. These should include mostly whole foods as ingredients; avoid any artificial preservatives, flavorings, or coloring.

There are many dog food brands available today. But the difference in their dietary nutrient profile may pose physiological and metabolic challenges for canines (1).

The definition of “natural” still needs to be clarified, but currently, it’s the best indication we have [2].

With many cheap dog food brands, the processes used in their manufacturing negatively impact nutrient content which brings about digestibility and safety issues (3).

The majority of commercial dog foods differ greatly in nutritive characteristics from the traditional and natural diet of dogs. However, picking  the most high quality dog foods with natural ingredients is currently the best option.

Take a look at our dog food reviews for an example of evidence-based analysis.

2. Homemade Dog Food is NOT the Best Option

There is a growing idea that homemade dog food is the best and safest route to take. Unfortunately, this is not the case for most dog owners and their pets. There are several reasons for that [4].

First, to make an actually healthy and nutritionally balanced homemade dog food meal, it would cost dog owners a lot more than going for an equally healthy commercial diet.

To make matters worse, studies have shown that most homemade dog foods have a serious nutrient imbalance. This is mostly due to a lack of clear instructions in many recipes [5].

Most recipes have not been designed by experts, and evaluated on the basis of their nutritional balance. Majority of them are intuitive and, therefore, not an ideal option for dogs.

The is especially true for raw dog food diets [6, 7]. Despite the growing trend of “natural” way of feeding the dog, research have found raw feeding to be the worst option for canines [8, 9].

3. Take Age Into Account

Not all canines are equal. Their individual differences must be taken into account when talking about dog nutrition. A dog’s age is one of these important factors.

Older dogs are more prone to certain diseases and disorders than younger dogs [10, 11]. Degenerative joint, cardiac renal and liver diseases, along with obesity, are more prevalent in mature dogs [12, 13].

Such health risks should be considered when coming up with the optimal meal plan for your dog [14, 15, 16].

When it comes to younger dogs, puppies have different nutritional needs than adult dogs [17, 18]. The best food for a puppy will not be the same as the one for a dog that’s even 6 months older.

4. Dogs May Need Probiotics Too

The importance and understanding of probiotics in humans has drastically increased within the last decade. And the healthy gut flora is also important for canines [19, 20].

A combination of specific probiotic strains given to dogs has been shown to prevent dogs’ allergic reactions and treat acute gastroenteritis as well as inflammatory bowel disease [21, 22, 23].

Maintaining the right amount of the good gut bacteria is not essential for the health and well-being of canines, but can help in the treatment and prevention of allergies and diseases.

Remember that dog foods with probiotics in them may not be sufficient, since they contain very small amounts [24, 25]. Giving your dog a probiotic supplement may be the best option.

5. Canine Kidney Care

As dogs age, it is only natural that certain bodily functions and processes deteriorate. The body and its organs experiences the wear and tear that comes with years of existence.

This is life, but this doesn’t mean that we can’t do something to ease the pains and rigors of our ageing dogs, especially if we take action early on [26, 27].

It has been shown that feeding canines renal protective foods in conjunction with functional food bioactives can turn back the clock in age-related renal function decline [28, 29].

Moreover, the old myth about high protein foods being the cause of kidney damage has long been dispelled by multiple studies [30, 31, 32].

Feed your aging dog energy dense foods that contain omega-3s from fish oil [33, 34], lipoic acid, fruits, veggies and high quality protein sources to help keep its kidneys healthy and functioning.

6. Mind The Fat

Due to their reputation as carnivores, there is a great emphasis on protein intake for canines. However, an equal amount of importance should be placed on how much dietary fat they consume.

The consumption of fats and cholesterol is vital to the health of dogs. But when creating a meal plan to manage your dogs’ weight and health, you should look at the exact amounts of fat you are giving your canine.

A lot of commercial dog food brands may be considered fat laden and counterproductive in maintaining a balanced nutrition for specific breeds and lifestyles, therefore, a close evaluation of every brand is necessary [35].

7. Treat Dogs Like Humans

If you want to extend the lifespan of “man’s best friend” treat it like an aging person.

Maintaining the dietary and physical activity regimen like that of an aging human have been shown great benefit when applied to dogs. (36)

Promoting healthy eating and mobility is a no-brainer when it comes to an aging human populace.  Dogs are no different.  Their lifespan will be significantly increased due to these interventions.

When it comes to older dogs, a greater degree of emphasis must be placed on the providing them key macronutrients.

Protein content, phosphorus and sodium intakes should be monitored closely as nutrient absorption for a mature canine are much different than that of a juvenile. (37)

Greater attention should be placed for athletic or working geriatric canines.  Due to the amount of energy they exert, it is imperative that these dogs receive supplemental dietary long chain omega 3 fatty acids. (38)

Fats give these canines the energy they need as well as helping to maintain joint health.

8. Know the Value of Taurine

Mostly known for its presence in energy drinks, taurine is usually overlooked when it comes to canine nutrition.

Taurine is an essential amino acid and dogs who suffer a deficiency in it can develop enlarged hearts (dilated cardiomyopathy). (39)

Dogs such as Newfoundlands and American Cocker Spaniels are especially susceptible to taurine deficiency.  As such these dogs should be monitored closely to avoid health complications. (40)

9. Listen To Your Vet

This may not seem like a surprise, but veterinarians actually do know more about the health of dogs than their owners.  The “Dr. Mom” sentiment is nice but it can have dire repercussions when it comes to the well-being of your canine.

Studies suggests that dog owners are inconsistent when choosing the type and quality of dog food they purchase.  However, the recommendations of veterinarians were consistent across the board. (41)

10. Don’t Judge Food Based Solely On Your Dogs’ Reaction

Just because your dog gobbles up every single morsel of food in its bowl doesn’t mean that it just had a healthy meal.

Take full fat rice bran (FFRB) for example.  Dogs will gladly eat dog food that is composed of up to 40% FFRB, however when eaten in excess FFRB can lead to vomiting and diarrhea. (42)

To ensure the health of your pup, review and read-up on the various ingredients included in their food.

11. Yeast Hydrolysate as an Anti-Obesity Agent

It doesn’t sound particularly appetizing or safe, but this enzyme derived from spent brewer’s yeast has been shown to help reduce weight in humans.

When applied to canines it acts in a similar fashion.  Indeed, it has been recommended for overweight canines as a powerful anti-obesity agent. (43)

Under careful observation and guidance, this yeast enzyme has the ability to get your dog back into shape.

12. Working and Service Dogs Require Specialized Diets

Long and tiresome hours of work coupled with the need to exert a lot of energy and effort in short bursts, it is no wonder why service and working dogs need a diet like no other.

Working (shepherds, heelers and guard dogs) and police dogs require a diet that has a significantly higher fat content.  This fat is utilized to enhance oxidative phosphorylation capacity (the amount of energy that can be released) and to fuel mitochondrial biogenesis (the creation of the cells known as energy factories). (44)

A stable supply of fat in their diets, means that endurance dogs will have the energy to keep performing at high levels throughout the day.

13. Don’t Forget the Grains

Dogs are technically classified as omnivorous carnivores.  They primarily eat animal fats and tissue but they are also able to supplement their diets with plant matter.

In today’s marketplace the value placed in high protein content is great.  But researchers caution dog owners to “cut” high protein dog foods with grain.

Grain-free diets cause the kidneys to be taxed and as a result urea is inefficiently removed.  In the long run this can lead to the development of kidney disease.

The inclusion of grains in high-protein dog food gives the kidneys a much needed break from continuously breaking down high amounts of protein. (45)


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Stockman, Jonathan, et al. “Evaluation of recipes of home-prepared maintenance diets for dogs.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 242.11 (2013): 1500-1505.

Moyers, Tamberlyn. “Canine nutrition for a healthy old age.” The Veterinary Nurse 6.8 (2015): 452-459.

Grześkowiak, Łukasz, et al. “Microbiota and probiotics in canine and feline welfare.” Anaerobe 34 (2015): 14-23.

Hall, J. A., et al. “Nutritional interventions that slow the age-associated decline in renal function in a canine geriatric model for elderly humans.” The journal of nutrition, health & aging (2015): 1-14.

Bosch, Guido, Esther A. Hagen-Plantinga, and Wouter H. Hendriks. “Dietary nutrient profiles of wild wolves: insights for optimal dog nutrition?.” British Journal of Nutrition 113.S1 (2015): S40-S54.

Farcas, Amy K., et al. “Evaluation of total dietary fiber concentration and composition of commercial diets used for management of diabetes mellitus, obesity, and dietary fat-responsive disease in dogs.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 247.5 (2015): 501-507.

Butterwick, Richard F. “Impact of nutrition on ageing the process. Bridging the Gap: the animal perspective.” British Journal of Nutrition 113.S1 (2015): S23-S25.

Gray, K., et al. “The effect of 48‐hour fasting on taurine status in healthy adult dogs.” Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition (2015).

Suarez, L., et al. “Preferences of owners of overweight dogs when buying commercial pet food.” Journal of animal physiology and animal nutrition 96.4 (2012): 655-659.

Pacheco, G. F. E., et al. “Effect of full-fat rice bran on palatability and digestibility of diets supplemented with enzymes in adult dogs.” Journal of animal science 92.10 (2014): 4598-4606.

Kim, Jae Hwan, et al. “Short Communication: Pet foods with yeast hydrolysate can reduce body weight and increase girth in beagle dogs.”Canadian Journal of Animal Science 92.2 (2012): 207-210.

Larsen, Jennifer A., and Amy Farcas. “Nutrition of aging dogs.” Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice 44.4 (2014): 741-759.

Wakshlag, Joseph, and Justin Shmalberg. “Nutrition for working and service dogs.” Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice 44.4 (2014): 719-740.

Souliere, Kristyn M. “A Study of the Nutritional Effect of Grains in the Diet of a Dog.” (2014).

Backus, Robert C., et al. “Taurine deficiency in Newfoundlands fed commercially available complete and balanced diets.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 223.8 (2003): 1130-1136.

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