Dogs need several different kinds of nutrients to survive

Amino acids from proteins, fatty acids and carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water. The tables in this pamphlet provide recommended daily allowances for dietary nutrients based on the minimum amount required to maintain good health in normal dogs. Your dog’s unique nutritional requirements will depend on its size, its breed, and its stage in life,among other factors.

Proteins & Amino Acids

Dogs cannot survive without protein in their diets. Dietary protein contains 10 specific amino acids that dogs cannot make on their own.

Known as essential amino acids, they provide the building blocks for many important bio-logically active compounds and proteins. In addition, they donate the carbon chains needed to make glucose for energy. High-quality proteins have a good balance of all of the essential amino acids.Studies show that dogs can tell when their food lacks a single amino acid and will avoid such a meal.dogs can survive on a vegetarian diet as long as it contains sufficient protein and is supplemented with vitamin D.

Fats & Fattyacids

Dietary fats, mainly derived from animal fats and the seed oils of various plants, provide the most concentrated source of energy in the diet.

They supply essential fatty acids that cannot be synthesized in the body and serve as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins. Fatty acids play a role in cell structure and function. Food fats tend to enhance the taste and texture of the dog’s food as well. Essential fatty acids are necessary to keep your dog’s skin and coat healthy. Puppies fed ultralow-fat diets develop dry, coarse hair and skin lesions that become increasingly vulnerable to infections. Deficiencies in the so-called “omega-3” family of essential fatty acids may be associated with vision problems and impaired learning ability. Another family of essential fatty acids called “omega-6” has been shown to have important physiologic effects in the body.


(Weighing 12 lb, 33 lb at maturity)


(Weighing 33 lb)


(Weighing 33 lb with 6 puppies)

Crude Protein 56 g 25 g  69 g /158 g
Total Fat 21 g 14 g 29 g/67 g


Twelve minerals in the table are known to be essential nutrients for dogs. Calcium and phosphorus are crucial to strong bones and teeth.

Dogs need magnesium, potassium, and sodium for nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction, and cell signaling. Many minerals that are present only in minute amounts in the body, including selenium, copper, and molybdenum, act as helpers in a wide variety of enzymatic reactions. Dogs can get too much or too little of a specific mineral in their diets. A deficiency of dietary calcium, for instance,causes a condition known as secondary hyperparathyroidism.Recognized clinically for many years in dogs fed meals consisting mainly of meat, this disease results in major bone loss, skeletal abnormalities, and pathological fractures. An excess of calcium, on the other hand, may also cause skeletal abnormalities, especially in growing large-breed puppies.


Vitamins are organic compounds that take part in a wide range of metabolic activities.

Dogs require vitamins in their food, albeit at low concentrations. First noticed in dogs some 75 years ago, vitamin deficiencies can cause a variety of health problems. Clinical signs of vitamin A deficiency, one of the first deficiencies studied in dogs, include motor and vision impairment, skin lesions, respiratory ailments, and increased susceptibility to infections. Dogs fed diets lacking vitamin E show signs of skeletal muscle breakdown, reproductive failure, and retinal degeneration. Thiamin deficiency can lead to brain lesions and other neurological abnormalities if the deprivation is sudden and to heart damage and death if it is chronic. Some vitamins, such as vitamin D, are not only essential in small doses, but also toxic in excess amounts.

Energy Needs

Dogs need a certain amount of energy to sustain the normal activities of their daily lives.

Growth, pregnancy, lactation, and exercise all increase these normal energy requirements. Generally measured in terms of calories, energy comes from three major dietary components: carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Omnivorous animals get some of their energy from carbohydrates, which include sugars, starches, and dietary fibers. The major sources of carbohydrates in commercial dog foods are cereals, legumes, and other plant foodstuffs. So-called absorbable carbohydrates, including glucose and fructose, can be directly absorbed and do not need to be digested by enzymes. Digestible carbohydrates are readily broken down by intestinal tract enzymes. Fermentable carbohydrates include certain starches and dietary fibers that pass undigested through the small intestine to the colon, where they are fermented by microbes into short-chain fatty acids and gases. Some studies suggest that fermentable fibers may aid in the regulation of blood glucose concentrations and enhance immune function. Nonfermentable fibers, such as cellulose and wheat bran, contribute little interms of energy or nutrition and are primarily used to decrease caloric intake of the overweight animal.

                                            CALORIES PER DAY(Kilocalories per day*)
TYPE OF DOG 10 lb 30 lb 50 lb 70 lb  90 lb
PUPPIES (10 lb puppy growing to
33 lb at maturity)
990 ___ ___ ___ ___
INACTIVE DOGS—dogs with little stimu-
lus or opportunity to exercise.
296 674 989 1,272 1,540
ADULT ACTIVE DOGS—dogs with strong stimulus and ample opportunity to exercise, such as dogs in households with more than one dog, in the country or with a large yard. 404 922 1,353 1,740 2,100
PREGNANT DOGS—from 4 weeks after
mating until delivery.
518 1,274 1,940 2,570 3,170
Young Adult Active Dogs 436 993 1,451 1,876 2,264
Older Active Dogs 327 745 1,093 1,407 1,700

Enery Needs of Growing Puppy

The growing puppy starts out needing about twice as many calories per pound of body weight as an adult dog of the same breed. Owners should start feeding puppies food at approximately 4 weeks after birth, because mother’s milk is no longer sufficient. Food is best offered to puppies in multiple, well-spaced meals.

Energy Needs of Older Dogs

Because of decreased physical activity and slowed metabolism, older dogs need 20% fewer total calories than do middle-aged adult dogs. As dogs age, they tend to become overweight. It may take obese dogs longer for their blood glucose concentrations to return to normal. This disrupted carbohydrate metabolism can lead to diabetes.

Energy Needs of Lactating Dogs

New mothers generally suckle their puppies for at least 6 weeks. The mother’s need for calories increase with the number of puppies and the week of lactation, up to 4 weeks. Giant breeds (like Great Danes) have proportionately smaller digestive tracts and may not be able to eat enough to sustain themselves during lactation. Owners of such dogs may need to start feeding puppies supplemental food at an early age.

Vitamin K Activation of clotting factors, bone proteins, and other proteins 0.41 mg  No reports of naturally occurring deficiencies in normal dogs
Vitamin B1
Energy an carbohydrate
metabolism; activation of ion channels in neural tissue
0.56 mg Failure to grow, weight loss and neurological abnormalities in puppies; damage to the nervous system and to the heart in adult dogs
Riboflavin Enzyme functions 1.3 mg Anorexia; weight loss; muscular weakness; flaking dermatitis; eye lesions
Vitamin B6 Glucose generation; red
blood cell function niacin synthesis nervous system
function; immune response; hormone regulation; gene
0.4 mg Anorexia and weight loss in pup-
pies; convulsions, muscle twitch-
ing, and anemia in adult dogs
Impairment of motor control and
balance; muscle weakness
Niacin Enzyme functions 4 mg Anorexia; weight loss; inflamma-
tion of the lips, cheeks, and throat;
profuse salivation; bloody diarrhea
Bloody feces; convulsions
Pantothenic Acid Energy metabolism 4 mg Erratic food intake; sudden pros-
tration or coma; rapid respiratory
and heart rates; convulsions;
gastrointestinal symptoms;
reduced antibody production
Vitamin B12 Enzyme functions 9 μg Appetite loss; lack of white blood
cells; anemia; bone marrow
Folic Acid Amino acid and nucleotide metabolism; mitochondrial protein synthesis 68 μg Weight loss; decline in hemoglobin concentration
Choline Phospholipid cell
membrane component
425 mg Loss of body weight; fatty liver
Calcium Formation of bones and teeth; blood coagulation; nerve impulse transmis-
sion; muscle contraction;cell signaling
1 g Nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism;
significant decreases in bone mineral content,which can result in major skeletal abnormalities Different types of skeletal aberrations, especially in growing puppies of large breeds
Phosphorus Skeletal structure; DNA and RNA structure; energy
metabolism; locomotion;
acid-base balance
0.75 g Reduced weight gain; poor appetite;
bowing and swelling of forelimbs
in puppies
Magnesium Enzyme functions; muscle and nerve-cell membrane
stability; hormone secretion and function; mineral structure of bones and teeth
150 mg Reduction in weight gain, irritability, and
convulsions in puppies;hyperextension
of carpal joints and hind-leg paralysis
later in life
Sodium Acid-base balance; regulation of osmotic pressure; nerve impulse
generation and transmission
200 mg Restlessness; increased heart
rate, water intake, and hemoglobin concentration; dry and tacky mucous membranes
Potassium Acid-base balance; nerve- impulse transmission; enzymatic reactions; transport functions 1 g Poor growth in puppies; paralysis of neck muscles and rear legs and general weakness later in life
Chlorine Acid-base balance; transfer of extracellular fluids across cell membranes 300 mg Reduced weight gain and weakness in puppies
Iron Synthesis of blood components;
energy metabolism
7.5 mg Poor growth; pale mucous membranes; lethargy; weakness; diarrhea At acute levels, dangerous oxidative reactions that lead to gastrointestinal and other tissue damage
Copper Connective tissue formation; iron
metabolism; blood cell formation;
melanin pigment formation;myelin formation; defense
against oxidative damage
1.5 mg Loss of hair pigmentation in
puppies; anemia
Zinc Enzyme reactions; cell replication; protein and carbohydrate
metabolism; skin function; wound healing
15 mg Poor weight gain; vomiting; skin lesions
Manganese Enzyme functions; bone development; neurological function 1.2 mg No studies of deficiency in dogs
Selenium Defense against oxidative damage; immune response 90 μg Anorexia; depression; breathing discomfort; coma; muscular
Iodine Thyroid hormone synthesis;cell differentiation; growth and development of puppies; regulation of metabolic rate 220 μg Enlargement of thyroid glands;dry, sparse hair coat; weight gain
Excessive tearing, salivation, and nasal discharge; dandruff
Vitamin A Vision; growth; immune function; fetal development; cellular differentiation; transmembrane
protein transfer
379 μg Anorexia; body weight loss; ataxia;  conjunctivitis; corneal disorders; skin lesions;
respiratory ailments; increased susceptibility to infection Imbalance in bone remodeling processes;
artery and vein degeneration; dehydration; central nervous system depression; joint pain
Vitamin D Maintenance of mineral status; phosphorous
3.4 μg Rickets; lethargy; loss of muscle tone; bone swelling and bending Anorexia; weakness; diarrhea; vomiting; calcification of soft tissue; excessive mineraliza-
tion of long bones; dehydration; dry and brit-
tle hair; muscle atrophy
Vitamin E Defense against
oxidative damage
8 mg Degeneration of skeletal muscle; reproductive failure; retinal degeneration

Cats Diet and Nutrition

Good nutrition is essential to your cat’s overall health. The best diet for your cat is one that replicates what she would eat in the wild—a moisture-rich, meat-filled diet. Cats are obligate (true) carnivores, and therefore require more quality-source protein in their diets than most other animals. We suggest feeding your cat a diet consisting mostly of quality canned foods.

Why canned food?

Cats usually rely on their diet for moisture and don’t drink as much water as they might need. Canned foods have significantly more moisture than dry or “semi-moist” foods. Canned foods also are lower in carbohydrates and can be especially beneficial for cats with urinary issues, diabetes, and other illnesses, as well as in the prevention and treatment of feline obesity. Although there has been concern in the past that feeding only canned food could result in dental disease, we now know that most dry diets do not significantly improve dental health. In fact, only specific dry dental diets with the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal have been shown to reduce tartar and plaque formation and gingivitis.

How often and how much should I feed?

We recommend meal feeding rather than free feeding. Meal feeding means that you feed a specified amount of food, as opposed to leaving out a large quantity of dry food for your cat to graze on throughout the day. You can start by feeding twice daily, using the food label as a guideline. Then review that amount with your veterinarian during your cat’s annual or semiannual examination. The amount to feed may vary depending on your cat’s ideal weight and activity level. Meal feeding also gives you an opportunity to monitor your cat’s appetite and helps you notice any change in your cat’s overall food intake, which is often one of the first signs of stress or illness. Depending on your cat’s specific situation, it might be best to consult with your veterinarian before implementing any diet regimen.

What flavors should I choose?

Of course, every cat will have her own preferences, so you may need to test several flavors and brands to discover what food your cat prefers. It is important, however, to avoid feeding too many fish flavors as fish is high in magnesium, thiaminase, and heavy metals, all of which may be detrimental to your cat’s health, if fed in excess.

This food is cheaper. Is it the same?

If you are unsure about the quality of your cat food, check the first ingredient. If the first ingredient is a meat or fish, it’s most likely a good brand. If the first ingredient is not meat or fish, but is corn, rice, soy, or grain derivatives such as gluten or meal, we would not recommend it. Check for the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) certification for some assurance that the food has met minimal nutrient criteria. You should let your veterinarian know what type and brand of food you are feeding your cat. It may be best to feed foods that contain muscle meat (such as chicken or turkey) in addition to, or
instead of, organ meats (such as liver) and byproducts (items not suitable for human consumption).

What about “semi-moist” cat food?

We do not recommend these highly processed foods as they are high in magnesium (which may cause urinary tract problems) and carbohydrates, and they have little nutritional value. Also, their dyes, preservatives, and other additives can cause allergic reactions in some cats.

What about dry cat food?

Many cats enjoy dry food, and certainly it is an easy and convenient option for guardians; however, feeding exclusively dry food is not always the best choice for your cat. Because dry foods are high in carbohydrates, they can cause cats to develop diabetes, obesity, urinary or kidney problems, diarrhea, or vomiting. If your cat is on a dry food only diet and suffers from any of these ailments, you may want to consider reducing the amount of dry food you feed, and replacing it with quality wet food. If you’re committed to a dry food only diet, there are healthier options: try quality “fixed formula” dry foods, grain-free dry food, or prescription foods for cats with health problems and/or special dietary needs.

What about raw food?

Many argue raw food is the most natural and nutritionally complete feeding regimen, if prepared and fed properly. There are, however, some risks involved, and careful preparation and hygiene standards need to be followed to feed it successfully. If this feeding option is something you’re interested in, we advise that you discuss it with your veterinarian. Whether you feed a commercial product or you make your own, consult your veterinarian to ensure the diet is nutritionally complete for cats. Cats, although they need to eat meat, cannot live on meat alone; they require nutrients such as minerals, vitamins, and specific amino acids.

Are table scraps okay?

We don’t recommend feeding them in excess. Nutritionists suggest keeping table snacks to less than 10 percent of cats’ daily intake. Occasional treats of meat, fruit, or certain vegetables won’t hurt, as long as you feed them in small doses. Don’t feed dairy (if your cat is lactose intolerant), fried foods, or sweets as they can contribute to problems such as obesity, diabetes and stomach upset. Never feed cooked bones as they are sharp and brittle and can cause severe injury. Also, never feed onions or chocolate to cats—both are toxic.

My cat is overweight. Should I be concerned?

Yes. An overweight cat is more vulnerable to many chronic and lifespan-shortening health problems, such as diabetes and arthritis. Also, fat cats often are unable to groom themselves, so their coats become dull and oily and they develop dandruff and mats. In addition, cats who cannot groom themselves may become clinically depressed.

  • Often fat cats cannot reach their own hindquarters, which means that fecal matter and urine can build up and cause discomfort and infection, even if you clean your cat on a regular basis.
  • Although fat cats may be perceived as cute, you are doing your cat a disservice by allowing her to gain too much weight.
  • You can control your cat’s weight by going to your veterinarian and working out a diet plan that will ensure very gradual weight loss (be sure to consider an all wet-food diet).

Never put your cat on a crash diet; it is very dangerous for a cat to lose weight too fast and doing so could lead to life-threatening liver issues. A safe way of promoting weight loss is to encourage your cat to become more active through play. Once your fat cat has become a slimmer, more active cat, you can be sure her overall health and, therefore, quality and length of life, has improved.

What should my cat drink?

Water! Keep plenty of fresh water available at all times. Also, using a pet water fountain encourages cats to drink more and keeps them away from toilets and faucets. We don’t recommend giving your cat milk on a regular basis. Many cats can’t tolerate it and can experience digestive troubles, including diarrhea. What about dishes? Plastic feeding dishes can cause skin irritation in some cats. A shallow, stainless steel or ceramic bowl is your best bet as cats prefer to keep their whiskers and faces out of their food. Don’t use chemical disinfectants or strong detergents to clean your cat’s food dishes. Not only can they be poisonous, but cats are easily put off by harsh odors.