X Essential Nutrients for Dogs: What Nutrients Does My Dog Need?

Whether you feed your pet high-quality food and natural dog treats or prepare homemade dog food, you need to understand the basics of dog nutrition.

Dogs require a specific amount of daily intake of 7 essential nutrients to stay healthy and develop properly. In this article, we take a look at each of them, explaining their sources and benefits for your pet’s health.

7 Essential Nutrients for Dogs

As AAFCO states, there are six essential nutrients dogs should receive each day to be healthy and happy. Those are:

  • Water

  • Proteins

  • Carbs and fiber

  • Fats

  • Vitamins

  • Minerals

However, fiber is way more important for dogs, especially their gut health. That’s why we look at it as a separate essential nutrient.


As much as 80% of body mass consists of water, which is why it’s considered a vital nutrient. The water regulates various body functions, such as regulating body temperature, breaking down and absorbing nutrients, flushing out toxins, lubricating joints, and protecting the nervous system among others.

Dogs need to consume clean and fresh water 2.5 times the amount of dry matter they consume. Of course, the exact amount may vary depending on factors like age, size, breed, and the dry matter consumed during the day.


Proteins are paramount for dogs’ development and growth. They are the source of energy and support the formation and maintenance of muscles, tendons, cartilage, and ligaments. They also promote hair, skin, and nail health.

The main sources of proteins are animals, which is why it’s recommended to feed your dog meat-based food.

The minimum protein daily intake is 18% dry matter for a pup and 8% for an adult dog. However, AAFCO recommends an intake of a minimum of 22.5% for pups and 18% for adult dogs.


Although not the main source of energy, carbs also boost the energy levels in dogs. When they break down in the digestive system, they are converted to glucose, which is a source of energy in the body.

Carbs are mostly found in fruits and veggies as well as whole grains. In terms of their daily intake, AAFCO doesn’t have a recommended daily intake. However, dry dog food usually contains 30-60% carbs.


Fiber is essential for dogs’ healthy digestive system. It improves gut health, potentially preventing colon cancer, helps stabilize blood sugar levels, and participates in weight management.

Fiber is composed of soluble and insoluble fibers. The main sources of soluble fiber are fruits and gums whereas insoluble fiber is mostly found in grains.


Although usually perceived as bad, fats play an important role in your dog’s health. They provide the most concentrated source of energy, supply fatty acids, and help with the absorption of vitamins A, E, D, and K. Healthy fats, furthermore, protect internal organs, help regulate the body temperature, regulate inflation, promote healthy skin/coat, and support pups’ development.

The most important and healthiest part of fats are their essential fatty acids:

  • Linoleic acid – a source of Omega-6 fatty acids; found in chicken, pork fat, and vegetable oils.

  • Linolenic acid – a source of Omega-3 fatty acids; found in canola, flaxseed, and fish oil.

The recommended amount of fat content in dog food is 1% to 2% of the food.


Vitamins have multiple functions in a dog’s body. They play a role in DNA creation, bone development, and food absorption, and support the immune system, normal eye function, and nervous system function.

Although all vitamins are important for dogs, the crucial ones are vitamins A, D, E, K, B complex, and choline. They can be found in fresh, wholesome food such as fruits, veggies, fish, egg yolks, animal meat, nuts, and whole grains.

In terms of the recommended daily intake, it varies between vitamins. However, premium dog food contains the recommended daily intake of each vitamin.


Minerals take part in many functions in the dog’s body. They are crucial for maintaining fluid balance, bone health, and regulating processes in the organism such as enzyme and hormone systems, muscle contractions, and electrolytes. Also, they are the main structural components of the organs and tissues.

The essential minerals for dogs are:

  • Calcium

  • Phosphorus

  • magnesium

  • Potassium

  • Sodium

  • Iron

  • Copper

  • Manganese

  • Zinc

  • Iodine

  • Selenium

The recommended daily intake of minerals differs between pups and adult dogs. But, high-quality dog food contains the right amount, so you don’t have to worry about that.

What’s very important to mention is the calcium-to-phosphorus ratio. It must be between 1:1 and 2:1 for optimal health.

Final Thoughts

Essential nutrients are vital for the optimal health of dogs. They support the function of multiple systems in their body, promote their growth, and maintain a balance.

Although every nutrient has a recommended daily amount, the best way to ensure your pooch receives the right amount is by choosing premium dog food. Feeding your pet food with balanced nutrient content ensures they enjoy a healthy, vibrant, and happy life.

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