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Dogs: How Meat Helps Meet Dog Nutrition Needs

Dogs love many of the same foods we do. But if you think your precious pooch as a hairy little human, think again. Although your canine companion needs protein and good fats, he may need far fewer carbohydrates than you think.

Protein should make up about 18% of your dog's diet, as it should for you. Animal protein from meat and fish offers the balanced protein dogs need. Unlike cats, dogs also eat -- and enjoy – some vegetables, too.

Does this mean your dog could be vegetarian? The pros generally don't recommend it unless you feed your dog an Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) compliant diet. This ensures that all the essential amino acids are included. (Check the dog food label for the AAFCO designation.) If you feed your dog a homemade plant-based diet, you may need to supplement it to provide all the amino acids vital to good canine health.

Dogs Love Fat, But How Much Is OK?

For good nutrition, dogs need fats to keep their coat, skin, nose, and paw pads healthy. Fats are also a great energy source and contain more than twice the calories per gram than protein or carbs.

That doesn't mean your pooch should have all the fats she craves. About 9% to15% of an adult dog's calories should come from fat. But it's easy for dogs to get too much fat, especially if they get treats from the table or sneak cat food tidbits. (Cat food has more fat, protein, and calories per mouthful than dog food, which is why dogs love it so much).

Carbohydrates and Canine Nutrition

Carbs aren't a natural energy source for dogs. Their bodies can make use of carbohydrates for energy, but they have naturally evolved to get most of their nutrition needs met by fats and protein.

As with cats, there's no minimum recommended amount of carbohydrates for dogs. The exception is at the end of gestation and early in lactation, Bartges tells WebMD. “Likewise, dogs do not have an absolute fiber requirement – although a no-fiber diet often results in diarrhea."

Pet Health and Nutrition Advice

Veterinarian Will Draper gives tips on the best nutrition and health care for your dog or cat.
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