The Role of Vital Nutrients in a Dog's Diet

Your rottweiler requires protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals to maintain his health. Dogs need to have their nutrients carefully balanced just as humans do. The results of eating too little or too much of a certain nutrient could prove harmful. Knowing how the most important components of food affect your dog will help you choose the right dog food, snacks, vitamins, or other dietary supplements.

Protein

Protein is one of the body's essential building blocks, providing four kilocalories of energy per gram. It provides the foundation necessary for the formation of muscle, connective tissue, fur, nails, skin, blood, and organs. Protein is important for puppies, pregnant and lactating bitches, and working dogs. Older dogs require protein, too. The only time you should consider limiting your rottweiler's protein intake is if he is obese or has kidney disease.

Most premium performance dog foods are 30 percent protein and 20 percent fat, providing higher calories and higher protein to help repair muscle. However, few dogs actually need this much nutrition, and many will do well on an active adult version of the dog food. If your rottie sustains injuries or starts losing weight, you will then need to switch him to the performance dog food.

Protein can come from a variety of plants and animals. Animal protein is usually more complete than plant protein, having all of the necessary amino acids a dog requires. One of the first two ingredients in your rottweiler's food should be its protein source, such as chicken, beef, lamb, or poultry by-products. By-products are an excellent source of protein and should not be summarily dismissed. The quality of the protein depends solely on the manufacturer. The definition of by-products, for example, leaves much open for interpretation. Poultry by-products from one source may be a far superior quality than poultry by-products from another manufacturer. Some sources of by-products have better quality nutrition than the actual meat source.

Years ago, veterinarians believed that high-protein diets caused kidney disease. This has no basis in fact. Research proves that working dogs actually require more protein to maintain muscle and to avoid serious injuries. If you work your rottweiler in Schutzhund, herding, or agility, you will want to feed him a high-protein performance dog food. However, if your rottweiler has kidney disease, you should consult your veterinarian for an appropriate diet. A dog excretes excessive protein through his kidneys, and if they are diseased, all this protein may overwork them.

Fat

Fat is an energy-dense nutrient with nine kilocalories per gram. Dogs use fat to maintain a healthy skin and coat, to provide insulation against heat and cold, to protect vital organs, and to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Unlike humans, dogs generally do not have to worry about high cholesterol, so fat becomes an excellent source of energy. Working dogs process fat in much the same way as human athletes use carbohydrates.

Fats can be saturated (solid) or unsaturated (liquid). Unsaturated fats tend to turn rancid quickly. Animal fat sources can be from poultry, beef, pork, horse, lamb, or a mixture of these.

The latest nutrition fad has been omega-3 fatty acids. These fats come from linseed and fish oils and have some anti-inflammatory qualities. They may also decrease the size of some tumors. However, omega-3 fatty acids should not make up more than 5 percent of your dog's food in dry matter weight. Large amounts of omega-3 have been shown to inhibit blood clotting in humans. Simple injuries could result in life-threatening hemorrhaging if you include too much omega-3 fatty acids in your rottweiler's diet. Feeding a dog food with supplemented omega-3 fatty acids is usually the safest way to give him omega-3s. However, use caution if you wish to supplement using omega-3 fatty acids or if omega-3 fatty acids are the dog food's only source of fat. Consult a veterinary nutritionist if your rottweiler has von Willebrand's disease and you wish to further supplement omega-3 fatty acids.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates provide four kilocalories of energy per gram. Carbohydrates provide some energy and bulk for the dog in the form of dietary fiber. If you are working your rottweiler, you will wish to focus on increasing the protein and fat, while decreasing the carbohydrates. Most commonly, the carbohydrate sources in dog food include corn and corn products, wheat, and rice. Some grains, such as cooked rice, are easier to digest than corn. Some dogs are allergic to certain grains such as corn or wheat gluten. In this case, rice, barley, or potatoes are an acceptable substitute.

Limit treats to 10 percent of your rottweiler's total diet. Treats that are shaped like human food are usually high in calories, sugar, salt, and artificial colors and flavors. Use these sparingly. Crunchy biscuits made by premium pet-food manufacturers are usually nutritionally balanced and not loaded with unnecessary ingredients.

Supplements

If you are feeding a premium dog food, there is no reason to supplement your rottweiler's diet. Your dog will obtain all the necessary nutrients from a complete and balanced food. Adding certain vitamins and minerals can seriously affect that balance and actually cause more harm than good. Never give your rottweiler supplements intended for humans without first obtaining advice from a veterinarian. Some vitamin levels that are safe for humans are toxic to dogs. If you wish to supplement, choose a balanced multivitamin formulated for dogs.

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