Understanding the Importance of Fat in Your Dog’s Diet
August 24, 2020
Understanding the Importance of Fat in Your Dog’s Diet
As humans, we have been conditioned to think that fat is the enemy. If you’ve ever gone on a diet to lose weight, you probably reduced your fat intake and focused more on low-calorie foods like fruits and vegetables. What you may not realize, however, is that your dog’s dietary requirements are very different from your own and fats may not be quite the enemy they are made out to be.
The truth of the matter is that fats provide a highly concentrated source of energy for dogs in the form of calories. Without adequate fat in his diet, your dog won’t have the energy he needs to run and play, much less hunt or participate in dog sports. Keep reading to learn more about the importance of fat in your dog’s diet and to receive some helpful tips for keeping things balanced.
What Role Does Fat Play in a Dog’s Diet?
As a descendant of wild wolves, your dog needs a meat-based diet to provide nutrition that his body can digest and utilize. Protein is the most important nutrient in a dog’s diet because it helps puppies grow strong muscles during their development and helps adult dogs maintain lean muscle mass. After protein, fat is the next most important nutrient because it provides a concentrated source of energy. Protein and carbohydrates only provide 4 calories (a unit of energy) per gram while fat provides 9.
As a concentrated source of energy, fat helps keep your dog active – this is particularly important for working and sporting breeds. It also provides a blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to support your dog’s skin and coat health. If your dog’s diet is too low in fat, he may become lethargic and the quality of his coat might suffer. Fat also helps your dog’s body absorb and utilize fat-soluble vitamins and it plays a role in supporting a healthy immune system.
What Kinds of Fats are Best for Dogs?
Not all fats are created equal. As a puppy, your dog needs a minimum of 8% fat in his daily diet and, as an adult, he needs about 5% at a minimum. Keep in mind, however, that the quality of the fat in your dog’s diet is important as well. Animal-based fats like chicken fat and salmon oil are more biologically valuable for dogs than plant-based fats like canola oil or flax seed. Plant oils can be paired with animal fats to provide a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, but most of the fats in your dog’s diet should come from animal sources.
Why Should You Be Careful About Fat in Your Dog’s Diet?
When it comes to including fat in your dog’s diet, you need to walk the line between providing for his nutritional needs and taking his fat intake so high that he gains an unhealthy amount of weight. You can have too much of a good thing! Think of it this way:
Imagine your dog when he was a puppy. He was small, awkward, and full of curiosity for the world around him. As a dog owner, your primary responsibility was to provide for your puppy’s nutritional needs, so he could grow and develop properly. So, you fed him a high-quality dog food formulated for puppies with extra fat for energy and followed the feeding recommendations on the package. As the weeks passed, your puppy grew, and his puppy fat turned into strong, healthy muscles.
Now, imagine that instead of following the feeding recommendation on the puppy food package you simply kept your puppy’s bowl full and let him eat as much as he wanted. He would have still grown, building those same muscles, but he may have grown too fast and he may have developed an unhealthy amount of body fat. Overgrowth in puppies is very dangerous because it can put excess strain on their joints which can predispose them to musculoskeletal issues as an adult. Controlling the fat in your puppy’s food means controlling calories – you need to provide enough but not too much.
Now do you see why fat in your dog’s diet is a good thing, but only in the right amount? Keep reading to receive some helpful tips for including fat in your dog’s diet.
Tips for Including Fat in Your Dog’s Diet
Including healthy fats in your dog’s diet is something of a balancing act. You want to make sure you hit those minimum requirements without going overboard. The problem is that every dog has unique requirements for fat in his diet according to his age, weight, and activity level. The more active your dog is, the more fat he’ll need in his diet to provide for his energy requirements.
Here are some simple tips for including fats in your dog’s diet:
• Check the guaranteed analysis on a dog food label before you buy to make sure it contains a minimum of 5% crude fat for adult dogs and a minimum of 8% for puppies.
• Make sure the first source of fat in your dog’s food comes from an animal-based source to ensure bioavailability – remember, plant oils can be used as supplemental sources of fat.
• Look for a dog food that includes both DHA and EPA, two omega-3 fatty acids that support brain health and reduce inflammation.
• Check for a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids – your dog’s diet should contain about twice as much omega-6 as omega-3.
• Avoid low-quality sources of fat such as tallow or lard as well as unnamed sources of fat, like poultry fat instead of chicken fat.
If you’re concerned about providing for your dog’s energy requirements, it might be time to switch to a new recipe! Consider our Sport Dog Food Bird Dog Whitefish Formula designed specifically for highly active sporting dogs with 87% animal ingredients and 16% healthy fats. You should also check out our assortment of high energy dog foods for active and working breeds.