Lamb, Chicken or Vegetarian? Omega-3 Fatty Acids! Vitamin E added! Glucosamine – Chondroitin, or both? All of us want to make sure our dogs are getting the best nutrition we can afford. But the information on dog food bags or supplement bottles is often incomplete and hard to understand. So, let’s go to the basics.

The medical concept for dogs (and humans!) is that better digestion equals better health. The human body digests food in about 40 hours, so this morning’s breakfast won’t be fully digested until after midnight tomorrow night. But dogs digest their food in twelve hours! Why? In the wild, your dog would eat what he killed or scavenged. Nature makes sure that contaminants from raw meat, entrails, and blood that a dog in the wild would eat, rapidly pass through the body. In this way, pathogens are less likely to attach to walls of the digestive tract and cause harm. Although technically omnivores, dogs in the wild consume very little plant matter and the meat is usually very lean with little fats and no additives.

On to digestion – All mammals have similar components in their digestive tracts that break down food and aid its absorption into the body. The most basic components are digestive enzymes, probiotics and acids. Digestive enzymes have three primary jobs; breaking down the complex proteins, carbohydrates and fats into simple proteins, carbs and fats to make it easier to be absorbed into tissue and the bloodstream. In order to function properly, digestive enzymes need the following chemical compounds to support them; Copper, magnesium, manganese, selenium, zinc, and phosphorus.

Probiotics are living bacteria found in the mouth, esophagus, stomach, gut, intestines, colon, and vaginal tract of mammals. More than 400 bacterial probiotic species are found in the human digestive tract alone. Dogs have a little less than half that amount, around 180. Probiotics break down food, aid the body’s absorption of nutrients, vitamins and minerals and cleanse the entire digestive tract – from gullet to colon. They boost the immune system, and prevent the colonization of micro-organisms like pathogens. They are also linked to an increased resistance to infectious diseases, particularly of the intestine, aid in the management of diarrhea, and break down of plant matter. Dogs have fewer Probiotics in their systems than humans simply because their system is geared to digest primarily meat. The Probiotics in humans are meant to break down primarily plant substances. Since there are far more different types of plant substances than meat, we have more – and more varied – Probiotics in our bodies.

Acids come in two types: amino and fatty. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Amino Acids are responsible for regulating functions such as growth, digestion, and maintaining the body’s immune system. Humans have eight essential amino acids, dogs have eleven. They are essential because they can only be produced from protein derived from food – the body can’t produce it on its own. Fatty Acids are important for a wide array of cell structure components and for many chemical reactions in the body including hormonal and energy activities. Fatty Acids play a vital role in the skin to block irritants and infections. In an animal’s body (and ours) the liver and other tissues can make many of the fatty acids that are required for the body’s chemistry to correctly operate. In dogs, though, there is one that they cannot make -Linoleic Acid (also called Omega6 Fatty Acid) – this is an essential fatty acid as it must be consumed from dietary sources, again, derived from meat.

Now you have the basics, but what about your dog? Domesticated dogs lead very different lives from their wild ancestors. The varieties of dog food seem to increase daily. Kibble or canned – raw diet or vegan? Are the vitamins added to dog food helpful or should you have a supplement?. The most important thing to remember is that everyone’s experience is different and what worked for one dog may not work for yours. Doggie nutrition can be very pricey and not everyone can afford to do the same thing. But the basics of nutrition are generally the same for healthy dogs and if your dog is not healthy, nutrition is often at least part of the problem and one many vets don’t address – yet, it’s one of the easier things to fix. A complete supplement with vitamins, minerals and probiotics, like Vibrant Pets will insure that your pet’s nutrition is complete and chart a course for a long, healthy life.