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Your dog deserves better than the food you're probably feeding him

Laura Williams, M.S.Ed. is a personal trainer, freelance writer and entrepreneur who works with a wide variety of fitness clients. She's the founder of the popular website, - Girls Gone Sporty, and she's the host of the High Impact Blogg...

Use this dog food pyramid to separate quality dog food from the bad stuff

Dogs are supposed to be man's best friend, but if that's true, then riddle me this: Would you feed your human best friend a heaping serving of chicken byproduct (read: intestines and feet) and corn for every meal? I can hear you protesting, "Well of course not, but humans aren't dogs."

True. Humans aren't dogs, but that doesn't change the fact that dogs' physiological needs in respect to nutrient consumption — their need to consume water, proteins, fats and carbs as well as a wide array of vitamins and minerals — are strikingly similar to the needs of humans. And just like humans tend to experience physical deficiencies when eating a less-than-healthy diet, dogs can suffer similarly if the nutrients they're getting in commercial dog food aren't up to par.

So if your dog really is your best friend, then pay attention to the food you give him. Focus on choosing foods that skip the byproducts and hard-to-digest ingredients like corn, and are filled instead with quality proteins, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Also, understand that brands are required to list the percentage of proteins and fats provided in their foods on the package — opt for brands whose percentages are at the upper end of the recommendations provided below.

Use this dog food pyramid to separate quality dog food from the bad stuff
Image: Terese Condella/SheKnows

The foods your dog really needs

1. Protein

Complete proteins from high-quality sources, such as beef, chicken, lamb or fish, are an essential part of a dog’s diet. While standard recommendations range from 18 to 25 percent of daily diet, during periods of growth, such as puppyhood or lactation, much higher levels may be needed — up to 30 to 40 percent of total daily calorie intake.

More: There's proof your dog loves you back

2. Fats

Fats are an essential nutrient in a dog’s diet, providing a steady source of energy while enabling the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and acting as a constituent in cellular membranes. General recommendations state that dogs should consume between 5 and 20 percent fats in their diets, and like proteins, needs go up during periods of growth, ballooning to as much as 25 to 50 percent.

More: Top 10 smartest dogs in the world

3. Carbohydrates

While carbohydrates typically make up the majority of a dog’s diet — ranging from 50 to 75 percent in most commercial dog food brands — there’s little evidence that such a high percentage is needed, and the National Research Council doesn’t make dietary intake recommendations for this macronutrient. Still, fiber and many vitamins and minerals found in high-quality carbohydrate sources are essential to canine health. Make sure you’re using a dog food with these high-quality ingredients:

  • Whole grains: Whole grains provide a readily available energy source for dogs' activities, but whole grains should only come from easily digestible foods, including brown rice, oats and barley.
  • Fruits and veggies: Fruits and veggies offer natural sources of phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals. Look for brands that include fruits and veggies listed on the ingredient label, including foods like blueberries, peas, potatoes, carrots, apples and parsley.

More: 8 reasons big dogs are the best pets ever

4. Added vitamins and minerals

Most dog foods supplement their formulas with added vitamins and minerals to ensure your dog is receiving adequate nutrition for daily cellular and hormonal maintenance and repair.

Infographic sources: The Whole Dog Journal, Behavioral Ecology, VCA Animal Hospitals, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine

This post was sponsored by Blue Buffalo.

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