The Most Important Nutrients in Dog Food

Good dog food must contain certain nutrients in sufficient quantities. Read here what they are and what the dog needs them for.

The dog needs 40 essential nutrients. In this context, essential means that the dog cannot produce these itself and therefore has to ingest them regularly through food. There are also non-essential nutrients: the dog can build them up itself using the ingredients in the food. Getting the right amount of the nutrients you need is therefore important to ensure your dog has a balanced and healthy diet.

Fat as an energy supplier

With about 9 kcal per gram, fat is the most energy-rich nutrient for dogs. But how much fat a dog should consume depends primarily on the following factors:

  • size
  • old
  • power

Individual variations are also possible: it is not unusual for two dogs of the same size and age to vary in energy requirements by up to 30%.

Fat consists of different fatty acids – however, some of the omega-3 fatty acid family are only essential at certain stages of life. For example, the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and AHA are important for brain development in puppies.

That’s how important carbohydrates are

Carbohydrates are not essential for the dog: the dog’s body can form them itself from the carbon skeleton of the amino acids. However, this is a particularly complex metabolic process, which is why it can make sense to supplement the feed ration with easily digestible carbohydrates during high physical activity such as pregnancy or lactation. Be sure to consult your veterinarian about this.

Dogs get their carbohydrates primarily from grain and potato starch: If these foods are heated, the carbohydrates become easily digestible for dogs.

Proteins as building blocks in the body

Body tissue that needs to be renewed over and over again consumes a lot of proteins (protein). Dogs need a third of their protein requirements just to maintain and build up their hair and skin. Proteins are made up of amino acids, ten of which are essential for dogs.

Whether the dog gets these from animal or vegetable products is actually irrelevant. However, a purely plant-based diet cannot guarantee that the dog really gets all the amino acids it needs. This must be taken into account, especially with a vegetarian dog diet.

Important minerals in dog food

Minerals are subdivided into bulk elements and trace elements. Dogs need bulk elements in grams per day, with trace elements in the milligram range being sufficient. All important minerals can be found in the table below.

Calcium Bone Stability (with Phosphorus)

  • muscle function
  • blood clotting

Phosphorus Bone Stability (with Calcium)

  • Cell energy metabolism


  • Metabolism of energy-supplying nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats)

Sodium & Chloride

  • regulation of fluid balance

Potassium maintenance of intracellular fluid balance

  • Provision of energy in metabolism


  • oxygen transport in the blood


  • immune function
  • Stability of the connective and supporting tissue


  • pigment formation in skin and hair
  • Energy metabolism in the cell


  • Growth and regeneration of body tissue


  • skeletal development
  • function of the nerves


  • co-factor of endogenous antioxidants that protect cells

Dogs need vitamins

Vitamins are essential micronutrients for our dogs. They are water soluble or fat soluble. The important difference: Water-soluble vitamins cannot be stored in the body and must therefore be ingested daily through food.

The following table gives an overview of the respective vitamins and their function. Vitamin C occupies a special position here: Dogs can produce it themselves.

Thiamine (B1)

  • Energy and carbohydrate metabolism

Riboflavin (B2)

  • Energy metabolism

Niacin (B3)

  • formation of skin fats
  • water balance of the skin

Pantothenic acid (B5)

  • Energy production from fat

Pyridoxine (B6)

  • Among other things blood sugar formation and formation of red blood cells

Biotin (B8)

  • Skin integrity
  • Strength of claws and hair

Folic acid (B9)

  • Important for tissues that divide quickly (especially during pregnancy)

Cobalamin (B12)

  • growth
  • endogenous protein synthesis
  • formation of red blood cells

Vitamin A

  • cornification process of the skin
  • eyesight
  • immune function

Vitamin E

  • antioxidant on the cell membranes (with selenium)

Vitamin D

  • regulation of calcium-phosphorus metabolism
  • bone mineralization

Vitamin K

  • blood clotting

Other important nutrients

Although dogs cannot digest dietary fibres, roughage is important for them too: the fibers stimulate intestinal activity and ensure regular digestion. They round off a balanced dog diet ideally.

A dog can only be fed a balanced and healthy diet if it is adequately supplied with all of these nutrients. You should discuss with the veterinarian how best to ensure that your dog is getting the right levels of these substances.

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