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Why Balanced Nutrition Matters

Take a look at the food you’ve chosen for your dog. Odds are you’ll find “complete and balanced” written somewhere on the bag. That means the food contains all of the nutrition your dog needs for a healthy diet. But what exactly makes the food complete and balanced, and why does it matter?

Technically, to be qualified as “complete and balanced”, the dog food must meet the minimum nutrient profiles established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), or pass an AAFCO feeding trial. In order to meet the minimum nutrient profiles, the food must contain the appropriate proportions of ingredients to provide all the essential nutrients from the following nutrient groups: protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins, and minerals. Water is also a necessary part of a complete and balanced diet and should be provided in addition to food that is complete and balanced with respect to all other essential nutrients.


Protein plays a vital role in your dog’s health and the functions of his body. It consists of amino acids, which help support muscle growth. Excellent sources of protein in dog food include chicken, beef, lamb and fish.


Fat provides energy, helps the body absorb vitamins, and promotes healthy skin and a shiny coat. Fat also benefits your dog’s taste buds by making the food more flavorful.


Carbohydrates provide dogs with sustained energy. Great sources of carbohydrates are grains, such as rice, wheat, corn and barley.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals are added to dog food formulas to help keep dogs healthy. If your dog’s food is complete and balanced, there is no need to give him any additional vitamin or mineral supplementation unless advised by your veterinarian, as excessive supplementation can be harmful.


Water is often considered the single most important nutrient in a dog’s diet. It helps keep all systems in the body functioning properly. Dog foods do contain some moisture, with wet foods containing a higher percentage than dry kibble. However, the water provided by the food alone isn’t enough to meet the dog’s needs, so it’s critical to offer your dog plenty of fresh, clean drinking water at all times.

In a complete and balanced dog food, all of these nutrients work together to nourish dogs from the inside out. The amount of each nutrient that your dog needs varies throughout his life based on age, weight, activity level and environment. That’s why dog food labels will say “complete and balanced for…” a specific life stage, such as adult maintenance, or for all life stages. Puppies, for example, need more protein than adult dogs to help fuel their growing bodies. If your dog’s activity level declines as he ages, he may benefit from less fat and fewer calories to help prevent weight gain. As your dog grows older, check with your veterinarian every now and then to make sure his food still meets his current needs.

If your dog’s food is complete and balanced, he doesn’t need any supplementation. In fact, adding extras or variety to his diet can do more harm than good. Training treats are fine, but should be limited due to their high calorie content. As a general guideline, treats should be limited to no more than 10% of your dog’s daily caloric intake.

Also remember that some foods are considered unsafe and should never be fed to your dog, such as:

  • Table scraps
  • Chocolate
  • Grapes or raisins
  • Raw bread dough
  • Bones
  • Raw meat
  • Alcohol
  • Food or drinks containing caffeine
  • More (ask your vet for a complete list)

Feeding your dog complete and balanced nutrition lays the groundwork for a healthy life. Keep up the good work!

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