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Dog Nutrition for a Balanced Diet

5 min read

To keep them healthy, happy and active for as long as possible, your dog's diet needs the right balance of six major nutrient groups: protein, fats/oils, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and water.

Did you know that the nutritional requirements for dogs include 37 different essential nutrients through food alone?

All good quality complete manufactured dog foods have been carefully formulated for feeding dogs the exact balance of all the nutrients they need to thrive. Whether you choose a moist ('wet') food or a complete dry food is totally up to you and your dog. The important thing is to check the food is a 'complete' food rather than a 'complimentary' one; otherwise you might be buying a snack treat instead of a balanced meal.

Complete moist foods come in cans, foil trays or pouches and need to be kept in the fridge once opened (for no longer than 24 hours). Although dogs aren’t as fussy as cats about smell and texture, wet food is more appealing if it’s served at room temperature. When feeding dogs moist food, don’t leave it standing for more than an hour, otherwise it could attract bacteria and give your four-legged friend an upset tummy.

Dry kibble foods are very popular with dogs and owners. They’re more concentrated with nutrients than moist foods, so they get the right balance of nutrients in smaller portions, plus their crunchy texture helps to keep your dog’s teeth healthy. Always make sure you follow the feeding guidelines on the pack, but don’t be afraid to make minor adjustments to the serving size based on your dog’s own body condition score.

If you decide to change foods either from wet to dry, or from one brand to another, always make sure you introduce the new food gradually over a seven to ten day period. While humans are quite happy with a varied diet, dogs are creatures of habit food-wise, and sudden changes in your dog’s diet can actually lead to tummy upsets. Whether you feed wet or dry, always provide lots of fresh, clean drinking water at all times.

Complementary supplements

Giving your dog an occasional, well-deserved dog treat helps build up your bond as well as being a great training aid, but feeding too many or the wrong type of treats can unbalance your dog's diet and lead to weight problems.

Dog treats, including biscuits and chews, should make up no more than 10% of your dog’s daily calorie intake and you’ll need to read the feeding guides on the packaging carefully to make sure you don’t over-indulge! Always select dog treats that are appropriate for your dog’s size and, if your vet has recommended a strict no-treats rule, you can always keep back a portion of their daily complete food and use that to treat them instead. It’s a good idea to regularly monitor your dog’s body condition and read our dog feeding guide below, to find out which components your dog needs in their diet and why.


Chocolate can be extremely harmful, and should never be fed to your dog. As little as 3oz of cooking chocolate can kill a medium-sized dog.


  • Human food/table scraps: Your dog’s digestive system is different to yours and human food is often too salty or too high in protein, with not enough minerals or essential nutrients to guarantee they’re getting a nutritionally balanced diet. If you do want to treat them to the occasional bit of home cooking, white chicken (with all bones removed) can be a good choice. It’s easily digestible, full of protein and contains vitamins and minerals. Vets often recommend feeding chicken and rice or white fish and rice to dogs recovering from upset tummies.
  • Raw meat: Although it may seem like a natural food to give canines, raw meat for dogs can contain bacteria that could make your dog ill.
  • Bones: In particular small pieces of bone and fish bones, as they can damage teeth and cause obstructions in the throat or gut. Chicken bones should always be avoided as they can splinter when chewed and cause real damage if swallowed and, although they’re traditionally fed to dogs, we don’t recommend larger bones as they’re also associated with obstructions to the gut.
  • Poisonous foods: They may be fine for us to eat but dogs can get very ill, and even die, if they eat chocolate, onions, garlic and grapes or raisins. 
  • Food supplements: If your dog’s being fed a nutritionally complete and balanced manufactured pet food there’s no need to give food supplements to normal, healthy dogs. If you have dogs with special nutritional requirements, caused by pregnancy or a medical condition, ask your vet to recommend a nutritionally balanced diet that is specifically formulated for their needs. Adding your own supplements, out of proportion to other nutrients, can contribute to skeletal deformities and other problems.