Labrador Retriever - Nutritional Building BlocksNutrition is a constantly ongoing process that starts at conception and ends only with death. Everything that is consumed becomes part of the dog’s daily nutri¬tion, whether it’s good for her or not. What the dog eats, the food’s actual digestibility, and how the dog’s body uses that food can all affect the actual nutrition gained by eating.
Although a dog can eat many things, including a lot of materials that may not be good for her, there are some substances she must eat regularly to keep her healthy. These can be a part of the commercial dog food you feed her, part of a homemade diet, or in the supplements added to her food.

Protein

Proteins are a varied group of biological compounds that affect many different functions in your Labrador Retriever’s body, including the immune system, cell structure, and growth. As omnivores (dogs eat meat as well as some plant mate¬rials), dogs can digest protein from several sources. The most common are meats, grains, dairy products, and legumes. Recommendations vary as to how much of the dog’s diet should be protein, but in general, most nutritionists agree that a diet that contains between 20 to 40 percent quality protein is good for a dog.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates, like proteins, have many functions in the dog’s body, including serving as structural components of cells. However, the most important function is as an energy source. Carbohydrates can be obtained from many sources, includ¬ing tubers (such as potatoes and sweet potatoes), plants (such as greens like broccoli and collard greens), and cere¬als. However, dogs do not have the necessary digestive enzymes to ade¬quately digest all cereal grains. Therefore, the better sources of car¬bohydrates are tubers and noncitrus fruits, such as apples and bananas. Most experts recommend that a dog’s diet contain from 20 to 40 percent carbohydrates of the right kind.

Reading Dog Food Labels
Dog food labels are not always easy to read, but if you know what to look for they can tell you a lot about what your dog is eating.
– The label should have a statement saying the dog food meets or exceeds the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) nutritional guidelines. If the dog food doesn’t meet AAFCO guidelines, it can’t be considered complete and balanced, and can cause nutritional deficiencies.
– The guaranteed analysis lists the minimum percentages of crude protein and crude fat and the maximum percentages of crude fiber and water. AAFCO requires a minimum of 18 percent crude protein for adult dogs and 22 percent crude protein for puppies on a dry matter basis (that means with the water removed; canned foods have less protein because they have more water). Dog food must also have a minimum of 5 percent crude fat for adults and 8 percent crude fat for puppies.
– The ingredients list the most common item in the food first, and so on until you get to the least common item, which is listed last.
– Look for a dog food that lists an animal protein source first, such as chicken or poultry meat, and that has other protein sources listed among the top five ingredients. That’s because a food that lists chicken, wheat, wheat gluten, corn, and wheat fiber as the first five ingredients has more chicken than wheat, but may not have more chicken than all the grain products put together.
– Other ingredients may include a digestible carbohydrate source (such as sweet potatoes or squash), fat, vitamins and minerals, preserva¬tives, fiber, and sometimes other additives purported to be healthy.
– Some grocery store or generic brands may add artificial colors, sugar, and fillers—all of which should be avoided.

Fat

Fats have many uses in the body. They are the most important way the body stores energy. Fats also make up some of the structural elements of cells and are vital to the absorption of several vitamins. Certain fats are also beneficial in keeping the skin and coat healthy. Fats in dog foods are found primarily in meat and dairy products. Recommended levels are from 10 to 20 percent.

Vitamins

Vitamins are vital elements necessary for growth and the maintenance of life. There are two classes of vitamins: water-soluble and fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins include the B-complex vitamins and vitamin C. Fat-soluble vitamins include A, D, E, and K.

Water-Soluble Vitamins
These are absorbed by the body during digestion using the water found in the dog’s food. Although it’s usually a good idea to allow the dog to drink water whenever she’s thirsty, additional water is not needed for digestion of these vita¬mins, because the water in the dog’s body is sufficient as long as the dog is not dehydrated. Excess water-soluble vitamins are excreted from the body in the urine; so it’s difficult to oversupplement these vitamins—although too much vitamin C can cause diarrhea. abrador Retriever - Nutritional Building Blocks information
The B vitamins serve a number of functions, including the metabolism of carbohydrates and amino acids. The B vitamins are very involved in many bio¬chemical processes, and deficiencies can show up as weight loss, slow growth, dry and flaky skin, or anemia, depending upon the specific deficiency. The B vitamins can be obtained from meat and dairy products, beans, and eggs.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and, at the same time, a controversial vitamin. Some respected sources state that it is not a required dietary supple¬ment for dogs, yet others regard C as a miracle vitamin. Some feel it can help prevent hip dysplasia and other potential problems, but these claims have not been proven. Dogs can produce a certain amount of vita¬min C in their bodies, but this amount is often not sufficient, espe¬cially if the dog is under stress from work, injury, or illness.

Fat-Soluble Vitamins
These vitamins require some fats in the dog’s diet for adequate absorption. Fats are in the meat in your dog’s diet and are added to commercial dog foods. Excess fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body’s fat. Excess vitamins of this type can cause problems, including toxicity. These vitamins should be added to the diet with care.
Vitamin A deficiencies show up as slow or retarded growth, reproductive failure, and skin and vision problems. Green and yellow vegetables are excellent sources of vitamin A, as are carrots, fish oils, and animal livers. The vegetables should be lightly cooked so the dog can digest them.
Vitamin D is needed for the cor¬rect absorption of calcium and phos¬phorus, and is necessary for the growth and development of bones and teeth and for muscle strength. Many dogs will produce a certain
amount of vitamin D when exposed to sunlight; however, often that is not enough
and supplementation is needed. Balanced dog foods will generally have vitamin D
in sufficient quantities.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that also works with several enzymes in the body. It has been shown to be effective in maintaining heart health and the immune system. It is also vital to other bodily systems, including the blood, nerves, muscles, and skin.
Vitamin K is needed for the proper clotting of blood. It is also important for healthy bones. Vitamin K is produced in the intestinal tract and normally sup¬plementation is not needed. However, if the dog is having digestion problems or is on antibiotics, supplementation may be required. Vitamin K can be found in dark green vegetables, including kale and spinach. These should be lightly cooked before feeding them to your dog.

Minerals

Minerals, like vitamins, are necessary for life and physical well-being. Minerals can affect the body in many ways. A deficiency of calcium can lead to rickets, a deficiency of manganese can cause reproductive failure, and a zinc deficiency can lead to growth retardation and skin problems.
Many minerals are tied in with vitamins; in other words, a vitamin deficiency will also result in a mineral deficiency. For example, an adequate amount of vita¬min B ensures there is also an adequate amount of cobalt because cobalt, a mineral, is a constituent of B12.
Minerals are normally added to commercial dog foods. If you’re feeding a homemade diet, that can be supplemented with a vitamin and mineral tablet to make sure the dog has sufficient minerals.

Water

It may seem like common sense to say that your Labrador Retriever will need water, but the importance of water cannot be emphasized enough. Water makes up about 70 percent of a dog’s weight. Water facilitates the generation of energy, the transportation of nutrients, and the disposal of wastes. Water is in the blood¬stream, in the eyes, in the cerebrospinal fluid, and in the gastrointestinal tract. Water is vital to all of the body’s functions in some way.

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