Consuming enough water and calories and getting the right balance of protein, fats, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and other nutrients is essential to your hearing, guide, or service dog’s health and longevity. But the importance of proper nutrition in dogs doesn’t stop there when it comes to assistance dogs; it’s also a key factor in their ability to maintain the energy and focus they need to perform their tasks.
A dog’s caloric and nutritional needs varies based on a variety of factors. Her age, breed, activity level, general health, and other consideration all come into play. Determining how much to feed your assistance dog requires some planning and consultation with your veterinarian.
To emphasize the importance of proper nutrition in dogs, we’ve outlined some of the major reasons to ensure you’re properly feeding yours.
Benefits of Eating Right for Dogs
- Maintaining a healthy body weight – Being at a healthy weight helps keep your assistance dog energized, sleeping well, breathing well, and feeling well. It also reduces the likelihood of developing a number of diseases, such as arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, certain types of cancer, and others, and just generally increases lifespan.
- Maintaining of muscle tone – Getting enough protein and other nutrients is crucial to regenerating muscle as it naturally breaks down, and to generally maintaining a healthy body condition. This is of particular importance to assistance dogs that are highly active and/or who perform physically demanding tasks.
- Promoting skin and coat health – Dogs require a properly balanced diet to keep their skin and hair hydrated and healthy. Unsaturated fats are especially helpful in this regard. This helps prevent itchiness and other discomfort that can be distracting to a service, hearing, or guide dog. Additionally, it helps keep your dog looking and smelling clean and well-kept, which is one of your responsibilities as a handler in return for being able to take her into all public places.
- Aiding normal digestive function – To stay happy and healthy, dogs—like any animals—need to efficiently and effectively break down food, absorb its nutrients, and eliminate waste. Without adequate intake of all the right nutrients in the right quantities, this process becomes less efficient and effective. Digestive discomfort is a likely result, and over time it can lead to other health concerns.
- Supporting organ and immune function – All organs in the canine body depend in part on nutrients to operate in peak condition. A healthy, balanced diet is essential to keeping them all doing their jobs, and to keeping the larger organ systems working right. This includes the immune system, which of course is your assistance dog’s primary line of defense against infections and many diseases.
- Reducing veterinary visits – All of the above benefits cumulatively mean a happier, healthier assistance dog with a longer expected service life and lifespan. That’s what matters most, of course. But as an added benefit, a healthy diet can be expected to reduce illness and health concerns, minimizing the number of trips to the vet’s office over your assistance dog’s life. That in turn means lower care costs and less inconvenience.