Dog Nutrition is complete when fed a raw meat diet. See how the nutrition profiles compare with AAFCO guidelines.
Meat is vital to your dog because it is a carnivore. But what about cooked meat or dried dog treats? And why is most of the pet food manufacturing industry selling grains and vegetable matter to your dog?
This article reviews the specific nutrition of raw and cooked beef and chicken with the AAFCO guidelines. These American guidelines are taken as a world standard and are cleverly created to preclude raw diets and benefit dog food manufacturers. This is part one of the article and explores the nutrional requirement of dogs in regard to fats and proteins in their diet.
Other articles on this site have shown that ideally you should be providing your dog with raw meat, even if you have frozen it first as a caution against ‘bad’ bacteria. While meat dog treats are always cooked first, and it slightly lessons their nutrition, it also ensures a stable shelf life. The good news is that for the main meats of beef and chicken, that amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) are mostly preserved through the cooking process. There is a small loss in some of the vitamins, however as dried meat dog treats are the best ‘snack’ that a dog can get, it is worth understanding how the drying process may affect its nutrient level (see the appendix for tables).
The best method of cooking to retain vitamins is roasting (or oven drying) and broiling (cooking in water). Less nutrients are preserved when cooking by braising and finally stewing dramatically reduces vitamin levels. The following analysis is made with chuck steak (typically costing $6 per kilo at markets) and whole chicken meat. Values of the nutrients for both raw and roasted versions for beef and chicken are compared for fats, proteins, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Further comparisons are made with sardines (healthy oily fish) and corn.
In the wild, dogs will catch whatever prey they can. Smaller animals are typically easier to catch, and most small animals have white meat similar in texture and protein mix to chicken. In larger packs, wild dogs can pull down the larger more often red meat prey.
One reference site is used to compare the different food nutrition values, which are then compared to Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards. The way that the reference site works is to provide data for one pound of meat (raw) versus one pound of meat cooked, which usually considerably reduces in weight as water is evaporated from the meat.
Counter intuitive, due to the evaporation, the weight of fats are also smaller in the cooked meats than in the raw equivalent. As a rule, longer cooking times destroy both harmful bacteria but also reduces the vitamins slightly in meat.
DOG FOOD – Dog nutrition & the affect on FATS in cooked meat
It is noted that the domestic dog’s digestive tracts are designed to accommodate plenty of animal fat. They need large amounts of animal fat to meet their physical needs for both energy and endurance. This means that while you may want to trim fat from the edge of meat and sometimes remove the chicken skin to stop your dog from getting obese, fat, in general, is good for dogs. The extra fat content that runs throughout the meat in the cheaper cuts of meat should not be a major concern to their health if they are exercised regularly.
The calorie information for the three types of meats (in the appendix of the previous article) show that while they have no carbohydrates, that in beef there is almost a two to one ratio of energy derived from fat as there is from protein. The ratio of energy derived from fat to protein for raw chicken falls to 1.7 and for canned sardine to 0.98.
Dogs evolved to eat meat, so it makes sense that the fat content of meat is what they require for energy. Fat also happens to be the highest concentrated source of energy for your dog, meaning that on a gram for gram basis, they will gain more energy from fat than from protein, Fat helps also helps in nutrient utilization and transportation, cell integrity and metabolic regulation.
Saturated fat is found primarily in animal sources while polyunsaturated fat is found in plant sources. Saturated fat provides greater energy for dogs than carbohydrates, which is good because there are no carbohydrates in meat. “As long as the diet provides sufficient glucose precursors (amino acids, fats, etc.), dietary carbohydrates are not needed for growth and maintenance.” Ref 2
While all of the fats play a part in the dog’s health, one additional class of fats, the essential fatty acids (EFAs), are noted as being vital to a dog’s health. They are called essential because dogs need them for health and they can’t manufacture these particular fats themselves. While EFA’s come in the form of omega 3, 6 and 9, omega-3 and omega-6 are deemed the most important. Omega-3s include alpha-linolenic (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Omega-6s include linoleic acid (LA) and gamma-linolenic acids (GLA). Ref 2
“Trans-fatty acids and dangerous free radicals are formed when unsaturated oils are exposed to heat, light, or oxygen. Omega-3s are the most sensitive to these environmental influences and are often deficient in cooked or processed pet food products.” Ref 2. This is where the reference table in the Appendix is of value. From a previous HDT article on raw food dog diets, we know that a 20kg dog needs approximately 400g of meat a day as its main meal component. One pound of chuck steak is close to this requirement and from the tables, we can see that in raw form it has 975mg of Omega 3 and 1,995mg of Omega 6. However once cooked this reduces to Omega 6 (1,231 mg) and Omega 3 (542 mg).
An article about the value of Omega 3 for dogs suggests that for humans the maximum ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 should be around 4 or less. It also notes that as many cattle are now grain fed or fed on corn, that the Omega 3 they supply will be the plant version (ALA) which dogs can not readily utilise in their bodies. This is why it is suggested that even though your dog will gain Omega 3 from red meat (often beef) it may be the ‘wrong’ kind of Omega 3. That is why it is recommended that your dog is also fed oily fish in its diet or Omega 3 derived from fish oil.
It is noted that the recommended dosage for dogs of Omega 3 is 1 mL per kg of body weight which usually contains 85mg EPA and 59 mg DHA. Thus a 20kg dog would require 432 mg of Omega 3 from EPA and DHA (not ALA). This is approximately what they receive in their daily dose of meat.
Looking at the reference table (in the appendix, second article) you will also see that raw chicken has an Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio of (7,950 to 524 = 15) and cooked chicken atio is (4,575 to 320 = 14). Even assuming that the chickens were not grain fed (the ALA Omega 3), which most are, this ratio is very high. The reason why this is important is that some people have found that chicken can cause skin irritations in dogs. And so while the chicken nutrients are fantastic for dogs, the ratio of the Omegas may be causing itchiness. The reason for this is that excessive Omega 6 levels “has been shown to be a pro inflammatory, over reactive immune system (stimulation of histamine releasing cells)” DWM ref
Hence the reason why fish oils is always suggested as the best source of Omega 3. Referring to the appendix table you can see that as little as 149 g of Sardines have an Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio of (5,280 mg to 2205 mg = 2.4). Not only are these levels in excess of the minimum required amounts, they are the correct type of Omega 3, and in the right ratio.
One caveat to this information is also the reason to keep feeding your dog red meat and chicken. Even though fats and EFAs are important to good health, too much can put a strain on organs such as your dog’s liver and pancreas, or cause diarrhoea. Ref 2 Thus fish should be fed as a secondary source of meat.
DOG FOOD – Dog nutrition and protein requirements
A previous HDT article explained that “Proteins are made up of chains of smaller chemicals called amino acids. There are 22 different amino acids that when arranged in different combinations in chains make up millions of proteins” This is why the reference tables show the total protein weight in each food type (beef and chicken), and then the weights of the individual amino acids.
While dogs can eat plant matter, plant protein does not supply the amino acid balances they need to thrive. Vegetables are better than grains, but both provide mostly carbohydrates and only limited amino acid (protein) in the correct profiles. Extra carbohydrate (sugars) intake from such things as grains often causes the dog’s body to store the extra carbohydrate as fat.
It should also be realized that dogs are easily able to tolerate diets with protein levels higher than 30 percent on a dry weight basis as they excrete the excess protein, rather than convert and store it as fat which occurs with excess carbohydrates.
Dogs thrive when they have a source of high quality protein such as is found in animal tissues. Meat (muscle tissue), organ tissues such as liver, kidneys, spleen, and heart are particularly rich in the complex molecules called amino acids that end up as protein.” Ref 4
“There are 22 amino acids involved with the dog’s metabolism and of these the dog requires 10 different amino acids to be supplied by the diet. The other 12 required amino acids can be manufactured internally in the dog’s liver. While grains are a source of carbohydrate and can be used for a quick source of energy. Animal-derived tissues are more easily digestible and have a more complete array of amino acids than do grains.” Ref 4
Research shows that dogs have a high capacity for digesting and utilizing diets containing more than thirty percent protein on a dry weight basis. Dry weight basis means the food with no moisture present. Dry dog food in a bag usually has 10 percent moisture and canned food has about 74 percent moisture. If a dog is allowed to catch and consume prey to survive, the dogs’ diets would be higher in protein than what is generally available in commercial dog food. “The bottom line is this, and it is based on fact — protein intake does not cause kidney damage in healthy dogs or cats of any age.” ref 4
From the appendix tables we see that DRIED chuck beef has 77g protein per 258g (30%), and that dried (roasted) chicken has 48 g per 178 (27%).
While offal and bones also play a very important part of a dog’s diet, in this article we are discussing the value of the meat component. I have included a nutrient column for corn to compare with meat. As you will see it has carbohydrates which provide energy, but the energy from fat and protein is very low.
So not only does corn and other grain and vegetable sources have low protein levels, their proteins are usually in a form that is hard for the dogs to break down into the amino acids they need to rebuild into protein structures in their bodies. Even on a straight amino acid comparison of the cooked meats to raw Corn (a similar weight), the corn amino acid weights are VERY small. And the Omega 6 to 3 ratio is 835/24.6 = 34. This is the ‘wrong’ type of Omega 3 for easy conversion and a ratio that would cause inflammation.
One way to understand the completeness of raw meat is by comparing the nutrients with the Association of American Feed Control Official (AAFCO) guidelines of Canine (1990-1991)
The Nutrition Expert Subcommittees was created to update the requirements for substantiation of “complete and balanced” claims for pet foods sold in the United States. “There are two means by which a company may substantiate nutritional adequacy for a dog or cat food. The first means is by formulating the food so that nutrient levels fall within the ranges as established in the AAFCO Dog and Cat Food Nutrient Profiles. Levels of nutrients are based on practical formulations of pet foods with adjustments to account for bioavailability of nutrients in commonly used ingredients. The second means of substantiation is through the conduct of feeding trials following AAFCO protocols.” Ref 6
“Pet foods that successfully pass the feeding trials are exempt from the requirement to meet the profiles” Unequivocal proof of a product’s nutritional adequacy for all animals under all conditions can never be achieved. However, with the changes in both the nutrient profiles and feeding trial protocols, assurances of nutritional adequacy to the consumer have been improved.” Ref 6
AAFCO provided two standards one for growth and reproduction minimums and one for adult maintenance (this is the standard used in this article).
180 g/ kg
1.8 g / Kg
You can see that raw meat (beef and chicken) easily meets the minimum amino acid requirements. But what does this mean, and why does the raw diet ‘fail’ some of the vitamin and mineral requirements (see next article) as recommended by the AAFCO?
One proponent of the raw diet suggests that “the standards were developed based on the belief that dogs are omnivores and can be properly maintained on a grain-based diet. They are therefore irrelevant to raw diets. Why? First, to gain nutritional analysis, the food must be chemically denatured, cooked, purified, and otherwise manipulated, meaning that any reading is an inaccurate representation of the raw item. This also means that the interactions between nutrients are overlooked as each nutrient is studied separately rather than in conjunction with the others.” Ref 7
The next nutrition article looks at the vitamin and mineral profiles of beef, chicken, fish and corn and how they relate to the AAFCO guidelines.
It also includes the complete nutrient data tables for these foods.
Article by Bruce Dwyer. If you wish to use any of this information please refer to the article as a reference and provide a link to http://www.healthydogtreats.com.au
If you would like to view the world of a dog walker and get healthy dog treat specials then please LIKE HDT on Facebook
Ref 1 http://nutritiondata.self.com
Ref 2 http://dogtime.com/dogs-need-fats-faq-schultze.html
Ref 4 http://www.petmd.com/dog/nutrition/evr_dg_focusing_on_protein_in_the_diet
Ref 5 http://www.petplace.com/dogs/dietary-requirements-in-dogs/page1.aspx
APPENDIX – Nutritional data tables ENERGY, FATS, PROTEINS
raw ( 1 lb, 454g)
Braised ( 1 lb , 258g)
Amounts Per Selected Serving
Amounts Per Selected Serving
Fats & Fatty Acids
Amounts Per Selected Serving
raw ( 1 lb, 454g)
Braised ( 1 lb , 258g)
Total trans fatty acids
Total trans-monoenoic fatty acids
Total trans-polyenoic fatty acids
Total Omega-3 fatty acids
Total Omega-6 fatty acids
Protein & Amino Acids
raw ( 1 lb)
Braised ( 1 lb -> 258g)
Amounts Per Selected Serving