Dog Nutrition & Diet Guide: Healthy Foods vs. What to Avoid

January 16, 2023

As a caring dog parent, you want the very best for your canine companion in every aspect of life. Feeding your pup the right food is one of the first steps to achieving this! The right balance of calories and nutrients will not only keep them healthy and happy, but can improve other areas such as cognition, energy, and strength.

A nutritional diet also helps to sustain their optimal body weight and conditions your pup through growth, activity, and maintenance. If you’ve been wondering what the best diet for your dog is, here’s everything you need to know.

What Nutritional Requirements Are Needed for Dogs?

A healthy diet for dogs consists of six essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Keep reading to learn more about them.


Protein helps build body tissue. While your dog’s body can make 13 of the 23 essential amino acids to create the building blocks for muscle formation, the other 10 amino acids need to come from their food.


Carbohydrates including sugars, starches, and fiber are generally sourced from plants and supply energy to your dog’s muscles. 


Along with carbohydrates, fats provide essential energy for dogs. Important fatty acids include Omega-6, Omega-3 and Linoleic Acid.

Vitamins & Minerals

Vitamins and minerals are other crucial elements in your dog’s diet that provide the chemical processes needed to build bones and maintain strength. This includes vitamins A, D, E, K and B-complex vitamins, along with calcium and phosphorus.


Hydration is just as important to dogs as it is to humans. Exercise, play, illness, or infection can all lead to dehydration. Most dogs need about an ounce of fluids per pound of body weight each day, so ensuring your pup drinks plenty of water will help to keep them healthy and active.

Are There Any Supplements You Need to Include in Your Dog's Diet?

Unlike humans, dogs generally eat the same food every day. With this in mind, dog food manufacturers formulate nutritionally-balanced products that have everything a dog needs in a good diet. As a result, there is very little need for additional supplements.

jack russel waiting for food

Feeding dogs certain supplements can actually do more harm than good largely because quality dog food already contains the right balance of essential vitamins and minerals. Adding extra supplements into their diet can actually lead to toxicity.

For instance, many people mistakenly think additional vitamin C will greatly benefit their pooch, but unlike humans, dogs produce their own. Therefore, they have no requirement for extra vitamin C supplements.

When in doubt, please consult with a vet before giving your dog any supplements!

Joint & Digestive Health Supplements

The fact that dogs don’t necessarily need supplements to aid their diet doesn’t mean they can’t be useful in other ways. An estimated 10% to 33% of dogs in the United States are fed a pet supplement or nutraceutical to help with joint or digestive health.

If you notice your dog developing the onset of arthritis or developing digestive problems, speak to your vet to see if supplements can help.

Dog Food FAQ

Since we receive so many questions about what dogs can eat, we decided to put together a list of the most frequently asked questions below. This is a general guide, so be sure to consult with your vet to receive a personalized diet for your dog.

How Much Food Should I Feed My Dog?

There are different variables to account for when feeding your dog. Three of the most important factors are generally your dog’s weight, activity level, and age.


Maintaining the right weight is crucial to your dog’s health. A dog weighing between 3 and 12 pounds needs approximately 1/3 to 1 cup of dry dog food. Heavier dogs that weigh over 100 pounds will typically need upwards of 4 cups of dry dog food.

Always refer to the back of the food packaging as calorie content and formulas can vary between different products.

Activity Levels

Your dog’s activity levels will also influence the amount of food you should be feeding them. Active dogs that are constantly on the go will naturally require more meals or larger portions, while dogs with a more sedentary lifestyle will need less. If you notice your dog gaining too much weight, speak to your vet about creating a calorie-controlled diet.


Your dog’s nutritional needs will change as they grow. In the early stages of your fur baby’s life — around six to eight weeks old — four to six meals a day are most ideal. At about 24 weeks, which is approximately 75% of a dog's adult size, the frequency can reduce down to two or three meals per day.

From about 32 weeks, feeding your dog twice a day will be sufficient to meet their dietary needs. As your pup becomes an adult, they require a slightly different formula that keeps their bodies strong and active while simultaneously improving cognition.

Can Dogs Eat Human Food?

Dogs have different digestive systems than humans. Some basic human foods can cause problems or even be extremely dangerous for dogs. That being said, there are certain human food types that will also provide great nutritional value for dogs. 

Some good examples are:

  • Apples
  • White rice
  • Fish
  • Carrots
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Pork
  • Bananas
  • Cucumbers
  • Watermelon

What Type of Dog Food Is Better: Wet or Dry?

When it comes to wet or dry food, you may be asking yourself, “What should I feed my dog?” Both can be great for your pup but you should look to consider the pros and cons of each category first.

Nutritional Value

Wet dog food or canned food is made up of around 75% water. While this helps keep your dog hydrated, it typically won’t hold as much nutritional value as dry food.

Dry food only holds around 10% water, which means your dog can retrieve more energy and nutrition from smaller rations compared to wet food.


Dogs absolutely love the moist, meaty, and jelly-like texture of wet food.  

To improve palatability, dry dog food manufacturers typically add fat and gravy coating among other flavors. Even so, most dog breeds tend to favor the taste of wet food over dry food.

Dental Hygiene

Your dog’s dental hygiene is very important to maintaining healthy teeth and gums while keeping any sort of infection at bay. Some evidence suggests that dry food is superior to wet food when it comes to maintaining oral hygiene, however it may not be that straightforward.

Similar to wet food, standard dry food can leave residue on your dog’s teeth, which can lead to plaque and tartar buildup. However, some dog food manufacturers have developed dental formulas in the form of dry food. These specially formulated hardened pellets scrape off plaque as the dog bites down.

Such products are approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) and introducing them to your dog's diet can be great for the diet as well as oral hygiene.

Is a Diet of Just Kibble Bad for Dogs?

It’s perfectly acceptable to feed your dog a strictly kibble diet. Kibble — a form of dry food — provides all of the essential nutrients your dog needs to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

What Kind of Food Can Puppies Eat?

Puppies go through a rapid growth stage during their early months, so it’s important that they receive the right nutrition to promote good development. If you’ve wondered what to feed a puppy, just remember that a balanced diet of high-quality wet or dry puppy food will suffice.

Puppies can also eat some human foods such as:

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Apples
  • Watermelon
  • Green beans
  • Cooked meat

What Fruits and Vegetables Can Dogs Eat?

Dogs can eat the following fruits:

  • Pears
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Mango
  • Oranges
  • Pineapples

illustration of fruits dogs can eat

You can also feed your dogs the vegetables below:

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Green beans
  • Celery
  • Spinach
illustration of vegetables dogs can eat

Food like bananas, peas, cucumbers, and apples are especially beneficial because they deliver a host of vitamins, minerals, and fibers, and are low in calories.

What Meat Can Dogs Eat?

Dogs can eat the following types of meat:

  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Ground beef
  • Lamb

Dogs can eat raw or cooked meat. However, you should only feed your pup meat in moderation because it doesn’t meet their full nutritional needs.

Can Dogs Eat Fish?

There’s an ongoing debate about whether or not it’s good to feed your dogs fish. Dogs are natural carnivores, which means they love the taste of meat, including fish. It just so happens that fish is also highly nutritious in Omega-3 fatty acids, B-vitamins and minerals while also providing less calories.

However, some veterinarians argue that fish can contain mercury and sodium, and may even carry parasites. That being said, fish is generally considered as an acceptable food source for dogs, but we advise that you consult your vet before feeding it to your pup. And if they do allow it, it should only be in moderation.

Is It Safe to Give Dogs Pork or Beef Bones?

It’s generally safe to give dogs bones, but it’s important to serve up the bones in their raw form. Cooking bones makes them brittle, which can cause them to splinter off and result in serious damage to your dog's stomach or intestines.

Beef bones, in particular, are generally safe to give your dog, but always take your dog’s size and the bone size into account before doing so. Small bones fed to a larger dog can cause lodging and choking! 

Pork bones, on the other hand, tend to break fairly easily, so you should avoid feeding these to your dog altogether.

illustration of bones for dogs

Can Dogs Eat Rice or Bread?

Yes, dogs can eat rice or bread but only in small quantities. Your dog’s diet should primarily be high in protein with limited carbohydrate content, so it’s best to only feed them rice and bread as little treats.

Can Dogs Eat Chocolate?

Don’t feed your dog chocolate because it contains ingredients like theobromine and caffeine, which are toxic to canines. In rare cases, doing so can even be fatal since dogs can’t metabolize these toxic chemicals.

Other Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Dog

There are some food items you should avoid feeding your dog entirely. This includes: 

  • Avocados
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Tomatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Garlic
food dogs should avoid illustration

These food items can contain toxins like cyanide or persin, which can cause various health issues for your dog, including gestational problems or liver and kidney damage.


As you can see, there’s a range of factors you must consider to ensure your dog receives a healthy and balanced diet. Regardless of your dog’s breed or weight, remember that the six essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals are good building blocks for optimizing cognition, energy, and strength. If you need a diet plan that’s tailored to your dog specifically, get in touch with your vet for further guidance.


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