Sound dog nutrition is critical to promoting your pet’s wellbeing and, from nose to tail, key nutrients help support a dog’s or cat’s growth and structure, body systems and metabolism. A “complete and balanced” pet food recipe will contain the vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and proteins and amino acids considered essential to these processes.

However, what are the nutrients required for complete and balanced dog nutrition and how do they support your pet’s health? Read below to learn more about the nutrients categorized as essential to dogs by the Association of American Feed Control Officials, as well as other important nutrients, and some of their main functions. Want to learn more about cats? Our blog post helps explain some of the distinct differences between a dog’s and cat’s nutritional need. Sources are available here.


Veterinary nutritionists have identified a diverse range of essential vitamins that may be provided through food ingredients and supplemental form in a pet food recipe. Fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in the body’s fatty tissue and liver. Some of the main functions of these vitamins include:

Water-soluble vitamins are readily transported and soluble in water and/or blood.

Many of these vitamins (marked with an asterisk and using the same infographic) are critical to the process of converting fats, proteins and carbohydrates into energy, known as energy metabolism, while also supporting other specific cellular functions.

Essential minerals for dogs can be divided into two separate categories based on their concentrations in the body. The largest amounts are of the macrominerals, while the trace minerals can sometimes be in very small amounts. Minerals are present in all food ingredients, but are sometimes added via specialized ingredients to be sure your pet is provided with the proper balance. Some of the main functions of these minerals include:

Proteins are made up of amino acids, which build and maintain structures in the body. Protein sources will deliver the amino acids that help a pet build and maintain its muscles, bones, blood, organs, and skin and coat.

Fats are a class of macronutrients, made up of fatty acids, including essential fatty acids (EFAs) which cannot be synthesized by the body and must be obtained from food. Fatty acids are the most concentrated sources of energy for the body.

While carbohydrates are not categorized as essential nutrients in the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) nutrient profiles, they have important roles in nutrition and the function of the body. This macronutrient class can support pet health by providing a readily available energy source for your dog and sparing protein to support other bodily functions.