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Pet Nutrition Articles
7 Food Ingredients for Your Dog’s Health
By Jennifer Viegas
Which key dog food enhancements help safeguard
dogs? Glucosamine and chondroitin boost joint
health, dental care additives reduce tartar buildup,
L-carnitine helps metabolize fat and higher levels of
antioxidants support a healthy immune system, says
veterinary technician Jennifer Taylor. Dr. Amy Dicke,
an Ohio-based veterinarian, shares more information
about these and other ingredients.
1. Two fibers are better than one
Your dog needs fiber to clean out its system and promote a healthy digestive tract.
Some dog foods now include a one-two fiber punch, doubling up on ingredients rich in
Look for beet pulp and fructooligosaccharides (FOS) on the ingredients list of dog foods.
“Beet pulp, a moderately fermentable fiber, releases short-chain fatty acids, which are
used as energy by the intestinal cells, thereby boosting their capability to absorb
nutrients,” says Dicke. FOS, on the other hand, “selectively feeds the beneficial bacteria
and promotes balance in the digestive tract,” she adds.
Antioxidants help to prevent oxidation, a process which forms “free radicals” in the
body. Free radicals are rogue oxygen molecules that can dangerously react with other
molecules, leading to health problems. The same process may happen to your dog and
to other mammals.
As a result, some dog foods now contain antioxidants like vitamin E and beta-carotene,
the natural component that adds color to many vegetables. These antioxidants have
been shown to improve immune function in dogs and cats, says Dicke. “A strong immune
system is important in fighting and protecting against disease and invaders, such as
bacteria and viruses,” she says.
3. Glucosamine and chondroitin
The dynamic duo of glucosamine and chondroitin has eased the minds of arthritis
patients, because they play an important role in nourishing and supporting joint health.
These components occur naturally in your joints and in the joints of dogs and other
4. Dental care formula
While nothing can substitute for regular dental cleanings and exams at your
veterinarian’s office, what you feed your dog can help to prevent the formation of tartar.
“Tartar is a hard, yellow-brown accumulation of minerals, which can cause gum
regression, gum inflammation and loss of teeth,” says Dicke.
Studies show that feeding your dog a food with a daily dental care formula can result in
an impressive 55 percent reduction in tartar buildup.
L-carnitine is a naturally occurring vitaminlike compound that plays a vital role in the
metabolism of fat. Dicke explains that L-carnitine helps dogs and cats gain a desired
body composition by promoting the loss of weight and fat while maintaining lean body
A prebiotic, such as FOS, is actually a fiber. The enzymes in your dog’s digestive tract do
not digest it. “Instead, the bacteria in the intestinal track break the fiber down and use
it for food,” says Dicke. “What makes a prebiotic different from other fibers is that it
feeds, or supports, the good bacteria -- not the bad -- helping the good bacteria to
7. Natural, high-quality ingredients
The final enhancements are natural, high-quality ingredients. Sometimes what’s not
included in dog food is just as important as what is on the ingredients list. In this case,
you should look for dog foods that do not contain any added fillers, artificial colors,
flavors or preservatives.
Given the nutritional and medical benefits of the above ingredients in dog foods on the
market today, you can rest easy knowing you are feeding your dog some of the best
Jennifer Viegas is the managing editor of The Dog Daily. She is a journalist for
Discovery News, the news service for the Discovery Channel, and has written more
than 20 books on animal, health and other science topics.