The seven most important nutrients in dog food

Dog standing next to dog bowl

Dogs love dinner time, whether their food is nutritious or not, so it’s our job to feed them the right food for their growth and development. There are AAFCO’s nutrient profiles to help us ensure our dogs get the minimum requirements but there are also seven important nutrients which are crucial to a dog’s health — and which we should be looking to include in our dogs’ diets.

We spoke to Kelly Walters, Pet Food Brand Leader at 5-star-rated Redbarn, to ask her what these nutrients are and why they’re so important.

Here’s what she wrote…

As responsible pet parents, we want to give our family the best, starting with the foods we feed them. Just like us, dogs require a balanced intake of essential nutrients to thrive. Each ingredient is a piece of the puzzle that contributes to their overall health and well-being.

Today, pet parents are looking for premium goods. This seems to be more of a trend now versus 10 or so years ago. They are looking for more premium foods, with ingredients they recognize — functional ingredients that serve a purpose in the pets’ nutrition.

Essential for their growth, reproduction, and sustenance of animals, foods should contain seven classes of nutrients form the cornerstone of their dietary needs: carbohydrates, fats, fiber, minerals, proteins, vitamins, and water.

From the vital hydration provided by water to the energy and vitality derived from fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, along with the micronutrient superheroes like vitamins and minerals, each component plays a crucial role in supporting a dog’s biological functions.


Water is essential for a dog’s health and wellbeing, accounting for up to 80 percent of body mass. It’s responsible for multiple bodily functions including carrying and absorbing nutrients into cells, flushing out toxins, regulating body temperature, and more. Dogs should have access to fresh water at all times, particularly in warmer weather.


Although fat can be perceived negatively, every dog needs fat to function, including essential fatty acids, which can only be gained from food. Not all fats are good for your dog but the right fats in the right amounts can protect internal organs and help to regulate body temperature. Not enough fat can cause a dull coat and dry, itchy skin.


Protein is crucial for a dog’s health and development, providing the energy needed to move, grow, and survive. For example, a dog’s coat, skin, nails, and bones all need a constant supply of protein to develop. And a highly active dog will need a high-protein diet to sustain its energy levels and muscle health.

Proteins consist of amino acids and dogs need 22 of these — half of which they can make naturally and half of which will come from their food (essential amino acids). To make sure your dog is consuming the right ratio of amino acids, or protein, look for dog food with natural, high-quality meat, fish or poultry as the main ingredient.


Carbs are a common source of glucose (energy) for dogs. They’re not as essential as protein and fat, but are often delivered in the same fruits and vegetables as beneficial vitamins and minerals.


Vitamins are absolutely necessary for a pup’s growth and overall physical health. A complete and balanced dog food, such as all Redbarn foods, should contain all essential vitamins and minerals. These are the most common vitamins with their benefits.

  • Vitamin K prevents blood clots
  • Vitamin D regulates calcium and phosphorous levels
  • Vitamin C and E are antioxidants
  • Vitamin B12 supports a healthy nervous system
  • Vitamin A boosts the immune system


Minerals are also crucial to a dog’s overall wellbeing, particularly bone formation, hormone regulation, and nerve and muscle function. Again, here’s a list of common, essential minerals with their main benefits.

  • Iron carries oxygen around the body
  • Zinc promotes wound healing
  • Calcium and phosphorus make up a large proportion of bone
  • Selenium provides antioxidants
  • Sodium, potassium, and magnesium support the nervous system and fluid balance


Fiber is another highly beneficial nutrient to a dog’s health. Just like in humans, it’s good for a dog’s digestive tract, helps stabilize blood sugar levels, and even helps prevent colon cancer by improving gut health. It’s also useful for managing your dog’s weight. A lack of fiber in a dog’s diet can lead to bouts of diarrhea or constipation.

We kept all of these essential nutrients in mind when developing our premium kibble. It has animal protein as the first five ingredients, with a variety of carbohydrates, fat sources and fiber included to make it complete and balanced. The ingredients were hand-selected to support digestive health, skin & coat health and heart health before extensive testing to ensure that the food delivers on its promise to provide balanced nutrition for dogs.

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