5 Essential Nutrients for Dogs


The balance of nutrients in your dog’s diet is complex. It can be just as dangerous to have too much of a particular nutrient as it is to have too little. Choosing a complete dog food, like those in Gilbertson & Page’s ranges, takes away some of the guess work. Our nutritionists have already developed the optimum balance of essential nutrients for dogs, especially in the improved range of Dr John formulas that offers a easy-to-understand range of feeds for differing canine needs.

Retriever Dog Training

You may hear the terms ‘macronutrients’ and ‘micronutrients’ when researching essential nutrients for dogs. Macronutrients are nutrients the body requires in large quantities and are consequently found in large quantities in a food source: protein, fats and carbohydrates. In contrast, micronutrients are nutrients the body requires in small quantities and are therefore found in smaller quantities in food sources: vitamins and minerals. A food source may provide both macro- and micronutrients, for example carrots are a source of carbohydrate, vitamin C and betacarotene.

1. Protein

Protein is an essential nutrient for growth, condition and repair. This is seen in foods catering to puppies and junior dogs, such as Dr John Puppy and Dr John Titanium. These are both higher in protein to maintain optimal health during vital growth periods. Large breeds have a period of rapid growth in puppyhood during which it is essential to feed a high protein, but lower calorie, diet. This gives a controlled growth rather than too much growth too quickly during this period. Dog foods that cater to working dogs also tend to be higher in protein.

The protein in dog food usually derives from meat, because animal protein contains high quality amino acids. In Gilbertson & Page dog foods this is either a chicken and turkey blend, lamb or a pork, beef and lamb blend. Gilpa Slimline contains fish as its protein source. The addition of some bone with the meat offers minerals in bio-available form. All Gilbertson & Page’s protein sources would be fit for human consumption.

2. Carbohydrate

Carbohydrate provides fibre and slow-releasing energy during the day. Some carbohydrates also have benefits for digestion, skin and joint health. Others contain natural prebiotics that support good bacteria growth in he gut. Carbohydrates are especially important for working dogs, who need the energy and stamina to keep going all day.

Gilbertson & Page usually use whole grains for their carbohydrate content: wheat, corn, barley, oats or rice. Some carbohydrate comes from vegetables such as peas, potatoes and carrots. Recognising that some dogs have sensitive digestive systems, they also provide wheat-free and grain-free alternatives for their hypoallergenic customers. Dr John Hypoallergenic Chicken with Oats, Dr John Hypoallergenic Lamb with Rice and Dr John Grain-Free Chicken and Potato.

3. Fats and Oils

The fatty acids found in fats and oils give a dog energy. They also aid the function of body tissues and cells, muscles and nerves. Fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory effect, aid in the absorption of some vitamins and keep skin and hair healthy and shiny. However, overeating can be an issue for some dogs, in which case the essential fats in dog food can lead to weight problems. Feeding to condition and ensuring your dog gets plenty of exercise should prevent obesity. Gilbertson & Page manufacture some dog foods to aid in weight management diets, such as Gilpa Slimline. These contain fat levels at the lower end of the recommended 10-15% content.

The fats and oils in Gilbertson & Page dog food usually derive from chicken fat, linseed or fish oils. Linseed contains a great blend of omega 6 and omega 9, whilst the fish oil is from salmon and naturally rich in omega 3. CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) is a fat with nutrient partitioning properties that aids the metabolism of fat. This is a good alternative for overweight canines as it still provides one of the essential nutrients for dogs without risking extra weight gain.

Vitamins and minerals are the tiny building blocks used by your dog’s body to produce and repair cells in the body. They aid in everything from maintaining a healthy immune system to developing strong bones and teeth. It was impossible to choose just one or two of these, because they’re all so important, so we’ve cheekily included them all. These micronutrients definitely deserve to be in the top five essential nutrients for dogs.

Dog Feeding from Bowl

4. Vitamins

Vitamin A – Essential for a strong immune system and healthy vision. Fat soluble, vitamin A is stored in fatty tissues or the liver and isn’t secreted by the body, so too much can be dangerous. This is where a complete diet comes in handy because vitamin A levels are safely calculated for you.

Vitamin C – Boosts the immune system and aids in the development of bones and muscles. This vitamin is also an anti-carcinogen.

Vitamin D – Regulates the balance of calcium and phosphorus and is therefore essential for bone growth and the function of healthy nerves and muscles.

Vitamin B1 – Aids metabolism of carbohydrates and maintains normal growth and nerve impulse transmission. It is water soluble so needs ingesting daily to maintain healthy levels.

Vitamin B6 – Like vitamin B1, B6 is also water soluble and stored in muscle tissue, so needs a daily top up. It is essential for maintaining healthy hormone levels, immune system and red blood cell function.

Vitamin B12 – Essential for a healthy nervous system, the easiest source of vitamin B12 is meat.

5. Minerals

Calcium – We all know calcium is vital for bones and teeth, but it is also necessary for the nervous system and blood coagulation. As levels of calcium need to be just right, this is another example where a complete dog food  removes guesswork.

Copper – The body may only need copper in small amounts, but it is important nonetheless. Copper aids the absorption of iron and its conversion to red blood cells. It is also necessary for the synthesis of melanin.

Iron – Essential for red blood cell health and the subsequent transportation of oxygenated blood around body.

Iodine – Vital in the function of the thyroid gland which controls metabolism.

Manganese – Important for ligament health and therefore vital for all those busy, working dogs.

Zinc – Maintains healthy hair and skin, a robust immune system, wound healing and eyesight.


It is clear there is a lot going on in the manufacture of your dog’s food making sure that it includes all the essential nutrients for dogs at the correct levels. In previous articles, we’ve explored the recent shift towards people exploring a raw food diet for their dogs. This diet has benefits, but dog owners often find they need to add supplements to ensure it has nutritional balance. Finding a suitable complete dog food for your dog eliminates the need for supplements.

For more information on essential nutrients for dogs, see the Gilbertson & Page nutrition section of the website. For advice on your dog’s individual dietary needs, contact the Gilbertson & Page team. We love to hear from our customers!