Nutrition and Pet Food Ingredients: Nutrients in Pet Foods

Nutrients are divided into subcategories: protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals and water.

Protein

Common pet food protein sources include meat, poultry, fish and some plant ingredients, such as corn gluten and soybean meal.

Protein is best known for supplying amino acids to build hair, skin, nails, muscles, tendons, ligaments and cartilage. It also plays a main role in hormone production.

Dogs, best fed as carnivores, require essential amino acids that are not all found in the proper balance in single plant protein sources such as soybean meal.

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Carbohydrates

Common carbohydrate sources are plants and grains. Carbohydrates, also categorized as starches (sugars) and fibers, provide energy and bulk, respectively.

Starches are made up of various types of sugar, such as glucose or fructose. Through digestion, dogs and cats can easily convert sugar into usable energy.

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Fiber

Fiber may or may not be fermented or broken down into short-chain fatty acids by bacteria in a dog or cat's intestines. Highly fermentable fiber sources, like vegetable gums, provide high amounts of short-chain fatty acids. Moderately fermentable fibers, such as beet pulp, provide short-chain fatty acids and bulk for moving waste. Slightly fermentable fibers, such as cellulose, provide mainly bulk for moving waste through the digestive tract and only a few short-chain fatty acids.

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Water

Water is the single most important nutrient for the body. Without it, the body cannot transport nutrients, digest nutrients for energy, regulate temperature or eliminate water.

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Fats

Fats are found in meats, poultry, fish and plant oils. Fat, for all its bad press, fulfills many vital body functions. Animal cell membranes are made of fat. Fat also helps maintain body temperature, control inflammation and more. Fat is the primary form of stored energy in the body, providing twice as much energy as carbohydrates or proteins.

Fats also have been shown to be important in blood clotting and decreasing inflammation.

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Vitamins & Minerals

Vitamins are responsible for aiding functions such as bone growth, blood clotting, energy production and oxidant protection. Vitamins A, D, E and K require fat for absorption into the body, while vitamins such as the B-complex vitamins and vitamin C, need water to be absorbed into the body.

Minerals provide skeletal support and aid in nerve transmission and muscle contractions.

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