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A Vet Shares What You Need to Know about Dog Nutrition

Expert Veterinarian Liz Bales shares with you her top tips on dog nutrition

By: Doctor Liz Bales

Last Updated:


If you are like me, watching your dog enjoy his food is one of your greatest pleasures. This joy is next-level when you are blessed by your dog’s excitement in anticipation of a treat. In addition to creating the bliss of a well-fed dog, we want to feed them the best food that we can so that we have both a happy and healthy dog. Almost every food on the market claims to help enhance your dog's nutrition.

dog nutritional

But, how do you know what to buy for optimal health for your dog? The pet food aisle is full of great marketing buzz-words that appeal to our emotions, like grain-free, gluten-free, etc. You might notice that the buzz-words are mirroring the trends and fads of the moment in human nutrition. But, healthy nutrition for your dog is not a fad and the basics are still the best. Here are my science-based tips for your dog’s nutrition.

1 – Keeping your dog lean is the #1 most important thing that you can do for your dog’s health. Dogs that maintain a healthy weight tend to live approximately 15% longer than overweight dogs. For the typical labrador retriever, this means that your dog will get two more years of life by keeping it lean. 

This amazing fact is overlooked by most of us. Currently, 56% of dogs in America are overweight or obese. Most of us are shortening our dog’s lives by overfeeding them.

When it comes to canine weight loss, science is your friend. Schedule a weight check visit with your veterinarian. Your vet will tell you your dog’s current weight, ideal weight and can then calculate the precise amount of calories that your dog should eat in a day. Together, you can choose the best food for your dog’s weight loss, medical and age status. Weekly weigh-ins will provide the information to make adjustments and get your dog back the health and longevity that we all want.

2– Grain-Free food may be dangerous for your dog’s health. Dogs are omnivores. This means that it is appropriate for your dog to eat meat, grain, and many fruits and vegetables to be healthy. Grain-free does not mean carbohydrate-free. Grain-free food gets its carbohydrate from another source – like legumes. There is emerging science that a grain-free diet may be causing a fatal heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy, as well as other heart diseases. (

3 – Add fresh food to your dog’s diet, like these 10 nutritious people foods. Pet dietary experts agree that treats and table scraps should never be more than 10% of your dog's daily calories. Your vet can help you figure out exactly how many calories this is for your dog. Instead of packaged treats, try feeding fresh food treats in restricted amounts.
Beware, some fruits and vegetables can be toxic for dogs – never feed grapes, raisins, onions, or garlic.

Healthy options include baby carrots, zucchini, butternut squash, spinach or (my favorite) green beans. You can also feed apples, bananas, pears or strawberries. Yum!

4 – Make meal-time fun time. Most of our dogs don’t have much to do all day. Dogs look forward to mealtime all day, only to scarf up the entire bowl in a matter of seconds. Their waistlines are expanding and their minds are not being engaged. Every meal served in a bowl is a missed opportunity to stimulate your dog. Get rid of the bowl and feed meals and treats in puzzle feeders.

5 – Be safe. If you plan to regularly cook for your dog, work with a veterinary nutritionist. Creating a balanced diet for your dog is harder than it seems. Most home-made meals have a nutrient imbalance, according to several AVMA studies (Stockman et al. 2013).” Without meaning to, you might be doing more harm than good.

Wags and Purrs,
Dr. Liz Bales


The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine graduate, Dr. Liz Bales, has only ever wanted to be a veterinarian. She has such a passion for her job, that she says if she weren’t a vet, she would be studying to become one. She loves “helping pets and the people who love them be happy and healthy!  Helping people translate complicated medical information into practical tips on how to care for, and connect with their pets is the best part of her job” Not just a veterinarian, Dr. Bales shares her passion through writing, giving speeches, and appearing on shows such as Fox and Friends, ABC News, and Cheddar. She has even started her own company, Doc and Phoebe, and invented a revolutionary cat product—the Indoor Hunting Feeder.

Dr. Bales’ favorite quote reflects her love and compassion for animals: “When a human dies there is a bridge they must cross to enter into Heaven. At the head of the bridge waits every animal that human encountered during their lifetime. The animals, based on what they know of this person, decide which humans may cross the bridge…and which are turned away.” With this in mind, Dr. Bales tries to live every day by her grandfather’s advice: “These days are precious. Don’t waste them.”


Last Updated:

By: Doctor Liz Bales
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