7 Food Ingredients for Your Dog’s Health

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 fiber.

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.

2. Antioxidants
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 mammals.

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.

5. L-Carnitine
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 tissue.

6. Prebiotics
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 grow."

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 food available.