Why is Nutrition Important?
Good nutrition is important for your pet for many reasons. Good nutrition promotes good quality of life and helps your pet stay healthy, happy and active longer. High quality foods help their skin and coat to be healthier, help their immune system to be stronger, and improve their whole body health. High quality also means less waste, so less mess to clean up in the litter box and yard.
A good food provides complete and balanced nutrition for you pet. It provides the proper mixture of minerals and nutrients to support them. Adding other foods, people food, excessive amounts of treats, or vitamins to a high-quality diet is not necessary and may be detrimental. Adding supplements to a poor diet will not make it a good diet – you cannot add supplements to achieve the proper balance of nutrients. Raw/home-cooked diets are often not balanced for your pet. If you are interested in home-cooked diets, we recommend you consult a nutritionist to balance the diet. (Balance-It is a good website to access a nutritionist).
Nutritional deficiencies/excesses can lead to severe health problems to include allergies, heart disease, kidney disease, and other organ dysfunction.
How Do I Find the Best Food for my Pet?
We recommend foods that have high quality, consistent ingredients and meet AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) Standards to include a feeding trial (this must be included on the label). Feeding trials are costly and when done properly, are continued for years to show that the food is appropriate for labeled stages of the pet’s life. Foods labeled as only meeting standards may have the appropriate required ingredients, but these ingredients may not be nutritionally available to the pet, which is why the feeding trials are so critical.
Looking at ingredient lists alone is often not a good judge of a food. A good quality food can have corn and wheat and meat by-products (these include organ meats), which can all be excellent sources of vitamins and minerals. Many newer foods have expensive ingredients but aren’t appropriately tested or balanced. A more expensive food is not necessarily a better food!
Brands of food that we recommend are Science Diet, Royal Canin, Purina ProPlan, and Iams/Eukanuba. Pick a food appropriate to your pet’s life stage (i.e. kitten/puppy, adult, senior). It is also very important that dogs eat dog food and cats eat cat food. Cats require specific ingredients and higher levels of protein than dogs do. We also generally recommend dry foods for dogs, while most cats benefit from at least part of their diet being canned food. There are now many choices of foods which address other issues as well: large breed, sensitive stomach, sensitive skin.
Diets we do not recommend include boutique/exotic/grain free diets, store brands such as Ol’ Roy and Hill Country Fair or raw or home cooked diets that are not properly balanced.
How Do I Feed My Pet?
Puppies / kittens under 3 months of age should be fed four times a day. Between 3 and 5 months of age they should be fed 3 times a day. Adults should be fed twice daily. We recommend controlled feedings for all animals – never just leave food down as this can lead to obesity. Younger animals can usually be switched to an adult food between 6 mos and 1 year of age.
The amount of food you feed your pet depends greatly on their body condition. In general, bag recommendations overestimate the amount of food your pet needs, so it is best to start below the recommendations. If you want a more specific recommendation, we can give you an estimate of your pet’s calorie requirements based on their body condition. Since each pet has a different metabolism, you may still have to adjust the amount based on your pet’s body condition.
If you are making a diet change for your pet do it slowly – mix in the new food in gradually increasing amounts over 1-2 weeks.
It is not necessary to change your pet’s diet periodically. Pick one that works for them and stay with it. Food changes can upset their gastrointestinal system, causing diarrhea and vomiting.
Your pet may have a specific medical condition which requires a prescription diet or a different regimen than what is mentioned here. If you have any questions about the amount or type of food to give your pet, please ask us – we would be glad to help you in providing your pet with the best nutrition possible for them. Good nutrition is an incredibly important part of preventative medicine.
Grain Free Foods
Grain-free foods are very popular right now, but they are not necessary for most pets and can actually be detrimental in some cases.
Grains are an excellent source of nutrition in pet foods. Pets with food allergies are most commonly allergic to proteins such as chicken and beef. Grains are not a common food allergen. There are rare cases of pets that should be on grain free diets for specific health reasons, but this is very uncommon.
Recently, grain-free, boutique and exotic diets have been implicated in cases of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs not normally prone to this type of heart disease. It seems to be associated with diets where legumes (beans, peas, chickpeas) and/or potatoes are one of the top ingredients. The specific factor which triggers the DCM has not been identified. This is only a problem with dogs; no heart disease has been identified in cats on a grain free diet.
As a precaution, we recommend our clients with dogs on grain-free diet consider changing to a normal diet.
Raw diets are another type of feeding that has grown in popularity. We have a number of concerns with raw diets. The biggest ones are the diets being balanced and the concern with pathogens. Raw foods can be a source of parasites and bacteria that could be dangerous to both your pet and you. Raw meat can carry e.coli, salmonella, listeria, among other dangerous bacteria. In addition, as with any other diet, a raw diet should meet AAFCO standards to include feeding trials or be balanced by a veterinary nutritionist.
- Good nutrition is key to your pet’s overall health
- More expensive does not necessarily equal better for your pet!
- Grain Free diets are rarely necessary and can cause fatal heart disease in dogs
- AAFCO Standards and Feeding Trials are critical to a good quality food
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