A high quality diet is essential for your pet to grow and develop correctly, maintain an ideal weight, and have healthy skin and fur. Choosing food with quality ingredients provides her with better fuel, and helps ensure her good health with the correct amount and ratio of vitamins and minerals.
Different pets have different nutritional requirements
Feeding pets is a science and an art. The science comes into play when determining the appropriate amount of nutrients—vitamins, minerals, water, protein, carbohydrates, and fats—an animal needs. The art aspect is in feeding your individual pet. Each pet metabolizes food differently, and what works well for one of your pets may not be appropriate for another. Some pets may not tolerate a specific ingredient, erupting in diarrhea, vomiting, or severe flatulence. Some may become overweight on a diet, while others on the same diet cannot gain weight. So, follow the guidelines on the bag of pet food, but remember that they are simply a guide that will likely need adjustment for your pet’s individual needs. Your veterinary team can help you determine the best diet for your pet.
Pets’ nutritional requirements change at different life stages
In addition to pets handling the same foods differently, they have different nutritional requirements for their various life stages.
- Juveniles — Puppies require higher levels of protein, fat, calcium, sodium, chloride, and phosphorus to support their rapid growth and development. An 8-week-old puppy may need to be fed four to six times a day to maintain a proper blood glucose level due to her fast metabolism. As she grows, her meals can be cut to two.
- Adults — Adult dogs require moderate amounts of nutrients and your puppy’s breed and expected adult size will determine when she should be gradually switched to an adult maintenance diet—usually when she has reached about 80% of her adult size. Toy and small breeds may be switched over as young as 6 months, while giant breeds may be fed puppy food until 2 years of age.
- Seniors — Older dogs don’t require as many calories, because their metabolism slows significantly. Giant breeds age faster than small breeds, so the transition to a senior diet will depend on your dog’s size. Many older dogs develop joint issues and osteoarthritis, so look for a senior diet designed to promote joint and bone health.
- Special requirements — Dogs’ nutritional needs vary based on their breed. Small and medium-size dogs can be fed standard puppy and adult diets, but large- and giant-breed dogs are at a higher risk for orthopedic diseases and need puppy food formulated to promote slower growth to help stave off these conditions. Decreased energy content, slightly lower calcium and phosphorus levels, and a carefully balanced calcium-to-phosphorus ratio are also critical for proper large-breed puppy growth.
- Juveniles — Kittens grow rapidly from birth to about 4 months of age and have high energy requirements—about three times an adult cat—during this time. As their digestive systems are not yet mature, stick with an energy-dense food that doesn’t contribute unnecessary bulk, which can cause digestive distress. Appropriate diets should be labeled for growing kittens and contain essential amino acids that support muscle and cell growth, and healthy skin, fur, and claws.
- Adults — Adult cats require much less energy, so gradually switch to an adult maintenance diet that is lower in calories and fat once your kitten has stopped growing. Also, monitor her weight closely to ensure she does not become overweight. You can often switch to adult cat food around 6 months of age or after sterilisation.
- Seniors — Older cats, unlike senior dogs, require more calories and fat as they age. While both species tend to pack on the pounds during middle age, cats lose weight in their senior years if their diets don’t change. They can no longer digest and absorb fat and protein as well, so require more to maintain muscle mass and a healthy body weight.
- Special requirements — Cats need supplementation of taurine, an essential amino acid for many body functions that is found only in protein derived from animals. Cats are true carnivores who need a meat-based diet high in protein, supplemented with taurine, and packed with vitamins A and D. Remember—cats are not small dogs, and they have different nutritional needs.
Recommendations for feeding your pet
Our brand of choice is Royal Canin, which is backed by many years of research and scientific studies. We are confident that this brand provides a complete, balanced diet for all pets, but we are always happy to discuss different food options for your pet. To guide you, we can help you determine:
- Your pet’s body condition score
- The number of calories your pet needs
- The best diet for your dog, whether a sporting dog or couch potato
- Your pet’s special nutritional requirements
- The best diet for joint, skin, and dental health
Let us guide you on your quest for the best food for your furry friend. Give us a call to schedule a nutritional consult.