Healthy Nutrition Tips

Our pets are an important part of our families, and that’s why we want to provide them with the best care possible. Proper nutrition is linked to growth and development, organ health, mobility, longevity and much, much more.

Nutrition is one of the ways we can keep our beloved pets healthier and happier for longer. Something that important should be simple right? Wrong. With so much information available to us (both accurate and inaccurate), making the right nutritional choices for “Fluffy” can be overwhelming.

Puppies and kittens:

It is amazing to watch our puppies and kittens grow in front of our eyes. All of this growing, as you can imagine, requires a lot of energy. It is important to feed your little ones a diet specially formulated for a puppy or kitten. These foods often have a higher calorie content, but also specially formulated levels of minerals, such as calcium and phosphorous, to provide the important building blocks for bones, joints, and growth.

Puppy and kitten food should be fed to approximately 1 year of age. Large breed dogs require different nutrient levels compared to small breed dogs, so it is recommended to feed a food formulated for large dogs until 12-18 months of age.

Choosing the right food for your pet:

Not all foods are created equal. So how do you choose the best diet for your furry family member? Look for foods made by reputable companies, and those that have tested the quality of their diets and have the research to back up their foods and claims. Diets with an AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) statement are preferable as they demonstrate that the diet is complete and balanced. Even better, a diet with an AAFCO statement that indicates it has undergone feeding trials.

Pet food labels:

A common way to select a pet food is by reading the ingredients on the label. After all, this makes the most sense right? Unfortunately, you have to be careful. Pet food labels can be manipulated to make their food seem more appealing. For example, terms such as “holistic” or “human grade” have no legal meaning in the pet food industry and can be added loosely to any label. “Meat as the first ingredient” is also misleading since ingredients are listed in order of weight, including water. That means that ingredients with higher water content (fresh meats/veggies) will be listed higher than dry ingredients even though they may contribute fewer nutrients.

Ingredients are not the same as nutrients. Ingredients help provide, or are made of nutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrates/fiber, vitamins and minerals, and water). Each pet has a very specific nutrient requirement, for example, a young and active dog will have significantly different nutritional needs compared to a mature and active dog versus a senior non-active dog, etc. By combining different ingredients, it is possible to meet these requirements.

Lastly, just because there is an ingredient or nutrient is listed, does not mean that your pet can digest or “use” it. For example, a rock is comprised of different minerals, but your pet’s digestive tract is not able to digest these minerals. In other words, your pet cannot satisfy any nutrient requirements from a rock. A good diet is formulated with the appropriate amount of digestible ingredients, and feeding trials should have been done to prove this.

Foods with added benefits:

Not only does food nourish your pet, it can also be used to help manage different conditions. Does your pet suffer with tartar on their teeth and/or bad breath? There is a food for that! Does your cat have chronic urinary issues or stress? There is a food for that! Does your pet suffer with a few “extra pounds”? You guessed it; there is a food for that. Veterinary specific diets (i.e. diets prescribed by and only available through veterinarians) can now serve as more than just “food/nutrition”.

Every pet is unique. The best way to help decide is by talking about your pet’s specific needs with a veterinary health team member. We love talking about nutrition and your pets. Please call us to book your nutritional consult today!

Dr. Joanna McPherson