A key element for helping our pets live long, active and healthy lives is to provide them with a nutritionally complete and balanced diet. So, what exactly is a nutritionally balanced diet? In essence a balanced diet has been formulated by veterinary nutritionists to suit pets of different ages and exercise demands so that they continue to thrive. The main components of the diet are:
Proteins are made up of amino acids which are essential components of every system in our pet’s body. The period of highest demand for protein is when our pets are growing and developing because every part of their body is rapidly transforming. Once they reach adulthood the demand for most nutrients (the exception being water) reduces as they only require enough nutrients to replace what they are expending in living day to day. Dietary proteins are required to build muscle and tissues, and for a healthy coat, skin, and nails. Your pet’s body uses the amino acids in proteins to make enzymes and hormones in the blood stream and to maintain a healthy immune system. Plants and meat are sources of proteins and it is worth noting that cat’s require certain amino acids that are only available in meat proteins.
Sugars, starch and plant fibre are the main sources of carbohydrates in our pet’s diet. Their bodies burn the carbohydrates to energize their brain and muscles to keep them bright and active.
Dietary fats and oils are made up of fatty acids and are an additional source of energy and they are required by every cell in the body. Certain fatty acids are helpful in reducing inflammation in parts of the body like the skin. The balance is of a diet is essential because diets containing too much fat and carbohydrates can lead to such obesity-related health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and osteoarthritis.
Although they are required in much small quantities than protein, carbohydrates and fats, vitamins and minerals are essential to facilitate biochemical processes throughout the body. For example, vitamins C & E are involved in immune responses and minerals calcium and phosphorous needed for strong bones.
And let’s not forget water! Our pets bodies are about 70% water which is the medium in which chemical processes work both inside and out side cells in the body. It is a major component of liquid tissues like blood. Without water our pets would quickly perish so we all know to ensure they have free access to fresh clean water.
At The Pet Doctors our veterinarians recommend we feed our pets a Complete and Balanced Diet, which means the food contains all the nutrients in the appropriate quantities as recommended by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AFFCO). The AAFCO standard is recognised world wide as the template upon which all balanced dog and cat foods are based. As you can imagine, every day our clients ask us questions about feeding their pets. Here are some of the questions we hear regularly:
- What is a Life Stage Diet?
Life stage diets are a range of diets that are designed to cater for the changing nutritional needs of pets through each stage of their life: Growth (Kittenhood & Puppyhood); Adult; Geriatric.
The most important of these life stages is “Growth” because providing a growing animal the correct diet at this stage will allow it to grow to its correct size and weight, and also prevent diseases such as nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism (sometimes referred to as ‘Rickets’). Achieving optimum growth for any animal means that its organs have fully developed and they’re as well prepared as they can be for a long, healthy life.
“Adult” pet foods are formulated knowing that the extra nutrients required during Growth are no longer needed and the adult cat or dog simply requires nutrients from a diet that replaces those that have been used up in day to day life. We want to ensure that there aren’t excess calories in the diet as we don’t want them becoming obese. Common sense tells us that dogs and cats don’t need to eat the same food all the time, so this the time when you can enrich your pet’s life by allowing it to really enjoy its diet. Sure, in our experience a minority of pets get an upset tummy of you change their diet. By by far the majority of dogs and cats enjoy it if you give them a mixture of flavours or brands of food. Importantly, we also need to ensure what we feed is not only providing nutrients but is giving adequate dental care so we recommend you incorporate dental treats & foods (Find out more Here) as part of their diet so their teeth are kept healthy. Dental diets also provide novel texture to the diet which also enriches the eating experience.
Geriatric or Senior diets are suggested by pet food manufacturers to be fed to pets from about 5 to 7 years of age. Since most of our pets are living to at least mid-teenagehood (in human years), our vets like to base their nutritional advice for adult pets on findings from an individual pet’s annual health check, laboratory testing and the presence of specific problems, like kidney disease. We only suggest feeding a senior diet if there is an identified specific need it.
- Which brand of food should I feed to my pet?
At The Pet Doctors we recommend that normal, healthy pets are fed a diet that is balanced to AFFCO standards as stated on the food packaging. Suffice it to say, if a food is not certified as AFFCO compliant our vets don’t recommend it. Most Premium Pet Foods and well known brands of pet food at Supermarkets are up to AFFCO standard and, if your dog or cat likes and thrives on them, there is no reason not to buy them. Sometimes it’s just easy to buy the dog’s food when you’re at the supermarket buying your own! If a food disagrees with your pet, have chat with us and we can work out what change is needed.
- Do I Need to feed a premium pet food?
Premium foods use high-quality ingredients with the aim of creating a product of higher quality and palatability and that is reflected in their price. As always, check the packaging of any pet food to ensure it is up to AFFCO standard. Some dogs and cats with sensitive tummies for example may benefit from a premium food or a prescription one. The Pet Doctors vets recommend feeding puppies a premium Growth diet to help the pups as much as possible to become normally developed by the time they reach adulthood.
- When does my pet need a Prescription Diet?
Prescription diets are formulated to have a medical benefit for animals which are known to have or may develop a disease where a special diet can help with managing their health. Over the past 30 years The Pet Doctors vets have used these diets to help cats and dogs with diseases ranging from kidney failure, inflammatory bowel disease, kidney stones, food allergies, arthritis and liver problems, to name a few. The diet is prescribed once a specific diagnosis has been made and most require ongoing vet monitoring.
Tips for feeding your pet
- Make sure the food is fresh. When you purchase pet food, check for freshness and purchase only the amount necessary for your pet. Store dry food in a cool, dry place and keep it in an air tight container. Soft, canned food should be refrigerated once the tin has been opened. Discard uneaten food and always place fresh food in a clean bowl.
- Feed the correct quantity of food. Ask us or check the label for how much to feed according to your pet’s ideal weight. Avoid feeding pets as much as they want or feeding a large amount at one time. Doing so can lead to obesity, gastrointestinal upset, or even bloat, a life threatening condition.
- Maintain a daily routine. A regular schedule will help your pet keep normal bowel movements. Younger pets need to be fed more frequently, as they are usually more energetic and burn more calories.
- If you have any questions about feeding your pet Contact Us.