A well balanced diet is critical to your pet’s overall wellbeing, and essential for a long, healthy life. However, selecting an appropriate diet for your pet can be confusing. Our team at Columbia Pike Animal Hospital wants to help by offering advice on how to provide proper nutrition for your pet.

Nutrients your pet needs

Nutrients are substances your pet obtains from food and uses as an energy source and in the metabolic process necessary for maintenance and growth. Six essential nutrients are fundamental for a healthy pet.

  • Water — Pets must have fresh, clean water available at all times.
  • Proteins — Proteins are the basic structural components for all your pet’s body cells. They are necessary for growth, maintenance, reproduction, and healing. Proteins can be obtained from animal based meats, which have a complete amino acid profile, and from certain vegetables, cereals, and soy products, which are considered incomplete proteins.
  • Fats — Fats provide more than twice the energy of proteins and carbohydrates, and are essential in cell structure and certain hormone production. Pets require omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in their diet, because they cannot produce these essential fatty acids on their own.
  • Carbohydrates — Carbohydrates act as an energy source, promote intestinal health, and are crucial for reproduction. Moderately fermentable fiber sources are best for pets.
  • Vitamins — Vitamins are essential for normal metabolic function, and while your pet cannot synthesize these substances, you should not need to supplement their vitamins when they are fed a complete and balanced diet.
  • Minerals — Minerals are important to maintain healthy bones, teeth, and fluid balance, and for their role in many metabolic reactions. 

Feeding your puppy or kitten

Puppies and kittens receive complete nutrition from their mother’s milk during their first four weeks, and do not require additional food in this period. Once they are weaned, puppies and kittens should be offered high quality food, specifically tailored to their needs. Other considerations include:

  • Puppies — Puppies require up to twice the energy intake of adult dogs, and their food should contain 25 to 30 percent protein. Your puppy’s breed will determine what food they should receive. Nutrient imbalances and excess growth rates can lead to developmental orthopedic diseases in large- and giant-breed puppies. Our veterinary professionals will help you choose the best food for your growing puppy.
  • Kittens — Kittens require two to three times the energy intake of adult cats, and their food should contain about 30 percent protein. Your kitten should eat a food specifically formulated for kittens until they are 1 year of age.

Feeding your adult pet

Since all pets are different, consulting our veterinary professionals about the appropriate food for your pet is the best way to ensure they receive proper nutrition. Once you have determined which food is best for your pet, you will need to decide how much they should receive per day. You should consider your pet’s age, weight, breed, activity level, and spay or neuter status. You can start by consulting the recommended portion label on the food bag, and then use a calorie calculator to more accurately determine their portion size.

The next step is setting a feeding schedule. Pets do best when fed at least twice a day, dividing their food requirements into two meals. Several feeding schedule options are available.

  • Portion control feeding — This method involves offering your pet a measured food portion in one or more meals per day.
  • Timed feeding — This method involves making food available for a limited time. For example, offer food for 30 minutes, and then remove the uneaten food.
  • Free-choice feeding — This method, which makes food available to your pet at all times, is best when feeding dry food, since left-out wet food may spoil. While this feeding schedule is the easiest for pet owners, many pets will overeat when fed in this manner, resulting in obesity. 

Feeding your senior pet

As pets age, they are at increased risk for developing issues such as dental problems, arthritis, obesity, skin conditions, and loss of muscle mass. When feeding a senior pet, the main objectives are to maintain health, optimize body weight, slow or prevent disease development, and improve clinical signs of existing diseases. You should start your pet on a diet formulated for senior pets of a certain age, depending on their species and breed.

  • Cats — Your cat should be started on a senior diet at about 7 years of age.
  • Small- and medium-breed dogs — If your dog weighs 50 pounds or less, they should be started on a senior diet at about 7 years of age.
  • Large-breed dogs — Start your dog who weighs 51 to 90 pounds on a senior diet at about 6 years of age.
  • Giant-breed dogs — If your dog weighs more than 90 pounds, they should be started on a senior diet at about 5 years of age.

Providing proper nutrition for your pet will help ensure they live a long, healthy life. If you have any questions about what diet is best for your pet, contact our team at Columbia Pike Animal Hospital, so we can recommend the appropriate food for your hungry pet.