Nutrition, including controlling your pet’s weight, seriously affects pet health, especially as your pet ages. Weight management is one of the most critical factors in maintaining pet health. Giving your pet unlimited access to food (free feeding) is one of the worst things you can do. The standard serving for felines and canines is 120-170 calories per pound of body weight. If you’re trying to help your pet gain weight, increase caloric intake, and if you’re wanting your pet to lose weight, decrease caloric consumption. During a routine exam, we can discuss the exact amount of food to add or subtract from your pet’s diet based on breed, activity level, and current weight. Remember that overweight pets are more likely to suffer from arthritis, certain cancers, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and skin problems.
Pet food classifications:
The following pet food classifications are as defined by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
By-products – "Secondary products produced in addition to the principal product". Byproduct is what is left over after the intended product has been made. In the case of animal feeds, including pet foods, it's often the excess materials left over after processing human foods. This doesn't mean byproducts are unsafe of lack nutrition - they just aren't part of the original primary products. For example, Meat Byproducts can include lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, fatty tissues, stomachs and intestines freed of their contents. Many of these body parts are used regularly as treats for dogs and cats. Byproducts do not include hair, horns, teeth, hooves and feathers, except in such such amounts that might occur unavoidably during good processing practices.
Natural – Natural pet food is defined as having ingredients that are obtained entirely from plants, animals, and/or mined sources. Natural pet food is free from all chemical processing.
Natural may apply to a specific ingredient used to manufacture a product provided that only the specific ingredient is identified as natural.
o For example, if the label reads “contains natural chicken flavor,” a consumer understands that the manufacturer only claims that flavoring meets the definition of natural.
Breakdown of the Definition
· There is no requirement or statement that natural feeds or ingredients are safer than those produced by a chemically synthetic process.
· Natural is a liberal term that includes more ingredients than it excludes—most pet food ingredients are derived from “plant, animal or mined sources.”
· A feed ingredient can be subject to a number of commonly-used processes during the manufacturing process and still be deemed natural.
· A feed or feed ingredient can contain trace amounts of chemically synthetic compounds and still be considered natural.
Organic* – Organic pet food is, at minimum, 95% produced and handled in observance of all USDA National Organic Program requirements.
*If advertised as 100% organic, then 100% of the ingredients (including additives) must be organic.
Keep in mind that a pet food classification does not dictate superiority. Many pet food manufacturers market their natural or organic foods as being better than pet foods with by-product, but that isn’t always the case. Some organic and natural foods lack the vitamins and minerals that a food with by-product can offer. The main goal of pet food is to maintain a nutritious and balanced diet; this can be obtained with the right pet food, regardless of what category it fits into. If you need help choosing proper pet food, our veterinary staff will happily provide you with our recommendations.
Medicated diets are created to augment nutritional needs for pets dealing with illness or disease. A variety of manufacturers design pet food specifically for pets suffering from allergies, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, pancreatitis, and more. If you think a medicated diet would benefit your pet, contact our office today.
As your pet ages their need for phosphorus, sodium, calcium, and protein lessen while their need for fiber increases. Dietary supplements can help meet your pet’s needs as they age. Supplements also offer therapeutic function. Vitamins and glucosamine are just some of the beneficial supplements available for your pet. Please inform your veterinarian if you think dietary supplements would be helpful for your pet.
Common pet food concerns
Q: Is there a significant difference between puppy food, adult dog food, and senior dog food? Or is there a substantial difference between kitten food, adult cat food, and senior cat food?
A: Young pets, adults, and elderly animals all have different nutritional needs, and therefore need different diets. Puppies and kittens need higher proteins and more fats, while elderly pets need more supplements integrated into their diet. Neglecting to acknowledge your pet’s specific nutritional needs could result in negative health effects.
Q: How do I know if my pet has a food allergy? And what do I do next?
A: Most food allergies result in ear infections or skin problems, both of which can be difficult to detect in your pet. One of the tell-tale signs is excessive licking of the paws. Most pets (namely dogs) lick their paws due to an allergy, whether grass or food. Try changing their pet food to a higher quality brand, or change the flavor of food. For example, often pets are allergic to chicken or lamb, but not both. Wait 2-3 weeks after introducing the new food to see if your pet’s habits change. If you are still having issues and can’t find an appropriate food, our veterinarians might be able to offer a medicated diet.
Q: Can my pet benefit from a raw diet or homemade meals?
A: Because raw meats can contain E. coli and Salmonella, we cannot recommended that you do not feed your pet raw meat. Humans are susceptible to these bacteria and can make us very sick. Althought dogs and cats may be more resistant to these bacteria, it is important to remember they are not immune. While a raw diet can provide an abundance of protein, it lacks in other vital nutrients if not properly formulated and balanced.
Homemade meals can be beneficial for your pet when prepared by a licensed pet nutritionist. Many of us believe that because homemade meals are healthier for humans, they must also be healthier for pets. When properly balanced, a homemade diet can be beneficial, but unless you have extensive knowledge of pet nutrition, preparing your own meals run the risk of your pet missing out on essential vitamins, minerals, fats and proteins.
Q: Are there pet treats meant for obese animals?
A: While most pet treats are usually high in fat and calories, there are options for overweight animals. Many gourmet pet treats are sweetened with honey rather than sugar which cuts down on the carbohydrate content. There are also weight management dog treats available at most national retailers that offer low-sodium, sugar-free, or grain-free (low carb) options. Other pet treats include dehydrated natural vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, and for hot days, you can offer your pet frozen vegetables (peas, carrots, soy beans). A good rule to follow is that treats should never consume more than 10% of your pet’s total food consumption.
Q: There are many TV commercials that state corn is unhealthy for my pet’s diet. What is wrong with corn?
A: It used to be a common belief that corn was the number one cause for pet food allergies. However, current studies show that less than 3% of pet food allergies are caused by corn, and more than 70% are the result of chicken, beef, dairy, or wheat. If your pet is not allergic to corn, it is highly beneficial to include it in a pet’s diet, because it offers several antioxidants and is an excellent source of proteins that help with muscle and tissue growth.