Balanced nutrition is an essential part of an active, healthy lifestyle. Your pet needs plenty of fresh water and should be fed good quality food in amounts sufficient to meet energy and caloric requirements. Inadequate or excess intake of nutrients can be equally harmful. The food your pet eats plays an important role in his or her overall health and well-being.
The Difference Between Dogs and Cats
Dogs are omnivores, which means they can eat a variety of foods to meet their energy requirements. Completely balanced vegetarian diets can be fed to dogs without fear of causing any nutritional deficiency. However, cats have always been carnivores. Cats have some unique nutritional needs that a strictly vegetarian diet cannot satisfy. These include: Arachidonic Acid (an essential fatty acid, which is not found in plant sources), Taurine (an amino acid that cats cannot synthesize in adequate amounts), Vitamin A, and Niacin. In addition to these dietary peculiarities, your cat requires a high amount of protein in his diet, about 12 percent in comparison to 4 percent for adult dogs. Unlike you, your cat does very well on a high-fat diet. Fat gives him needed energy, assists the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (Vitamins A and E), and adds taste.
Memorize Our List of Foods to Avoid
Our experts at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center urge you to avoid feeding the following foods to your pet: alcoholic beverages, avocado, chocolate, coffee, fatty foods, grapes and raisins, macadamia nuts, moldy or spoiled foods, onion and onion powder, salt, yeast dough, garlic, and products sweetened with xylitol.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is an organization that publishes regulations for nutritional adequacy of “complete and balanced” dog and cat foods. Your pet’s food should conform to minimal AAFCO standards.
These nutritional adequacy standards are defined by two nutrient profiles based upon a pet’s stage of life:
1. Adult maintenance, and
2. Growth and reproduction. Pet foods rated for “growth and reproduction” are designed for puppies/kittens and pregnant or lactating females. Every pet food label must contain a statement and validation of nutritional adequacy.
AAFCO regulations allow two basic methods for pet food manufacturers to substantiate claims:
1. Formulation Method — Requires the manufacturer to formulate the food to meet the AAFCO nutrient profiles for dogs and cats. This method is less time consuming and less expensive because feeding trials with pets are not required, only a calculation of the nutrient levels.
An example of an AAFCO statement using the formulation method would be: "Brand ABC Cat Food is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by AAFCO Cat Food Profiles for maintenance of adult cats."
2. Feeding Trial Method — Requires the manufacturer perform an AAFCO-protocol feeding trial using the food as the sole source of nutrition. This is the Gold Standard or preferred method, and it documents the pets' performance when fed the food.
An example of an AAFCO statement using the feeding trial method would be: "Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that Brand X Dog Food provides complete and balanced nutrition for maintenance of adult dogs." (From hillspet.com)
An animal’s energy needs are based on its body weight. The daily caloric requirements for an individual animal depend on its physiological state, such as adult maintenance, growth, pregnancy, or lactation. Other determining factors include the animal’s activity and temperament, environmental temperature, and the diet’s digestibility. Less active dogs and cats require considerably fewer calories per day. On any feeding program animals should be weighed at frequent intervals to evaluate appropriateness of measurements and for adjusting caloric intake. Determining energy requirements for cats is easier than dogs because body size of cats varies little.
Pet food labels recommend feeding amounts in a range of cups given at certain ages for a puppy/kitten, maturing to a given weight range for adult pets. This range of cups can vary greatly, and can be quite confusing. It is most important to judge how much to feed by an additional evaluation of the pet’s appearance. The desired condition varies with certain breeds – some tend to be more solid, others more trim. Just remember: Lean pets live longer, healthier lives than those who are overweight.
Body Condition Scoring
Veterinarians typically use a measurement called a body condition score to assess whether a pet is underweight, overweight, or just right (healthy). Your veterinarian can use this scale to show you the proper way to assess your pet’s weight. If you’re unsure what your pet’s optimum weight should be, perform this simple test: Place your hands on your pet’s rib cage with your thumbs on the back.
Your pet is a healthy weight if: 1. You can easily feel its ribs, 2. It has a tucked abdomen and no sagging fat deposits, and 3. You can see its waist from above.
Your pet is overweight if: 1. You can feel fat between the skin and ribs or you have difficulty feeling its ribs, 2. It has a large abdomen that hangs down, and you can grab a handful of fat, and 3. It has a broad, flat back and no visible waist.
Battle the Bulge
“As more Americans confront their own weight issues, furry housemates increasingly struggle alongside them. Data from 2011 indicates that the problem is reaching epidemic proportions, with more than half of U.S. dogs and cats now overweight or obese. “ [From WSJ.com (Wall Street Journal)] Many owners view an overweight pet as simply a cosmetic issue. They do not understand the health risks involved with excess weight. Diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, osteoarthritis, liver disease and skin issues are more common in obese animals. Overweight pets also face increased risk during anesthesia and surgery. Studies have revealed that obese dogs have a shorter lifespan than their normal weight counterparts.
What’s the best way to tip the scales in your pet’s favor? Gradually decrease her food intake while increasing her activity level. You can switch to a reduced calorie food or make a cutback in the portion size of her regular food. We recommend a gradual reduction of 10 to 25 percent for cats, and 25 to 33 percent for dogs – but it’s always a good idea to check with your pet’s veterinarian first. Avoid treats that are high in fat and calories, such as cheese, hot dogs, and peanut butter. Raw vegetables and some fruits make excellent low-calorie treats, as do air-popped popcorn, and ice cubes. With careful dietary management and oversight by your veterinarian, changes in diet and lifestyle can lead to a much more productive life. There are prescription diet formulations available from your veterinarian that can make dieting easy for you and your pet. Not enough exercise and too much food will cause any animal to gain weight – especially pets, who rely on you to regulate nutrition and activity levels.
Not only will daily exercise keep your pet physically fit and mentally healthy, it helps channel aggressive and destructive behaviors. Regular activity also burns up calories and increases muscle mass and cardiovascular strength. When it comes to canines, individual exercise needs vary based on breed, sex, age and level of health, but a couple of walks around the block every day is probably not enough – especially if your pooch is an adolescent or a member of the sporting, herding, hound or terrier breeds. And if your cat has fallen into bad exercise habits (i.e. sure, she can run – to her food dish!), you will have to engage her in supervised fun and games. Lots of cats love chasing after laser pointers or crinkle-noise-making toys. Always start slow, though, and limit beginning sessions to five minutes or so.
We proudly carry Hill’s Veterinary Prescription Diets and Royal Canin Veterinary Diets here at Hope Animal Medical Center. Hill’s Prescription Diet pet foods are specially formulated to help manage pets with health problems. Backed by extensive clinical studies, Hill’s offers the most reliable and trusted range of therapeutic pet foods. Hill’s manufacturing facilities follow strict sourcing and production processes to ensure premium wellness and therapeutic pet nutrition. Advanced technology allows for efficient handling, blending and processing, resulting in safe, highly nutritious and palatable pet foods. Royal Canin was created in 1967 by a veterinarian, Dr. Jean Cathary, with a focus on developing preventive and therapeutic nutrition for companion animals. Royal Canin also has strict criteria for quality of raw materials during each stage of food production and food safety. Royal Canin was one of the first pet food manufacturers to become ISO-certified, a designation that means they meet international standards for their manufacturing process. All Hill’s and Royal Canin pet foods come with a 100% Guarantee for quality, consistency, and taste.
We offer a wide variety of dog and cat foods that can help specific issues from preventive health (e.g. oral/dental, digestive, and skin health), to chronic disease management (e.g. arthritis, kidney and urinary tract disease, diabetes, and heart disease). We even have a new diet for dogs with anxiety (Royal Canin CALM). Come visit us at Hope Animal Medical Center, call us at 706-546-7879, or visit our website at www.hopeamc.com for more information.
Dr. Jenifer Hope Gustafson
Dr. Sherri Turick
Dr. Angela Dodd
Dr. Lisa Stacy