A balanced diet is key to ensuring your pet’s overall health, as it is for people. But, choosing the right diet and understanding how to properly feed your pet can be confusing and overwhelming, especially with the seemingly endless number of pet food options. Multiple factors determine your pet’s nutritional needs to ensure they have adequate energy and maintain a healthy weight throughout all life’s phases. Follow these three tips from your Belmont Animal Hospital veterinary team to ensure your pet’s nutrition is on track from puppy- and kitten-hood to their grey muzzle years.
#1: Nutrition should support your pet’s age and lifestyle
Throughout your pet’s life, you will need to adjust their diet type and feeding schedule based on multiple factors, including adequate weight maintenance, a shiny coat, and regular bowel movements. If you notice changes in your pet’s weight or hair coat, or if they are having digestive issues, they may not be getting proper nutrition; however, always consult your veterinarian, as a medical condition unrelated to your pet’s diet may be the problem. Additionally, consider the following factors when choosing your pet’s diet:
- Age — Your pet’s diet should be formulated for their age or their life stage, including lactation and gestation, growth stage, adult maintenance, and senior years. For example, a puppy or kitten requires nutrient-dense food to ensure growth of their developing body, while a senior pet’s diet should support aging organs and joint health.
- Activity level — If your four-legged friend is your daily running partner, they will likely require more calories, compared with your lazy indoor lap dog.
- Climate — Your outdoor exploring feline or exercise buddy will need more nutrient-dense food during the colder winter months to maintain body weight and warmth.
- Medical conditions — Food therapy is a common supplemental treatment for many medical conditions, such as kidney or heart disease. For example, if your pet is experiencing skin allergies, your Belmont Animal Hospital veterinarian may recommend a hypoallergenic food for your pet.
#2: Too many treats can make your pet obese
Feeding your beloved four-legged friend too many treats is often the reason for their extra pounds. Pet obesity is a leading health problem in pets—the Association for Pet Obesity and Prevention reported that in 2018, approximately 60% of cats and 56% of dogs were overweight or obese. These pets are especially at risk for multiple health problems that could decrease the precious time left with your pet, and their quality of life. Problems include:
- Arthritis — Extra weight is stressful for your pet’s joints and muscles and can lead to painful bone and joint inflammation.
- Skin disease — Overweight animals, especially cats, may have difficulty grooming themselves and will be susceptible to dry skin, matted fur, and bacterial infections.
- Diabetes — Obese pets are at risk of developing high blood sugar that is not easily controlled without insulin injections.
- High blood pressure and heart disease — Excess weight is stressful on your pet’s circulatory system, and puts them at higher risk for heart disease and high blood pressure.
Use caution when feeding your pet treats and ensure they do not compose more than 10% of their daily calorie intake. Additionally, as part of your pet’s annual preventive care exams, your pet will be weighed and assigned a body condition score (BCS). BCS is a good tool to help determine if your pet is adequately fed. Your Belmont Animal Hospital veterinarian will also use the BCS to assess your pet’s overall health.
#3: Read the pet food label carefully
Feeding your pet a high quality food will ensure they receive all the key nutrients to support their health and lifestyle needs. The Association of the American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has established guidelines for pet food labels and balanced nutrition. Ensure that your pet’s food meets AAFCO standards by checking that food is labeled as complete and balanced for your pet’s life stage. Complete and balanced diets have been through rigorous AAFCO feeding trials, or they contain all the required nutrients needed to maintain your pet’s health. All the pet foods available in your Belmont Animal Hospital online pharmacy meet AAFCO nutritional standards.
Our Belmont Animal Hospital team is here to help you choose the right diet for all your pet’s life stages. If you would like to schedule a dietary counseling appointment, or have questions about your pet’s nutritional needs, call or email our office. We are always here to help.