Diet & Nutrition
If your adult dog or cat is healthy, you may have chosen a pet food based simply on whether your pet will eat it. Cost may also play a factor in your decision. However, not all pet foods are equal. And feeding the right amount is not as simple as following the directions on the package (they are just guidelines). Choosing an appropriate diet can set your pet on a path of lifelong good nutrition and help prevent many problems, including allergies, nutritional deficiencies, skin and coat disorders, and obesity.
Nutritional requirements for dogs and cats vary depending on a variety of factors, including age, breed, and health. For instance, senior pets have significantly different requirements than puppies or kittens, and animals with diabetes, kidney disease, and other health conditions can benefit from special diets. Our veterinarian can help you make informed decisions about your pet’s diet. We can counsel you on which foods are the best choices based on your pet’s needs and your financial considerations, how much to feed, and even how to decode pet food labels. We can create a nutrition plan specifically for your pet, and we are also happy to work with owners to help their overweight pets get down to a healthy weight. We welcome the opportunity to setup a personalized nutrition consultation for you and your pet.
Puppies & Kittens
Puppies and kittens have the highest need for calories, protein and calcium of all life stages, so you should look for commercial diets that are AAFCO rated for puppies or kittens. This age group should be fed as much as they want to eat and drink each day. This will ensure they get enough calories for their current size and daily growth.
There are two ways that food can be provided: meals or free choice. A meal system for puppies would be offering 3 to 4 meals per day at a set time. The puppy can eat all they wish, but when they are done and walk away, the food bowl is removed. By organizing their meals, you will also organize their pooping schedule. This can help with house training efforts.
The free choice method means always keeping the food bowl full and the puppy eats whenever he or she wants. This way also allows the puppy to eat all they want, but does not organize it, so elimination may be more random. Another drawback to this method is other dogs living in the household may get into the puppy’s food and overeat.
All puppies that will be 65 lbs. or larger as an adult, should have a puppy diet specifically designated for “large breed” puppies in the title. This will help their bones, muscles, and ligaments to grow at the appropriate rate. Proper nutrition can also decrease the expression of hip dysplasia, a genetically passed, arthritic condition found in some young, large breed dogs. When a puppy reaches 9 months of age, they are usually ready for 2 meals per day and most can transition to an AAFCO rated adult food between 9 and 12 months of age. Once they are at their adult weight, feed to maintain that weight guided by the feeding chart on the back of the bag of food. If your puppy is a giant breed dog, they should remain on puppy food until 18 months old and then transition to an AAFCO adult diet with “large breed” in the title. Any breed that is over 100 lbs. as an adult, is considered a giant breed.
Kittens do best on a free choice method of feeding. They will eat multiple small meals a day, even as an adult cat. They will be ready for an adult diet at 9 to 12 months of age. Once they stop growing, limit the amount of food daily to the appropriate amount to maintain that weight and continue to offer it free choice. Cats are prone to developing texture and flavor preferences if they are not offered options regularly, at an early age. So, kittens and cats should be offered both dry and moist textured foods. This way, if it becomes necessary to switch to a different texture/flavor later in life, it will be easier for them and you.