Pet Nutrition

Many pet owners take nutrition for granted. Did you know that


can assist in the management of various medical conditions, including kidney disease, diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease? From the very first day you bring a new pet home through the final days of its life, nutrition plays a critical role in your pet’s overall health and well-being.

One of the most common questions of any pet owner is, “what should I feed my pet?” This question, although important, can have surprising and complex answers. Nutrition is a key component of health, and nutritional requirements may vary with a pet’s species, age, health conditions, and reproductive status.

There are currently at least 44 nutritional parameters for cats and 37 nutritional parameters for dogs. How the food is packaged, stored, handled, and fed can also influence health. Most pet owners meet these needs of their pets by either preparing or purchasing food. Scavenging and hunting behaviors may also significantly impact the health and nutritional status of an individual pet.

Our veterinarians do NOT recommend feeding your pet a raw diet.

Preparing foods for your pet

Preparing a complete diet for your pet can be a very satisfying process, but it does require additional effort, knowledge, and expense. The complexity and cost of home food preparation mean that you should seek a veterinarian consultation before formulating a diet for your pets. A veterinarian should help you with information resources, ingredient selection, preparation, and diet formulation; this typically requires a separate, extended appointment beyond a typical health exam. Table food isn’t often toxic, but there are some ingredients to avoid. Even when harmful ingredients are avoided, it is important to limit table foods and treats to less than 10% of a pet’s caloric intake.

Purchasing foods for your pet:

Purchased foods now come with a bewildering variety of ingredients, brands, and marketing claims. The claims of pet food companies can be difficult to assess. The current FDA regulatory structure has no requirement for evaluating foods before distribution, meaning that the manufacturer does not necessarily have to prove their claims with feeding trials. FDA regulations state that food sold must be safe to eat, produced under sanitary conditions, truthfully labeled, and free of harmful substances. The truthful labeling requirement is particularly important. Such labels must specify that a food is nutritionally adequate for a given species and must also contain a guaranteed nutrient analysis. Unless the food manufacturer agrees to follow guidelines or feeding trials outlined by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), it is not consumable. Even with AAFCO approval, it is important to treat food manufacturers’ marketing claims with a healthy degree of skepticism.

Prescription foods

These foods have been designed to treat specific diseases of pets. Published, peer-reviewed studies will validate a high-quality prescription diet. These diets should be used with the guidance of a veterinarian familiar with your pet’s health condition. Typically, prescription foods have not been designed for use in healthy animals.

Canned vs. Dried Foods

Good pet foods can take a variety of forms, but there are important differences in packaging. Canned foods have higher water content and have a lower risk of food transmitted disease. Because unopened cans do not spoil, it may be possible to make canned foods higher in fat content. The odors and textures associated with canned foods are often more palatable to pets. Dried foods are often more economical and may promote better Dental Health in pets that extensively chew their food. Measuring portions of dried foods can also be very easy using a scale or baking supplies. The ease of measurement may be helpful when encouraging a pet to lose weight.

What brand should I buy?:

No diet will ever be perfect for the needs of all animals. Ask your Veterinarian or their staff to evaluate the food you are currently using or one you would like to use. As your pet changes, the optimal food choices may change with time. Recent information regarding FDA recalls new diets and changing ingredient sources present special challenges for pet owners. Veterinary professionals can help you to make good decisions when presented with biased or conflicting information about pet nutrition. If you would like to learn more about the nutritional needs of your pet, we recommend making an appointment with a member of our Veterinary Hospital. We can discuss the pet’s specific needs based on breed, age, and lifestyle.

Read The Labels Carefully

Pet food labels provide valuable insight into the quality of the food. When selecting a nutritious pet food for your trusty companion, pay close attention to the nutritional adequacy statement, listing of ingredients, feeding directions and guaranteed analysis.

What Dogs and Cats Shouldn’t Eat.

It can be difficult to keep your dog or cat on the dietary straight-and-narrow. Many pets enjoy eating inappropriate or unusual things. Here are some guidelines for ensuring that your cat or dog doesn’t eat anything it shouldn’t.

The basics include not eating anything which isn’t food! Eating feces can cause infestation (or reinfestation) with a variety of worms, in addition to creating some stinky breath! Batteries, string or rope, or plants can all be real hazards! Batteries can degrade with stomach acids and release toxins. String or rope can obstruct the intestines requiring surgery, and many plants are toxic in their own right.

No over-the-counter medications should be allowed for your pet. As humans, we think nothing of popping a Tylenol or Advil if we feel achy or sore—even a child’s dose of these medications can kill a cat instantly or cause severe and potentially fatal liver damage to dogs. Please call your Veterinarian if you feel your pet is in discomfort for a safe medication recommendation.

Human foods are often toxic or can cause some severe gastrointestinal consequences:

  • Garlic and onions are known to cause a breakdown of red blood cells, which means that oxygen won’t get to the tissues.
  • Citrus can cause significant central nervous system depression if the essential oils (found in the stems, peels, fruit, and seeds) are eaten in significant enough quantities.
  • Raisins and grapes cause an “idiopathic renal toxicity,” which means that the kidneys can shut down due to a not fully understood mechanism.
  • Avocados tend to cause mild stomach upset – except for the pit, which can cause intestinal obstruction and require surgical removal.
  • Alcohol can affect dogs and cats lead to coma and death at much smaller doses than in most humans.
  • Undercooked meats, eggs, and bones can cause bacterial and parasitic illnesses in dogs – just like in people! There is also a concern about bones splintering and breaking, potentially causing your pet to choke.
  • Coconut oils may cause stomach upset, and the water is unsafe due to its elevation in potassium.
  • Nuts can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and a disease called pancreatitis due to the high level of fats and oils. Macadamia nuts can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors, and hyperthermia, with symptoms lasting from 12 hours to 2 days.
  • Dairy is ideally not on a cat’s or dog’s diet, as they do not have the enzymes that break down dairy. Milk and dairy will usually cause diarrhea or some other digestive upset.
  • Xylitol is an artificial sweetener in various foods, gums, candies, and even hygiene products like toothpaste. Even in very small amounts, Xylitol causes liver failure, with initial signs of toxicosis including vomiting, lethargy, and loss of coordination.
  • Yeast doughs can rise even after being ingested, causing gas to be discharged into your pet’s digestive tract; this can lead to a life-threatening condition called gastric dilation and volvulus, which are also very painful.
  • Salt and salty foods, including cold cuts and snack foods, can lead to sodium poisoning – beyond the excessive thirst and urination they promote.
  • Wild mushrooms growing outside are not fit for animal or human consumption. Make sure your dog isn’t munching on anything growing wild in the yard.

If you have concerns about something your pet has ingested, please call your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Control number: (888) 426-4435.

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