Complete and Balanced: Your Pet’s Diet Matters
You probably know that the food your pet eats plays a big role in overall health, but did you know that pet food ingredients are less important than the nutrients? The quality, digestibility, and safety of the food also make a difference, and because of the wide range of choices available, pet owners can have a hard time figuring out what food is best for their pets. We’re here to help!
Pet Nutrition 101
Dogs and cats both have specific nutritional needs, which can change over time, depending on life stage and health status (whether a pet has a disease or medical condition that requires a specialized diet).
As a pet owner, you have a responsibility to ensure that your pet gets a nutritionally complete and balanced diet, which means that it contains the proper amount of essential nutrients in the correct ratios. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to determine which pet foods are safe and meet pets’ nutritional needs.
When looking at a diet, you want to avoid focusing on the ingredients and instead pay attention to the nutrients that the food provides, as well as the quality and digestibility of the food.
All dogs and cats require the following basic nutrients as part of their diet:
These nutrient categories can be further broken down into the essential nutrients. These include:
- Essential amino acids, the building blocks of proteins
- Essential fatty acids, such as EPA and DHA (eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, both key omega-3 fatty acids)
- Vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K and choline
- Minerals such as calcium, copper, potassium, magnesium, and sodium
Supplementation is not generally necessary and can be harmful. Your veterinarian may recommend a supplement for specific pets in very specific circumstances.
The Special Nutritional Needs of Cats
Both dogs and cats have specific nutritional needs, but cats’ needs tend to be a bit more specific. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they need to consume meat to survive. They also can’t make certain essential nutrients (or can’t make them well). Their regular food must provide an amino acid called taurine, as well as other essential nutrients, such as arginine, niacin, vitamin A, and vitamin D.
Pet Food Labels
So how can you tell if a food is appropriate for your pet? You might be surprised to learn that pet food labels aren’t the answer. They don’t provide information about quality, and you can’t generally tell by looking at the label whether a food will be digestible for your pet. However, if the label says the food is “completed and balanced,” it does mean that the food provides all the essential nutrients in the right amounts for a specific species (dog or cat).
Some pet foods include ingredients that may appeal to pet owners but don’t provide any significant nutritional value.
Most pet food labels also list the life stage that the food is intended for.
Your pet’s nutritional needs may change during different life stages and for a number of other reasons, including level of activity, lifestyle, and health. Pet foods are often tailored to these life stages:
- Adult maintenance
Nutritional needs vary over time and from pet to pet, so your veterinarian will evaluate your individual dog or cat before recommending a specific food.
For pets who have certain health conditions, we may recommend a therapeutic diet. These special diets are manufactured to maintain the health of pets with specific health problems. For instance, pets with chronic kidney disease, heart disease, skin issues, or food allergies can all benefit from tailored nutrition.
The Truth About Raw Diets
Raw diets continue making headlines, and social media posts promoting their purported benefits seem to pop up every day. But let’s be clear: Raw diets are NOT safe and pose significant health risks to both people and pets.
Here are some truths about raw diets:
- Raw diets may contain parasites. Raw meat has been found to contain parasites like tapeworms and Toxoplasma.
- Raw diets carry a high risk of bacterial contamination. Raw foods can harbour bacteria such as Campylobacter and Salmonella. Even when raw food is handled properly, safety is not guaranteed.
- Raw diets can make people sick as well. Children and immunocompromised people are especially at risk for food poisoning.
- Raw diets do not help keep pets trim. In fact, feeding pets a raw diet may result in feeding too many calories.
- Raw diets have not been proven to provide other health benefits. There is no scientific evidence that raw diets help improve pets’ oral health, help them live longer, or cure diseases.
- Bones are dangerous for pets to consume. They can crack teeth and cause punctures in a pet’s mouth and digestive tract. Bones can also get stuck in the throat and intestines, causing a potentially dangerous obstruction.
- Raw diets often have nutritional imbalances. As previously mentioned, the correct ratio of nutrients in pet food is essential, and many raw diets don’t meet this basic standard.
The risk of raw diets far outweighs any supposed benefits.
At Watzin Veterinary Clinic, we know how important it is to feed your pet the right diet for his or her individual needs. Unlike a pet store, we make personalized dietary recommendations for each of our patients, based on history, physical findings, health, your pet’s needs, and your preferences.
We recommend premium Royal Canin diets because they provide precise nutrition for pets’ specific life stages, sizes, and any health conditions. Royal Canin diets are available for purchase in our retail section and through our online store.
Call us today to set up an appointment so we can recommend the best food for your pet!