Taking a new pet home is one of the most exciting things in the world, but with it comes a great deal of responsibility. It is your job to feed them, exercise them, entertain them, and love them. Dropping the ball in any one of those areas could lead to illness, injury, or worse.
If you’re considering introducing a new pooch or kitty into your home, this is what you’ll need to know, to ensure you’re taking care of their dietary needs as much as possible.
Dogs vs Cats: Nutritional Needs
There is no one-size-fits-all answer for nutrition when it comes to pets. To start with, dogs and cats have very different requirements. Even two dogs side-by-side can have different nutritional needs.
Nutritional Needs for Cats
While dogs are omnivores and can eat both plant-based and animal-based foods, cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they require a primarily meat-based diet. Young pups and kittens also need different amounts of different nutrients. Kittens, for example, need foods that contain a higher amount of amino acids, particularly taurine. Without it, those kittens could face health problems such as full or partial blindness and heart conditions.
Nutritional Needs for Dogs
While cats have a rather strict and restricted diet, dogs have a more flexible menu. While meat should make up a significant portion of a dog’s diet, they can also eat grains, vegetables, and fruits. They can digest plant-based proteins and carbohydrates, but cats cannot.
High-quality proteins are important for your pampered pooches. This includes animal sources such as:
- Fish – whitefish and salmon particularly;
How to Pick High-Quality Food for Your Dog or Cat
Cat and dog food that has “complete” and/or “balanced nutrition” in the name contains all nutrients that your pet will need.
For dogs, complete food will contain a mix of water, minerals, vitamins, fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, in the right amounts. Carbohydrates provide energy for dogs, but they should be consumed in moderation. High-quality sources of carbohydrates for pups include brown rice, sweet potatoes, and oatmeal. On the other hand, cats have a limited need for carbohydrates in their diet, and they get most of their energy from protein and fat. Protein is an essential nutrient for both dogs and cats, as it helps to build and repair tissues, maintain muscle mass, and support the immune system. High-quality sources of protein include meat, poultry, fish, and eggs.
Other nutrients that dogs need include:
- Linoleic acid;
- Vitamins A, D, E, and K (they produce vitamin C on their own);
- Complex B-vitamins;
Cats need many of the same nutrients, but they require amino acids, such as taurine, especially at juvenile age. It is important for maintaining heart and eye health. Taurine deficiencies can lead to serious health problems, so it’s important to ensure that your cat receives enough in their diet.
Taurine is also considered an essential amino acid for dogs, meaning that they require it in their diet, as they cannot produce it themselves. Taurine is found in many different types of meat, particularly in muscle meat such as chicken, beef, and lamb.
It’s important to provide your pet with food specifically made for their age group – puppy or kitten age, one year plus, seven years plus, senior age, etc.
Cat and Dog Portion Sizes
As well as serving up the right food, it’s also important to feed your pets the right portion sizes. Overfeeding can lead to obesity and other health problems, while underfeeding can result in malnourishment and weakness.
Several factors will alter how much you need to feed your furry family members. How old they are, how much they weigh, level of activity, whether they have underlying health conditions, and general health and well-being are all important factors. Adult dogs and cats should be fed two meals per day, ideally; although some pets may require more frequent feedings, particularly if they are young or have specific health conditions.
Take a look at the packaging of pet food and you’ll find recommended serving sizes, but this is just a starting point. If you have a particularly active and zoomy dog, they’ll burn off more calories in a day, so will require a little more than your other dog, who mostly sleeps all day.
Your pet’s diet will change throughout its life, increasing when they first hit adulthood, then decreasing again when they reach senior age.
As always, your four-legged friends should have a steady supply of fresh, clean drinking water. If this is something you and your pets struggle with, consider adding more wet food to their dry food diet.
Vitamins and Supplements: Are They Necessary?
Pets fed with complete and nutritionally balanced food should not need additional supplements, but this applies only to fit and healthy dogs, with no other health conditions.
For example, if your pets are on a vegetarian or vegan diet, they may require additions to ensure they receive enough amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. There is a long list of health conditions that can affect how pets absorb nutrients. In such a case, additional supplements are vital to maintain good health.
It’s essential to note that not all supplements are beneficial or necessary for pets. Some can be harmful and may even be toxic, so it’s important to consult with your veterinarian before giving your pet any supplements. Your veterinarian can help you determine which ones you actually need, if any, are appropriate for your pet based on their individual needs.
Are Deficiencies Dangerous?
Yes, dietary deficiencies are dangerous in cats, dogs, humans, and many other creatures.
Pets can become deficient in several ways. It can be an unwanted side effect of illness or injury, and medication; and it’s very common for abused and neglected pets to be rescued in a state of deficiency.
If your cat or dog is recovering from surgery or a severe illness, they may require a specific diet to help them heal and regain their strength. In these cases, your vet may recommend a prescription diet or a specially formulated nutritional supplement to provide your pet with necessary nutrients and support their recovery.
If you believe your pet could have a deficiency or doesn’t have a balanced diet (pets can be picky, after all), seek advice from a vet. It could be a sign of an underlying medical condition that requires treatment. If you have a pet fund for crisis situations, you can ensure that your precious pet gets the treatment they need as quickly as possible.
Healthy nutrition is critical for the health and well-being of dogs and cats. While dogs and cats have different nutritional needs, you ensure that their diets include high-quality proteins, vitamins, and minerals. A balanced and complete diet that includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods is sufficient to meet your pet’s nutritional needs.
If your pets have specific health conditions or are on a restricted diet, they may require additional supplementation. It’s crucial to consult with your veterinarian before giving your pet vitamin and mineral supplements, however. Having too much of one nutrient in your pet’s diet can be just as dangerous – and even more so – than deficiencies.
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