We are asked all the time in our hospital, “What is the best food to feed my pet?” Unfortunately, the question may be common, but finding the right answer is difficult. When choosing a healthy diet for your pet, there is no one perfect food. Over time, your pet’s nutritional needs will change, and what may have worked well in the past is no longer the best option. One brand may give one of your dogs a beautiful, glossy coat, but your other pet loose stool. Simply put, feed the pet in front of you. You may have to experiment with brands, protein sources, and nutritional content, but we are here to help you find the “best” food for your pet. Keep in mind that when giving new foods to your pet, you should switch slowly, to avoid gastrointestinal upset.
There may be no single perfect food for your pet, but you can use several methods to evaluate whether a particular diet is ideal for your furry pal. Here are our top tips on keeping your pet healthy through nutrition.
#1: Choose a diet appropriate for your pet’s age, size, and health status
At each life stage, your pet will require different nutrition for healthy growth or maintenance. Whether your pet is a puppy or a geriatric cat, choose the diet most appropriate for their needs. Puppy and kitten formulas are often higher in calories and fat, to supplement the body’s increased demand for energy, while senior diets have fewer calories, to avoid weight gain from decreased activity. Giant breeds require a vastly different nutrient profile than a Chihuahua, so ensure you pick out the size- and breed-appropriate food for your pooch.
#2: Determine your pet’s body condition score
Many people lament the number on the scale when determining their health, but weight is not the best indicator of a healthy pet—a more accurate measure is a body condition score. Since a proper weight can vary among pets of the same breed, a body condition score will reveal if your pet is healthy. You may find that objectivity about your own pet is difficult, or you may be unsure how to score body condition, so stop in for help. Our Best Friends Veterinary Care team will be happy to demonstrate the finer points of judging your pet’s body condition, and to offer tips on how to reach an ideal score.
#3: Calculate the number of calories your pet needs per day
Without knowing how many calories your pet needs each day for normal activities, you cannot know the appropriate amount to feed, to maintain a healthy weight. Your pet’s caloric needs will change based on physical activity, age, and spay or neuter status. Ask our team to calculate your pet’s daily calorie requirements, or use this handy calculator for your cat or dog.
#4: Measure your pet’s food correctly
Be honest—are you guilty of filling your pet’s food dish whenever it runs low, or tossing in a scoop or two when your pet stares at you, begging? The quickest way to make your pet obese is to refrain from correctly measuring food.
#5: Discuss your pet’s nutritional needs with our veterinarians
Nobody knows your pet’s nutritional needs better than our veterinarians at Best Friends Veterinary Care. We carefully evaluate your furry pal’s entire medical history, to ensure we recommend the most appropriate diet. For example, your cat may be prone to urinary issues when experiencing stress, which is a common feline problem. To alleviate your cat’s stress, and prevent urination on your bed, we’d recommend a diet proven to promote urinary health and a calming effect. We can also create diet plans for other health issues, including:
- Weight loss
- Weight gain
- Kidney disease
- Liver failure
- Joint pain
- Heart disease
- Thyroid imbalances
- Gastrointestinal issues
As you can see, your pet’s food can potentially do a lot more than sate their appetite, but before switching your pet’s diet to help with a specific disease, talk to our veterinarians. Many pet owners try to provide the best for their beloved companions, but cause more harm than good by choosing a diet without the benefit of veterinary science.
A prime example of pet owners falling prey to marketing gimmicks is the grain-free food fad. Dogs have come a long way from their lupine ancestors, and are highly capable of metabolizing starches, so a nutritious grain in their diet is perfectly fine. Also, grains do not cause allergies in pets. In fact, food allergies are rare, and almost always caused by the diet’s protein source, rather than the carbohydrate. If your pet has a food allergy, chicken or lamb are the more likely causes than corn or rice. In addition to these common misconceptions, a grain-free diet may lead to heart disease in your dog. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is still conducting research, but there is a potential link between grain-free, boutique, or exotic-ingredient diets, and dilated cardiomyopathy.
Since your pet’s diet plays such an important part in overall health and well-being, ask us what will best suit your four-legged friend’s specific needs. Give us a call to schedule a nutritional consultation.
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