With all the diets out there for cats and dogs, it can be hard to determine what to feed them. To start, we recommend that dogs eat dog food and cats eat cat food. Dogs and cats have different nutritional requirements and it is important that they eat the right food for their species. Here are a few other tips for picking out the right diet:
Puppies and kittens should eat puppy or kitten food until they are one year old. Nursing moms should also eat puppy or kitten food. Because of milk production and nursing growing puppies, mothers need more nutrient-dense food like puppy or kitten food to meet those energy demands.
Try using food that fits your pet’s current life stage: puppy or kitten food for pets under one-year-old, adult food for pets between one and seven years old and then senior food for pets over seven years of age.
Stick to one diet. If your pet is doing well on it (no vomiting or diarrhea), there is no need to switch it. It is common to think that our pet may be bored with a certain flavor or brand, however, this is human thinking, not animal thinking. Pets do not understand quality or quantity and will do just fine eating the same flavor and brand forever.
If your pet vomits often, has frequent bouts of diarrhea or is very gassy, it may be beneficial to slowly switch your pet to a different diet. During bouts of illness, a bland diet of boiled hamburger or chicken and boiled plain white rice (boiled in water only) can help settle the stomach.
If your pet’s coat is dry and flaky, try supplementing their diet with fish oil. We are happy to give recommendations for which products to use.
We recommend that you do not free-feed cats and dogs. Food (including treats!) should be measured and given two to three times daily. Free-feeding often leads to obesity in both cats and dogs, which in turn can cause a variety of health problems. The average cat should only be given about ¾ cup of food daily. For dogs, use the chart on the bag of dog food the weight he or she SHOULD be. If you are concerned that your dog may be overweight, try switching to carrots or green beans for treats rather than processed treats.
Grain-free foods and raw diets are not recommended. The label on the bag or can of food that your pet eats should say ‘balanced nutrition’ or ‘complete nutrition.’ Commercial pet foods contain the required vitamins, minerals and nutrients that your pet needs. Fad diets like raw food or grain-free do not always have all the necessary ingredients in order to keep your pet healthy. Additionally, raw foods put pets and people at risk for infections from bacteria like Salmonella and E. Coli.
Sometimes your pet may need to be on a prescription diet for conditions relating to urinary tract health, GI upset, kidney disease, constipation, and pet obesity. Federal law requires that your pet has a physical examination by a licensed veterinarian done once a year in order to purchase prescription diets. We carry Purina and Royal Canin diets here at the hospital, but we have an Online Store where you can order other diets or brands that we do not carry.
Sometimes your pet can be allergic to certain foods. Although most allergies are due to the environment, there are times when your pet may be allergic to certain foods or ingredients. If we suspect that your pet may have a food allergy, we recommend doing an elimination diet (which can take 8 or more weeks to see results) and then possibly an allergy test to see exactly what he or she is allergic to. Once we have the results, we can recommend a food that does not contain those particular ingredients.
If you have any questions about your pet’s nutritional needs, please give our office a call at (207) 873-4668.