Nutritional advice for dogs and cats

When we think about weight management in pets it can be easy to focus on their exercise routine and how active they might, or might not, be. However, getting them out for their daily walk is only part of it, and in fact what they eat from one day to the next plays an equally important role.

We all know that the better our diet and the healthier our food, then the higher the chance of us having a better quality of life. Well, the same goes for our pets! By ensuring that our animals’ diet is a balanced one packed with the highest quality ingredients and best nutrition, we can make a direct positive impact on their health. The result can mean reduced allergies that cause skin and ear problems, better gastrointestinal health, and stronger bones and muscles. Better nutrition also provides longer term benefits by causing less stress on our pet’s organs and boosting their immune systems.

Below, we take a look at the main components that can make up a pet’s diet:

These can have differing levels of importance for dogs. They rely on them to provide a quick energy source but also require slow-release complex carbohydrates to ensure they have sustained energy across their day. Cats also use carbohydrates as an additional energy source, however it is not their primary one therefore if their diet has higher levels of carbohydrates compared to other components such as meat, it can be less digestible for our felines.

Both dogs and cats require protein in their diets to assist with growth and repair of the body. When considering proteins, it is best to focus on the ingredients of food and look for named meat or fish sources higher up in the listings. This can signify higher quality food containing more usable proteins that your animal will find easier to digest. One thing to remember for cats is that they will use protein as one of their primary energy sources so will require more of it in their diet than dogs. For their bodily systems, especially the heart, to function properly they also need the protein ‘Taurine’ in their food.

These are considered a primary energy source for both dogs and cats. They can be present in different forms however, causing varying levels of digestibility. The key factor is the quality of the fat – ingredients that specify where the fat has come from, e.g. chicken fat, will be easier for your pet to digest. Poorer quality fats, such as beef can contain more fatty particles, which increases the level of cholesterol in your pet’s body and the risk of health conditions that affect the heart and circulatory system.

Fibre in your pet’s diet plays an important role in aiding gut mobility and maintaining moisture levels, ensuring they have healthy stools. It can be found from various sources in their diet including vegetable, plant, grain and fruit and is classed as either Soluble or Insoluble. For both dogs and cats, it is important that there is a balance of both types of fibre to support the digestive system. Foods containing prebiotic fibres will also boost your pet’s immune system by strengthening the good bacteria in the gut.

As with some of the other components, it is advisable to scan the ingredients of any food you are considering for named sources of the oils included. Oils provide those essential fatty acids that your pet needs (such as Omega 3 & 6) and these tend to be more readily available in meat and fish-based oils as they are more natural and are easier for your pet to digest. Lower quality oils, such as Rapeseed or Canola, can lead to digestive tract irritation as they have less Omegas readily available.

Like us, an animal’s diet can change dependant on their life stage. It is possible to find food that is suitable for your pet across all of their life stages, however, below is some guidance to consider:

Puppies and kittens
Being so young and small, it comes as no surprise that puppies and kittens will require more energy to help them with their growth process into adults. The fuel needed for this will be found in diets containing more fat and calories.

Senior pets
With older pets, the emphasis changes when it comes to components of their diet. The levels of fat and calories need to be reduced as their lifestyles are less active and their metabolisms are slower than when they were younger. Protein levels should also be reduced to maintain kidney function. Joint care supplements are also important in senior pet diets to ensure their joints are soothed and protected after many years of hard work.

Weight control pets
When considering weight management for our pets, light foods can be an option. These contain fewer calories and fat to keep excess weight to a minimum, as well as higher levels of fibre. They may also include ingredients that help your pet to break down body fat easier and switch on the genes for weight loss.

When taking all of the above into account, it can be a minefield trying to pick the right diet and food for your pet, especially with the wide range available nowadays. Therefore, if you need any advice regarding the most suitable diet for your pet, or would like to discuss their weight management, please get in touch with us to find out how we can help.