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The Importance of Feeding Your Pet a Healthy Diet

8:28 pm

Healthy Diet for Pets

People evaluate their diet and exercise habits, and resolve to make healthy changes, every New Year. Responsible pet owners also make good choices to keep their furry friends healthy. Include your pet in your resolutions to ensure she enjoys a long life by your side, starting by assessing your pet’s diet, since more than 50% of dogs and cats are overweight. If a diet overhaul is in order, start the New Year off right by following these guidelines:


#1: Choose a Healthy Diet for Your Pet

Your dog or cat should eat a commercial pet food designed to keep her healthy throughout her life, but with aisles of choices, choosing the perfect product can be challenging. With so many factors to consider, follow these basic tips:

  • Select a well-known, high quality pet food — Large, well-known pet-food companies devote time and research to developing trust-worthy products for your pet. Avoid bargain brands, which often contain fillers and low quality ingredients, and choose a mid- to high-end food that contains good protein and carbohydrate sources. Also, avoid boutique diets, which may sound nutritious, but often lack research and analysis to prove their nutritional value.
  • Choose an appropriate diet for your pet’s life stage — Diets are formulated to provide appropriate nutrient amounts for different life stages, such as growth, adulthood, and pregnancy, and the appropriate amounts of macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals will help your pet function optimally. 
  • Choose a diet formulated for your pet’s size — Choosing the appropriate diet for your pet’s size can help prevent developmental diseases. Large-breed dog food, for example, not only contains larger bites, but is also formulated to support the growth and development of large dogs, who may be predisposed to joint disease. 
  • Consult your family veterinarian — Your veterinarian is familiar with your pet’s health history, body condition, and activity level, and can advise you in choosing a diet that best fits her needs.

#2: Feed Your Pet an Appropriate Calorie Amount Healthy Diet for Pets

Overfeeding is the most likely obesity culprit, yet many pet owners fail to measure their pet’s food. Pets should not be free-fed (i.e., their food bowl filled whenever it is empty), because most will overeat and become overweight. To determine the appropriate amount to feed your pet, weigh her, and refer to the package instructions for a specific food amount. For a more accurate determination, ask your family veterinarian to calculate your pet’s energy requirement, which is based on her weight, body condition, and life stage. Then, convert the calculated daily calorie intake to a cup measurement that you divide into two daily feedings. At each meal, use a measuring cup to ensure you do not overfeed your pet.

#3: Choose Healthy Treats for Your Pet

Suggesting that pet owners forego giving treats to their pets is simply not reasonable. Like snacking between meals, treats are OK, but you must subtract the calories from your pet’s daily allotment and feed her less at mealtime. Limit your pet to only a few store-bought treats each day, as most are high in calories. Feed your pet healthier options, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, which pack fewer calories, so she can enjoy more throughout the day. Dogs often enjoy raw carrots and green beans as much as dog biscuits, and many cats like pumpkin and cantaloupe.

#4: Limit Table Food for Your Pet

Feeding a few bites of healthy vegetables or lean meat may be acceptable, but most human foods are high in fat and calories and are not only unhealthy for your pet, but also can make her ill. For example, rich, fatty foods can cause pancreatitis, which often requires hospitalization for resolution, and other human foods, such as grapes, chocolate, and sugar-free candy, are toxic to pets and can cause life-threatening illness, so sticking to pet food is safest. 

If you have questions about your pet’s diet, consult your family veterinarian to discuss healthy food options.