Why is good nutrition important for my pet?

It is vital that your pet receives proper nutrition for many reasons. It is important to ensure that your pet companions eat a balanced and healthy diet for their health and quality of life. This can also help boost their immune system, prevent chronic diseases, and improve their longevity. Nutritional deficiencies/excesses can lead to severe health problems like allergies, heart disease, kidney disease, and other organ dysfunction.

A good pet food will give your pet a balanced and complete diet. The right mixture of nutrients and minerals is provided. It is not necessary to add other foods, treats, people food or vitamins to an already high-quality diet. This can be harmful. You cannot make a bad diet better by adding supplements.

We see pets at BBVSH when they require special care because of issues that are often caused by chronic diseases. Nutrition is a key factor in preventing these diseases and avoiding costly hospital visits.

Good nutrition has many benefits

Providing your pet with the proper nutrition will improve its overall health. Without a balanced diet, your pet will be less able to perform daily tasks and remain energetic, active, and healthy.
Four main benefits of good pet nutrition

  • Pets require the correct balance of fatty acid to maintain healthy skin and hair. These nutrients can cause your pet’s coat to split, fall out or break if they are not given. Fatty acids can help to prevent skin issues, reduce irritation and combat inflammation.
  • Improved muscle tone, improved body condition and better overall health: Proteins are essential nutrients for your pet to build muscles, organs, hair, skin and other tissues. Proteins are the building blocks of your pet’s body, and they require more to create or repair damaged cells. It is especially important to ensure that your pet gets enough protein when they are young, growing or pregnant.
  • Support for the immune system and prevention of disease: Vitamins are an essential part of your pet’s food. They are vital in preventing illnesses and supporting their immune systems. Minerals promote a healthy immune system, while many vitamins reduce the damage to the cells in the body.
  • Proper digestion: Carbohydrates in the food of your pet’s friend are the nutrients that help with digestion and elimination. It is essential that your pet’s food is easily digestible so it can use the nutrients.

Dogs and cats can benefit from a healthy diet

The nutritional requirements of cats and dogs vary depending on their age, health and activity level. While cats and dogs are both members of the Carnivora family, the feeding habits of the dog is more omnivorous than that the cat. Cats must consume certain nutrients that can only be found in animal products.
The different needs of cats and dogs are summarized in the following way:

  1. Both cats and dogs require protein for growth, energy and repair. Cats require more protein than dogs, both during the growing stage and as an adult. When fed a low-protein diet, cats are less able down-regulate the rate of protein breakdown. Check that the pet food you buy for your cat contains high levels of protein before purchasing it.
  2. Taurine is a type of amino acid found in most tissues. While cats are required to consume taurine preformed from animal-based products, dogs can make enough taurine by combining other amino acids.
  3. Both cats and dogs require Vitamin B3 and A for healthy skin and vision. Dogs and cats can both get Vitamin A preformed from plant-based or animal-based sources. Vitamin B3 can only be obtained by cats if they eat the preformed form.
  4. Fatty Acid: This is essential for energy production. Cats can only get it from animal-based foods, while dogs can get it from both animal and plant-based sources.

Nutritional Management of Chronic Pet Diseases

The right nutrition is crucial in managing and preventing chronic diseases of pets. It is important for responsible pet owners to understand the impact that diet has on our companions’ health.

  1. Obesity in Pets and Its Consequences: One of the most common chronic diseases is obesity. This can cause diabetes, joint pain and heart disease. To prevent obesity, you should provide a diet that is balanced for your pet’s age, size and level of activity. Exercise and playtime is equally important to maintain a healthy weight.
  2. Promoting dental health – Dental disease can cause pain, infection, and even organ damage if left untreated. Maintaining good oral health is dependent on nutrition. Include crunchy foods and chews to your pet’s food. This will help them keep their teeth strong and clean. Regular dental cleanings and checkups are also essential to prevent dental problems and ensure overall health.
  3. Managing chronic kidney diseases – Chronic renal disease is common in pets. However, it can be managed effectively through good nutrition. You can slow down the progression of kidney disease by feeding your pet a low-protein diet. Specialized diets formulated specifically for renal health are also available to support optimal kidney function.
  4. Nutritional strategies to prevent and manage cancer – Nutrition plays an important role in the prevention and management of certain types cancers in pets. A diet rich in antioxidants will strengthen your immune system and fight cancer cells. A low-fat pet food can also reduce your pet’s risk of certain cancers, improving their overall health.
  5. Preventing dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM), in Dogs – Dr. Mark Harmon is one of our resident cardiologists who speaks often about the relationship between diet and heart diseases in dogs. Diets that contain peas and lentils as well as chickpeas and dried beans are associated with DCM, a form of heart disease. It is not necessary to include grains in diets for them to be safe. “Even though the FDA stopped collecting data, this issue still occurs and is seen often in our pets here in B.C.,” Dr. Mark Harmon said. Here you can listen to Dr. Harmon talk more about this.
  6. Urinary tract in cats: Inflammation in the lower urinary system (also called FUS, FLUTD or LUTS), is a common problem among cats. The signs include urinating in the house, sighing or crying in the litterbox, and blood in the urine. Some male cats become “blocked”, meaning they are unable to urinate. This is a serious emergency and requires immediate veterinary care.
  7. The problem is complex, but diet has a major role to play. Cat food that produces moderately acidic urin should be fed to cats in order to reduce the risk of urinary tract issues. Problems can arise if urine is too acidic or alkaline. Foods that are labeled as “low ash”, “low mineral”, or similar do not always meet these criteria. Speak to your vet about diets that are recommended for urinary health. According to research, cats who are fed moist foods, receive environmental enrichment and drink more water have a lower incidence of urinary tract infections.

Tips on selecting the best food for your pets

1. Life Stages

Pets’ nutritional requirements will change over time, due to their age, level of activity, health, and lifestyle. Pet food is generally tailored to the following life stage:

  • Gestation and lactation
  • Growth (puppy/kitten)
  • Adult Maintenance
  • The life stages

The label should indicate if the food is suitable for dogs that are expected to grow up to 70 pounds (32 kg) in adulthood. All-life-stage diets are calorie dense and may not be suitable for dogs who tend to gain weight.
There are no nutrition standards for senior pets diets. However, manufacturers sell commercial diets that are marketed to older pets. You can ask your veterinarian if a diet change would benefit an older cat or dog.

2. Ingredient labels

The “Guaranteed Analyses” of the contents in a bag are a poor indication of the nutritional value of the food. The analysis may list the ingredients and the amounts but the quality is just as important as quantity. Low-quality ingredients can be lacking in certain nutrients or difficult to digest. Smaller amounts of higher-quality ingredients can often result in better nutrition. The best foods are generally those that use high-quality ingredients and are made by companies who have strong research and development programs.

3. Pet food certification

In Canada and the United States, several different organizations test and certify pet food to ensure that they meet the nutritional requirements for a normal animal. Talk to your vet about the best foods for pets with special requirements.

Farmer’s Dog Food 2024: Unveiling the Best in Canine Nutrition and Health

4. What is the raw food diet?

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association finds that there are compelling health risks for pets who consume raw meat-based pet food, including raw-meat-based diets. This also applies to humans in contact with these products or pets that consume such foods.

  • Numerous studies conducted over the last several decades have shown that raw meat-based pet food products (RMB), including raw meat based diets (RMBD), may contain pathogens harmful for animals and humans, including bacteria, parasites and antimicrobial-resistant organisms.
  • RMBDs can be or not be balanced, with all the essential nutrients. Unbalanced dietary patterns can negatively impact the health, growth and development of your dog.
  • Several national and international veterinary organizations have warned against the feeding of RMBD due to concerns about the possible presence of pathogens.
  • Limited data supports the clinically relevant benefits of feeding RMBD to dogs over conventional cooked diets.

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