Pet Nutrition & Diet
for Dogs & Cats

Worried your pet isn’t getting the nutrients they need to thrive? Nutrition is essential to your pet’s health and wellness. Essential nutrients, such as proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals are an important part of a pet’s balanced diet. But getting your four-legged friend to meet these nutritional requirements can be difficult.

Our pets have a different set of dietary needs than us. While not all table scraps are inherently bad, it’s important that you provide the proper dog and cat diet or nutrition plan.

That’s what your AskVet friends are here for.

If you had questions or concerns about your own health and nutrition, you’d speak with a doctor—for the same reason, your furry friends need the expertise of a veterinarian.

A licensed vet can provide individualized recommendations, including supplements to add, the right therapeutic dog or cat diets for diseases or deficiencies, and specialized medical attention to address any serious health concerns,

When in doubt, ask a vet. When you need quick, convenient, 24/7 answers, use AskVet.

At AskVet, we take a lifestyle approach to pet wellness. We believe when you live a healthy lifestyle, so does your pet. The hardest part can be finding that wellness balance—we’re here to make it easy.

Healthy Gut, Happy Pet

The perfect balanced diet will look different between pet cats and dogs, and across various breeds, ages, and health conditions. Still, there are five core pillars to strive for when to strive for when determining your dog or cat nutrition plan:

COMPLETE
Full of all the essential nutrients they need.

BALANCE
Meals in the proper proportions.

PALATABLE
Tasty enough for your pet to consume in sufficient amounts.

DIGESTIBLE
Able to be properly absorbed by your animal.

SAFE
Free of toxins, pesticides, allergens, and other harmful additives.

The recommended cat and dog diet varies as much with pet nutrition as it does with people, but simplicity remains supreme. Pets, like us, are at their healthiest when eating fresh, whole foods.

Healthy Eating Habits

Pets, just like humans, are creatures of habit. By creating a healthy, consistent feeding routine, you’ll have a happy, healthy pet. For most four-legged friends, that looks like two meals per day, carefully portioned out, on a regular feeding schedule. The exact amount of food will depend on their age, weight, breed, and activity level.

If your pet doesn’t appear to be eating regularly—whether that means not eating what’s in front of them or constantly craving more, including your table scraps—you may need to adjust your feeding routine.

Here are some habitual changes that might make the difference you’re looking for:

  • Avoid overfeeding with treats – To avoid ruining your pet’s appetite around dinnertime, limit treats to a few a day, and sole then out far in advance mealtimes.
  • Find food they enjoy – Kids are notoriously picky eaters—who knew our fur babies are the same? If your pet avoids their food bowl or only picks at it then struts away, they may not like your kibble or paté of choice. Try a few different brands, flavors, and types before checking in with a vet.
  • Make sure their meals are sufficient – Check to make sure that the food you’ve chosen has all the necessary nutrients and is portioned correctly for their age and weight. Check that they always have a clean water source available, as dehydration can manifest as overeating.

Transitioning Your Pet to New Food

Sometimes, we need to change our fur baby’s food to include more nutrients, address a particularTransitioning Your Pet to New Food digestive or urinary issue, or appeal to their changing taste buds. However, a sudden dietary switch can also lead to unwanted health issues (not to mention unhappy or apprehensive animals).

A smooth transition to new food has to be gradual. Try a seven-day schedule like this to ease them into their new diet:

  • Day 1 – 90% old food, 10% new food
  • Day 2 – 75% old food, 25% new food
  • Day 3 – 50% of each
  • Day 4 – 50% of each
  • Day 5 – 25% old food, 75% new food
  • Day 6 – 10% old food, 90% new food
  • Day 7 – 100% new food!

If your pet exhibits serious apprehension during this process, you can prolong each of these transitional phases to give them more time to adjust. It may still take a few weeks for them to fully adapt to their new food, but once they do, they’ll be happily scampering toward their dinner bowl again.

Feeding Your Pets on a Proper Schedule

Cats and dogs should eat at least two meals a day, about 12 hours apart. This food intake aligns more or less with a cat’s natural hunting schedule: dusk and dawn. Puppies require more regular feedings than their adult counterparts; most breeds need between three and six meals a day for the first year or so.

Nutritional Must-Haves For Your Pets

As a pet owner, you want to know exactly what you’re feeding your furry friend. However, pet food labels are very different from the nutrition facts on a box of cereal or jar of pasta sauce.

Still, the information you need is available, as long as you know what to look for. Check your pet’s food products for these tell-tale (or tell-tail) statements:

  • The product includes all essential nutrients according to AAFCO standards – In tiny print somewhere, you’ll find a paragraph that claims the product was either formulated to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles for a particular species or that its nutritional efficacy was substantiated by animal feeding tests—these are good signs.
  • The product is appropriate for a certain life stage – Just like in humans, cat and dog nutritional needs vary with age. Reputable brands will specify the product’s intended age group, whether that’s “maintenance” or “growth” (early adulthood and beyond), or “all life stages,” meaning it has the requisite nutrients for pregnancy and nursing, as well as everything that comes after.

In contrast, seeing these words should be a major red flag: “This product is intended for intermittent and supplemental feeding only.”

Dietary Differences Between Cats & Dogs

Cats and dogs are easily lumped together in our brain’s “pet care” folder, but their dietary needs can vary as much as their behavior.

Dogs are indifferent omnivores. They can digest both animal proteins and plant products with little natural preference. You might notice this in the way that they’ll eat just about any fallen scrap or unattended snack. Grains can therefore be a valuable part of dog food nutrition.

Cats are carnivores. Unlike other household pets, cats are somewhat unique in that they require a diet rich in animal proteins. However, they can—and should—also digest plant-based nutrients to maintain a balanced diet. Cat food nutrition plans should include substantial animal-based protein, which contains the requisite amino acids arginine and taurine, and essential vitamins like niacin and vitamin D3. Cats also need pre-made vitamin A.

In addition to individual allergens, steer clear of these human foods when your feline friend or canine companion:

Cat Foods to Avoid

  • Dairy, including milk, cheese, and cream
  • A strict tuna diet
  • Too much raw liver
  • Raw seafood
  • Small, brittle bones

Foods to Steer Clear of All-Around

  • Allium vegetables, like onions, garlic, chives, and leeks
  • Raw food like eggs and meat
  • Yeast, in alcohol and raw dough
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Caffeine
  • Avocado
  • Chocolate

Toxic Foods for Dogs

  • Fruits with seeds and pits, including persimmon, plums, peaches, and apple cores
  • Almonds and macadamia nuts
  • Cinnamon
  • Xylitol, found in candy, chewing gum, toothpaste, and mouthwash
  • Raw Tomatoes

Pet Nutrition Made Easy with AskVet Licensed Veterinarians

With the AskVet mobile app you can:

Skip the guessing and chat live with a licensed vet 24/7 to get all your nutritional questions answered immediately.

Work with your Care Squad to develop a diet that works for you and your four legged friend.

Enjoy a personalized, guided experience as we anticipate your daily needs.

Shop recommended food, supplements, and treats to add into your healthy routines at exclusive AskVet rates.

Get all your nutrition questions answered and personalized guidance to build a healthy lifestyle for your pet.

Sources:

VCA Hospitals. Feeding Times and Frequency for Your Dog. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/feeding-times-and-frequency-for-your-dog

Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University. How do I switch my pet’s food? https://vetnutrition.tufts.edu/2019/11/how-do-i-switch-my-pets-food/

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