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NUTRITION- GENERAL GUIDE LINES FOR DOGS AND CATS
"Dogs and cats should be fed diets specifically designed for their breed, age, and activity level. These factors are also known as physiological state.
Dogs and cats should be fed according to their specific nutritional needs. Cats are not small dogs and have very different nutritional requirements than dogs, whereas dogs have nutritional needs more similar to people than cats.
As your pet ages from birth into adolescence and adulthood and finally becomes geriatric, their nutritional requirements change. These changing nutritional needs have been called "life stage nutrition" and are the logic behind diets designed for growth, maintenance, reproduction, and the geriatric stage pet. Life stage nutrition is feeding diets designed to meet the optimal nutritional requirements of animals at different ages or physiological states."
At Bay Springs Veterinary Hospital we generally recommend feeding Science Diet brand which has nutritionally complete diets for all stages of life including diets for specific diseases. Other premium brands include IAMS, Royal Canin, and Eukanuba. Generally speaking, Purina brand products are acceptable and recommended over other common grocery store brands. Regardless of the brand you choose, make sure it has an AAFCO statement on the bag, otherwise do not buy it. The AAFCO statement insures it is at least a nutritionally complete diet.
"Diets fed to growing animals should be specifically designed to have a higher concentration of nutrients because young, growing animals have nutritional requirements not just for maintaining their current body mass, but also for making new tissue. More fuel and nutrients must be consumed to increase body mass by building bones, muscles, nerves, and vessels. Yet, young animals have a volume limitation: despite increased nutritional needs, young, growing animals have a small gastrointestinal capacity when compared to adults, so their diets must contain increased concentrations of nutrients.
Contrary to popular belief, growing dogs and cats do not need supplemental vitamins such as calcium. If the appropriate growth diet is fed, that is all they need. Extra minerals and vitamins can actually cause damage especially in those breeds prone to hip dysplasia such as Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Pit Bulls, Great Danes, Labrador retrievers, and others.
· Large and Giant breeds
"Large and giant breeds of dogthose weighing more than 65 lbs when fully maturerequire a diet formulated to help prevent Developmental Bone Disease and obesity. These diets are specifically formulated to have higher concentrations of nutrients in a food with fewer calories. In general, Developmental Bone Diseases and obesity occur when excessive calories are consumed, i.e., overfeeding."
As a result, we recommend feeding Large Breed Growth for large and giant breeds until they are fully grown: one year for large breeds and 1½ years for giant breeds.
· Small and medium breeds
"Medium breeds of dogs do very well on the average growth diet available today. "Toy" and small breed dogs on the other hand generally require not only a higher concentration of nutrients but also a higher concentration of energy." These diets are fed for the first one year of life and then switched to a maintenance food. Always remember when changing foods, especially in small breeds, to change the diet gradually over days to prevent potentially serious gastroenteritis and sometimes pancreatitis which can actually be life threatening under certain circumstances.
"Diets fed to adult animals are designed to meet the nutritional needs of the average dog or cat. In fact, the average adult maintenance diet may provide more nutrients and calories than needed by the average dog or cat. Most pets are neutered and have limited opportunity for exercise, hence more than half of the dogs and cats in the USA are overweight, and a third of them are obese.
The Maintenance lifestage should be further defined for those reproducing: pregnant and nursing pets. Adult pets that are not neutered have higher daily energy requirements than pets that have been spayed or castrated. Dogs that are pregnant (gestating) generally have a 10-20% increase in nutritional requirements in the last 20 days of pregnancy, and pregnant cats have a 10-20% increase steadily throughout the 63-day gestating period.
Lactating dogs and cats have greatly increased nutritional requirements for energy. Their caloric need can be increased by a factor of 2 to 8 times over non-reproducing requirements depending on how many young are nursing. When selecting a diet for an adult pet, these factors must be taken into consideration in order to optimally feed the adult pregnant or lactating dog or cat."
A good rule of thumb generally is to feed a pregnant dog or cat a growth formula and allow them to eat as much as they want at a time and this continues as long as the animal is nursing the little ones.
"Adult pets that have active daily lives, either in work or play, have higher daily energy requirements than pets that wait on the couch for their owners to return home. The working pet has an increased energy need which can be 2 to 8 times the non-working pet depending on the type of work activity. When selecting a diet for an adult pet, these factors must be taken into consideration.
The pet's environment (indoor verses outdoor) also significantly affects the daily caloric requirement.
Older pets are a growing and very diverse group of animals. Nutritional requirements of senior and geriatric pets are not well defined.
Pets are generally considered to be a senior in the last half of their expected life span. An indoor 12 year old cat may be considered a senior animal as its life expectancy is approximately 18-20 years. When a dog is considered a senior depends upon the breed as smaller breeds have longer life spans than large and giant breeds.
Nutritional requirements of senior pets have not been documented to be different than the nutritional needs of adult animals; however, senior diets generally have nutrient profiles adjusted for the most commonly diagnosed diseases in older pets.
Pets are generally considered geriatric in the last fourth of their expected life span. As with senior dogs, when a dog is considered geriatric depends upon the breed. The nutritional needs of geriatric pets are very difficult to predict because most of them have clinical signs of one or more diseases that may alter nutritional needs." 1
1. PetDiets.com. Nutrition 101.