Using appropriate feeding practices is one of the most important components of maintaining cat and dog health. Nutritional management is also important as an integral part of both preventive health care and treatment protocols for medical and surgical patients, and ignoring nutritional needs can often be more detrimental to a dog or cat than the illness or injury for which it is being treated. Feeding an appropriately formulated and tested complete and balanced commercial diet is the simplest way to meet the nutritional requirements of dogs or cats.
Check out some helpful links about canine and feline nutrition below:
Common Myths and Questions Regarding Pet Food
I heard that cereals are “fillers” and not good for my pet. Is this true?
Nothing in a pet food is truly “filler” and every ingredient in a pet food must have a nutritional
purpose Cereal grains are ingredients that mostly provide energy (in the form of starch), but they
also provide essential nutrients like essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.
Moreover, many cereals also provide fiber, which has beneficial effects on the intestinal tract
Dogs and cats can digest cereal grains if they are properly cooked and as long as the overall diet
is complete and balanced and there is no evidence to show they are harmful for our pets.
What are by-products? Can they harm my pet?
A “by-product” is simply the term for an ingredient that is produced in parallel to another one.
For example, wheat bran is a by-product of the production of flour for the baking industry.
Since wheat bran is not the main ingredient goal of the process it is called the by-product, but
this does not have any implication on its quality or nutritional value. Animal by-products,
whether it is from a single species such as chicken or beef, or a combination of animals such as
poultry (chicken, turkey, and duck) or meat (beef, pork, lamb, and goat) are the edible parts of
the animal other than the muscle meat, which meat is the primary product of the food animal
industry. This includes things like liver and kidney, which are extremely nutrient rich, but not
commonly consumed in some human cultures. Items that are specifically excluded from being
used as by-product in pet foods are inedible items, such as hooves and feathers.
A by-product is exactly like any other ingredient, in the sense that its name does not reflect its
nutritional quality. Thus, they can be excellent ingredients for pet food and their use reduces the
waste of nutrient rich food that is not consumed by people for a variety of reasons.
Are home cooked diets adequate for my pet?
They can be, if they are complete and balanced. Home cooked diets, by definition, cannot be
tested for adequacy (as opposed to commercial diets, which may undergo chemical nutrient
analysis or feeding trials), thus, it is important that a veterinarian specialized in nutrition (Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist)
formulates the diet and that your pet is under careful veterinary supervision while a home cooked diet is being fed. This involves twice yearly examinations and blood work testing, or even more often in the case of pets with certain chronic medical conditions. The benefit for a home cooked diet is that is allows for the diet to be custom made to your dog or cat’s preferences, health status, and with ingredients that are easy to source for you.
Are bones and raw meat beneficial for my pet’s dental health?
No. Dogs do like to chew, but aside from the risk of bacterial contamination on raw bones, hard
bones can fracture teeth and if ingested whole or in shards can cause obstructions and
perforations anywhere along the gastrointestinal tract. Additionally, while teeth may appear
cleaner and have less tartar build-up when pets are fed bones or collagen chews, there is no
difference in the presence of gum disease between dogs fed raw meat and bones and those fed
more conventional dry and canned diets.
Should I add vitamins or other supplements on top of a commercial diet?
There is no need to add mineral/vitamin supplements on top of commercial pet foods.
Commercial pet foods that are formulated to be complete and balanced already have the
necessary vitamins and minerals in the correct amounts, and adding a supplement on top of that
can be risky as some of these nutrients can be toxic if they are provided in high amounts. The one
expectation may be with essential fatty acids. Longer coated breeds of dogs and cats may require
slightly higher essential fatty acid intakes to maintain an optimal skin and hair coat quality. In
these situations an essential fatty acid supplement, or changing to a different commercial diet,
may be beneficial.
In general, though supplements need to be carefully evaluated regarding their efficacy and safety
and you should always consult with your veterinarian if you are considering their use.
Can I feed treats?
Dogs and cats can receive a controlled number of treats as long as it makes up no more than
about 10% of the individual’s calorie intake each day. There are commercial pet treats, but you
can also use certain human foods. Fruits and vegetables are excellent, low calorie, options, as are
things such as plain rice cakes or popcorn. It is important to avoid toxic ingredients for pets (such
as onions, garlic, chocolate, macadamia nuts) including products containing xylitol, which is
common in human products such as sugar free gum and some peanut butters but is toxic to pets.
Additionally, the use of jerky and dried sweet potato treats has been associated with kidney
disease in several parts of the world and is discouraged.
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