Your Pet's Nutrition & Exercise
Your pet will have varying nutritional needs at different stages in life. For the first twelve to eighteen months of age, depending on breed and size, your pet should be fed puppy or kitten food. Once your pet is a year old, it should eat dog or cat food until they become less active and would benefit from food designed for senior pets.
We recommend that all food you purchase for your pet is labeled “complete and balanced,” and preferably certified by AAFCO, an independent organization that oversees the pet food industry. Special diets might also be required if a dog or cat is overweight, has allergies, or has certain medical conditions.
How often you feed your pet depends on you and your animal. There are two types of feedings that work well for dogs and cats.
1. Meal Feeding:
Your pet is fed a certain amount of food at specific times of the day. To train your pet to meal feed as a puppy or kitten, food should be offered four times per day for five to twelve weeks. What isn’t eaten within thirty minutes should be taken up, but if the food is gone within three-four minutes, you probably should increase the quantity. At about four months of age, you can cut feedings back to three times a day, and then cut back to twice or once a day.
2. Free Choice Feeding:
With free choice feeding, food is available to your pet at all times. This works well with some dogs or cats on a dry food diet, but other pets tend to overeat and become obese when they are given the choice to eat all day.
Likewise, there are several different types of food for dogs and cats, each with their own pros and cons:
- Dry food:
Dry food is the most economical. It can also be left in your pet’s bowl for an extended period of time making it ideal for choice feeding. Some pets, however, may not like the texture of dry food.
- Semi-moist food:
The texture of semi-moist food may be more appealing to some pets, and it also has a stronger odor and flavor. However, most semi-moist foods are high in sugar so check the labels.
- Canned food:
Although considerably more expensive, canned food is preferred by some pets. It contains a high percentage of water and a texture, odor, and taste that are very appealing to pets. However, it will dry out and spoil if left out for a prolonged period of time and, thus, is more suitable for meal feeding.
Animal Medical Care strongly discourages you from feeding table foods to your pet. First of all, once you start, your pet will begin to hold out for table food and not eat a well-balanced pet food. Second, although we enjoy a variety of things in our diet, most pets actually prefer to eat only one food. Finally, many foods, including grapes, chocolate, and anything with xylitol (gum and some brands of peanut butter), are toxic to pets.
Exercise is also an important component in your pet’s health. As a puppy or kitten, your pet needs lots of play time for proper muscle development. As your pet grows, regular exercise is essential for the physical and mental wellbeing of your pet. The need for movement and play is innately bred into dogs and cats. Their ancestors were natural roamers and hunters, and that drive is still present in your pet.
If this need for exercise is not satisfied, a number of issues can develop:
- Chewing, digging and scratching of furniture and other objects
- Lack of discipline
- Excessive vocalization
You can exercise your pet in a number of ways including taking walks, playing fetch, playing with toys, and many other means. Giving your pet outlets for daily exercise will improve his or her behavior and physical health.
Be sure to manage your pet’s body temperature during the summer and winter, and match the amount of food and water consumed with the amount of exercise received.
Obesity in dogs and cats has become an increasingly important issue in the United States. Studies by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention show that more than half of all dogs and cats in the United States are overweight or obese.
Common problems associated with pet obesity include:
- Lower life expectancy
- High blood pressure
- Heart, respiratory, and kidney disease
Many owners overfeed and under-exercise their cats and dogs, unaware that they are doing harm to the long-term health of their pet. To prevent obesity, control your pet's food portion sizes and provide regular exercise with walks and toys. Keep an eye on calories of food and treats that you give your pet as well. Determining the proper serving size depends on the breed, size, and age of your dog or cat.
If your dog or cat is already overweight, you should put them on a weight loss regimen that is planned and executed with care. Animal Medical Care will help you decide on the best combination of exercise and food reduction that will help your pet lose weight in a healthy way.