Welcome back to the Acoma Animal Clinic blog! We’re continuing our month dedicated to healthy pet diet habits. Last time we talked at length about obesity in pets, and all the complications that come out from it. We mentioned also, that less than 10% of pet owners truly understand their pet’s nutritional needs, whether that means what makes up pet food nutrition or what they are lacking. This time on the Acoma Animal Clinic blog, pet nutrition and more!
Pet Nutrition – What Do Our Furry Friends Need?
How many calories does a dog or cat need? No idea right? You might think, ‘Well, I need around 2,000 right? So maybe they need half of that?” The fact of the matter is pet nutritional needs vary wildly across breeds and species. Small, low-activity dogs might only need as low as 185 calories while a more robust dog can require anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 calories! Cats need on average only 200-350 calories.
Now, what should make up those calories? Again, that depends. Cats and dogs have different bodies, different metabolisms and need different nutrients in their pet food to keep them healthy.
As mentioned, cats are much smaller animals, and they only need around 200-350 calories to feed their needs. However, cats are carnivores and need meat. They need double the amount of protein that dogs or even humans need.
Critical nutrient cats need is taurine as it assists in reproductive, eye, and heart function. In most mammals, taurine is produced from other amino acids but cats don’t have that ability. They need to eat more meat so that they can get that crucial nutrient from other sources.
In addition to protein, fats make up about 30% of a ‘wild’ cat’s nutrition. Fats help get the cats get the needed fatty acids, which is necessary for the absorbing of vitamins like A, D, and E. Need to be cautious with that though, fats are so tasty that it is easy for cats to overdo it, either by getting scraps from people or by overeating.
Carbs are the other major section of nutrients and while it may make up to 40% of calories in dry cat food, there is no minimum needed amount for a cat to stay healthy. Carbs are empty calories in that way, so keeping them in check is crucial to maintaining a healthy weight feline.
Man’s best friend loves many of the foods we do… which can be a problem. Just like cats dogs need much less carbs than our food provides and so it is important to ensure a proper balance.
Of a dog’s diet, about 18% should be protein, which is a similar amount for most people, to ensure they are getting the necessary building blocks for their bodies. When it comes to fats, they are an excellent source of energy for dogs, but should only be 9-15% of their daily calories. Fats are also useful in maintaining coat, skin, paw, and nose health. Like cats, carbs are not a natural source of energy for canines. They can use them, but only for specific things. Fiber for instance is important to avoid diarrhea.
While cats don’t take kindly to vegetables, some dogs love them! While a vegetarian diet isn’t recommended, it can be had so long as your dog receives a diet compliant with the Association of American Feed Control Officials. This ensures that the food has the correct nutrients (in this case amino acids) necessary to be healthy.
Pets and Water
Water is crucial for all living things. Dogs need to have plenty to drink up throughout the day, and cats especially need the help getting water. Cats, in particular, have a low thirst drive and since they are often fed dry food made up of only 5 or 10% water, they can easily find themselves dehydrated. Wet cat food can be used to help give them the water they need, but always be sure they have clean water at hand.
As you may have noticed, there is not a huge difference between pet nutrition and humans. They need similar nutrients, water is just as important. However, just like in people it comes down to portions and ratios of the nutrients. Find a quality pet food that hits these requirements and you can be sure your pet will have the right fuel to keep them healthy.