How to Ensure Your Pet is Getting the Right Nutrition


Are you certain that your pet is getting the proper nutrition from the food your feed them? If you feed an off-the-shelf kibble or wet food, you may think that your dog or cat is getting all the nutrients they need to thrive. Unfortunately, that may not be the case.

Even if you're feeding a high-quality pet food, your companion may have a medical disorder or parasites that prevent intake of the important vitamins and minerals necessary for good health. It's important to keep a close eye on your pets to ensure that they are getting the most from their diet.

Signs That Your Pet is Getting Poor Nutrition

Even if your pet seems happy and healthy, there are clues that there's a problem with nutrition or absorption of nutrients. These include:

  • A dull coat or excessive hair loss.
  • Difficulty with bowel movements, changes in normal bowel movements or especially large or smelly movements.
  • Flaky skin, rashes or itching that doesn't come from fleas.
  • Changes in weight, either with weight loss or obesity.
  • Unwanted odors like bad breath, body odor or flatulence.
  • Increased allergies that can show up in vomiting more frequently.
  • Lethargy.

Many diseases and issues can produce similar symptoms, so if you spot these, it is a good idea to see your vet and rule out any serious problems.

Reasons for Poor Nutrition

Not all pet foods are created equal. In fact, many off-the-shelf, supermarket brands use low-quality protein sources or include excessive grains and other fillers that aren't easily digested by your animals. Bagged foods that have been sitting for too long or that have been exposed to excessive heat (during shipping or storage), may have reduced levels of nutrients. Talk to your vet about quality food brands that will work well for your pets, as well as the proper amounts to feed daily.

However, the nutrients in good-quality food can't be properly absorbed if your pet has tapeworms, roundworms or Giardia. This is because they may not be able to utilize the nutrients before the parasites do. Some intestinal diseases and cancer can also limit nutritional intake.

READ MORE: Is Grain-Free Dog Food Linked to Canine Heart Disease?

Choosing the Right Diet

When you are evaluating a new food, start by selecting one that is designed for the proper life stage: puppy or kitten, adult or senior. Each type has the right amount of nutrients for growth, maintenance or aging depending on the age of your pet.

You should also look for a food that is AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) certified. The AAFCO ensures that pet foods contain the types and amounts of nutrients that their labels claim.

When evaluating your dog or cat's diet, look honestly at other foods that are part of the diet. Does your dog clean your plate after dinner or does your cat get excessive treats throughout the day? Human foods and even treat foods designed for pets can lead to obesity, and they can also fill up your pets and prevent them from eating the healthy food that does meet their nutritional needs. Inconsistent amounts of food from your own plate can also cause your pet to have irregularities with bowel movements and flatulence.

READ MORE: 8 Human Foods That Are Dangerous for Dogs

Talk to your vet about specific nutritional needs for your pet. Many high-end pet foods incorporate special supplements that can help animals with special health needs, such as support for active pets, those with long hair or those that are at risk for joint problems. You may also choose to supplement your kibble or wet food with additional vitamins if your pet has a special health need.

Partner With Your Vet for Nutritional Help

Over time, not getting the right nutrition can lead to kidney disease, heart problems, pancreatitis and growth disorders that may not be reversible. Don't take chances with your pet's diet. Have a full checkup if your pet is due or if you spot signs of a nutritional deficiency, and get help from your vet with choosing a brand of food that will best suit your companion's needs. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

For more information, check out Lisa Freeman at Tufts Veterinary School.