Cats and dogs need proper nutrition to help them live a happy, comfortable life and look their best. But you can't feed a cat a plant-based diet and you don't want to feed your dog an all-meat diet. Both dogs and cats have nutritional needs that are unique to their species. That means providing them with foods that supply the right amino acids, proteins, minerals, carbohydrates, vitamins and dietary fats in sufficient quantities. Here's a look at what your feline and canine companions need to keep their bodies and minds in tip-top shape.
Understanding AAFCO and Its Role in the Manufacture of Pet Foods
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) publishes nutrient profiles and feeding guidelines for cats and dogs. Pet food manufacturers use these profiles and guidelines in the production of their products and can put AAFCO on the label as long as the food contains the required label items. When you see AAFCO on the label of the pet food, you know the pet food has been manufactured using industry standards, and you can rely on the food containing the ingredients on the label.
General Nutrition Needs for Dogs
Dogs are omnivores which means they are capable of consuming and extracting nutrition from a variety of food stuffs. Meat is the most common ingredient in dog foods, but they can and should get vegetables, grains and fruits in their diet. A dog gets all their necessary nutrients from food that contains multiple ingredients and in appropriate quantities. When you're looking at a brand of food, check the ingredients list to find out what's included and choose the one that has the nutrients that are best suited for your dog’s needs in terms of age, size and breed.
Dogs are viewed as less fussy than cats when it comes to nutrition, but studies show that dogs vary in nutritional and caloric needs even in breeds of similar sizes and energy levels. Feeding your dog on the basis of calories in/calories out and basic nutritional needs may not be enough to properly sustain them. It's a good idea to talk with your veterinarian about what is best for your dog.
The Specific Nutrition Needs of Cats
Cats, like dogs, are also carnivores, but they're called obligate carnivores because they get a majority of their nutrition and water intake from meat. Many people feed their cats dry food with the assumption that they'll do fine on that kind of food alone, but it's not necessarily a good idea for several reasons. Dry cat foods tend to be high in carbohydrates, low in moisture and low in protein relative to wet foods. Cats need high protein foods with high moisture content along with taurine, a sulfur-containing amino acid important in the metabolism of fats, to protect their eyesight and heart. Taurine is the most important amino acid for a cat, and it's something they require to stay healthy throughout their life.
Feeding a wet cat food that has high-quality protein will also supply sufficient taurine for their health. If you're unsure as to what is best for your feline friend, talk to your veterinarian for advice on basic care for your cat, including proper nutrition.
Talk to Your Vet About What Your Pet Needs
Pets have different nutritional needs throughout their life. A senior dog needs different nutrition than a puppy, and an older cat needs fewer calories than a kitten. The best course of action is to make an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss your pet's physical condition, what kind of nutrition is best for your pet's lifestyle, determine an appropriate portion size and how many times a pet should be fed daily. Fine-tuning your pet's diet with the help of your veterinarian helps you do the right thing on behalf of your pets and will keep them looking and feeling their best.