If your pet had her way, she would happily scarf down every pizza crust, potato chip, and other dropped morsel that comes within paws’ reach. (We’ll admit we feel the same way about junk food.) But, all those empty calories fulfill none of your pet’s nutritional needs and only serve to pack on the pounds. With the growing obesity epidemic among our furry friends in America, we must be conscious of what goes into our pets’ bodies. Help ensure your pet has a long, healthy life by knowing her nutritional requirements, and ensuring those needs are met.

What does your pet need for a balanced diet?

Keep in mind that cats are not small dogs—and even more so when it comes to nutrition. While dogs are omnivores, meaning they can eat animal and plant foods, cats are carnivores. Because of their unique metabolism, cats need some animal protein in their diets, but they should not be fed only meat. In fact, high-meat diets are dangerous for cats. 

Although the daily news is littered with nutrition fads for people and pets, avoid switching your pet to the latest diet craze, such as vegan, keto, low-carb, and high-fat diets. If you’d like to try a new diet for your pet, talk to our veterinary team about the best nutritional options for your pet and how to safely change her diet.

Most of us know the importance of a balanced diet for our own health. The same holds true for our pets, and meeting the correct nutritional-component ratio will provide everything your pet needs for strong bones and muscles, a shiny coat, and healthy organ function. 

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are an important source of energy and fiber for your pet. In the small intestine, carb sources are broken down into glucose molecules, which provide energy to most of the body’s cells. Glucose also creates a quick form of energy and is necessary for proper brain and nervous system function. Any glucose the body does not use immediately is stored for later use, and unfortunately, results in weight gain if the body doesn’t use the stored extra glucose.

While fiber is not a required nutrient, it serves many purposes for your pet. Fiber helps your furry friend with the following bodily functions:

  • Feeling satiated after eating
  • Maintaining colon health
  • Aiding digestion
  • Controlling blood-sugar levels in diabetic pets
  • Regulating bacteria in the colon

Grains and plants are excellent sources of carbs for your pet, and these can be found in your pet’s food:

  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Rice
  • Oats

A popular pet-food nutrition fad is grain-free food. While a small percentage of pets battle food allergies, most pets actually handle grains well. Grains are a necessary component of your pet’s diet to ensure she receives the appropriate nutrients from these carb sources. 

Protein

Proteins are another essential part of pet nutrition, necessary for your pet to develop lean, strong muscles. Proteins are building blocks for organ tissues, and they contain important amino acids for cell growth, muscle repair, and body function. Animal-based protein sources provide all the amino acids your pet needs. One key amino acid is taurine, which is found only in animal-based proteins, and is especially important for a cat’s healthy heart and vision.

Protein sources include chicken, beef, lamb, fish, grains, vegetables, and soy. You’ll also see more exotic meats, such as kangaroo, alligator, squid, and bison, used as the protein base in pet food. The Food and Drug Administration is currently investigating a potential link between the exotic ingredients in grain-free diets and heart disease in dogs. During the investigation, we are available to discuss food choices to ensure your pet remains healthy. 

Fats

Healthy fats come from animal fats and plant-seed oils and are more energy-dense than protein or carbohydrates. They provide essential fatty acids, which your pet’s body cannot make on her own, but she needs for:

  • Healthy skin and fur
  • Hormone production
  • Vitamin absorption
  • Body insulation
  • Organ protection

Vitamins and minerals

If you feed your pet a balanced diet with a correct blend of fats, carbs, and protein, she’ll have all the vitamins and minerals she needs for a healthy body. Cats and dogs differ in their vitamin and mineral requirements, but a balanced diet will contain the appropriate nutrient profile for your pet. Since balanced diets contain everything your pet needs, vitamin and mineral supplements usually aren’t required, unless your pet is suffering from a deficiency.

Choosing the best diet for your pet’s nutritional needs will change as she ages. If you’re overwhelmed by the available options, call us—we can help guide you toward your four-legged friend’s requirements for optimal wellness.