Proper Pet Nutrition: Cat and Dog Food

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cool kitty taking a break

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Teresa Arsenault
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Keep your pets well with proper nutrition! Here are tips for feeding your dog and cat.

Note: Your pet may have special health concerns that will dictate which kind of diet is best. Consult your vet when you first adopt your pet, then follow these general diet guidelines.

Choosing the Right Food for Your Cat

  • Kittens up to four months old may need to be fed three times a day, and twice a day after that. Some pet owners just leave food out continuously. This is usually fine, but wet food may spoil and the cat will not eat it. This method also makes it hard to keep track of what the cat eats, making it difficult to track changes in appetite that may signal a health problem.
  • Most commercial cat food contains taurine, an amino acid that is found naturally in chicken and beef. If cats don't get enough taurine, they can be prone to heart or vision problems, depression, cirrhosis, and other health issues.
  • Watch your cat's bowel habits to know if she is getting the right kind of food. Diarrhea and constipation indicate a problem. Stools should be firm, compact, and relatively small. A thick, shiny coat and a bright eyed look mean your cat's nutrition is probably good.
  • Caution: If you think a change in diet is necessary, institute the change gradually. Cats hate a sudden change of food.

Choosing the Right Food for Your Dog

  • Feed your dog a high-quality diet. Adding extra vitamins and minerals is usually not necessary and, for some large-breed puppies, could actually be detrimental. A large-breed puppy may grow too quickly with excessive proteins or vitamins, putting him at risk of hip dysplasia, a common ailment of larger dogs.
  • Feed a puppy three or four times a day, leaving the food out for only five to ten minutes at a time. Older dogs can be fed twice a day.
  • Don't get carried away wtih treats, even when you're trying to train your dog. Too many treats can lead to weight problems or finicky eating. Use more love and affection as your dog's reward in training, and choose low-fat and reduced-calorie snacks.

DID YOU KNOW? Many dogs like the taste and crunch of raw fruits and vegetables such as carrots, apples, broccoli, and green beans. Give your pet a few of these each day instead of high-calorie snacks. Bananas, watermelon, and blueberries are also a favorite. Make sure to stay away from grapes though, as they are toxic to dogs.

How do you tell is your pet is too chubby? See our tips.

About The Author

Heidi Stonehill

Heidi Stonehill is the executive editor for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, where she focuses much of her time on managing content development for the Almanac’s line of calendars. Read More from Heidi Stonehill

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