Get the Dish on Proper Nutrition for New Pets

Courtesy of the Pet Food Institute

Many families are taking advantage of more time at home by welcoming a new puppy or kitten to their households. 

One possible reason for animal lovers expanding their households is the mental and physical health benefits from the human-animal bond. Studies by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute found pet ownership can lower blood pressure, reduce feelings of loneliness or stress and help manage depression. 

Before welcoming a new pet, even seasoned pet owners may benefit from a refresher on proper care, especially when it comes to feeding and nutrition. Dogs and cats have unique nutritional requirements, so their food must be carefully formulated. Puppies and kittens need more of certain important nutrients, such as protein, fat and key minerals, to grow into healthy, strong adult animals.

If you’ve welcomed a new pet to the family, or plan to soon, learn how to care for its special nutritional needs with this advice. 

Identifying Life Stages

Food labeled for puppies and kittens or pets of all life stages include different levels of nutrients than food for only adult pets. It includes additional sources of energy, such as protein and calories, to support rapid growth and development.

Your veterinarian can help determine an appropriate time to transition your pet to adult food – usually when it’s nearly full-grown. For kittens, that may be around 10-12 months. For puppies, the timing varies depending on size, with larger breeds taking up to two years to fully mature.

Understanding Food Labels

Pet food labels help shoppers make informed decisions. Some key pieces of information include the pet’s intended life stage and a claim of complete and balanced nutrition, which confirms each serving provides the proper levels of more than 40 essential nutrients that pets require. Labels also include a guaranteed analysis, which identifies a minimum or maximum of at least four nutrients: protein, fat, fiber and moisture. State regulators, who read pet food labels for compliance, also review the package to ensure accuracy. In fact, pet food is one of the most highly regulated food products in the U.S. with oversight at both the state and federal levels.

Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Pet obesity can lead to health issues such as joint damage, difficulty breathing, cancer and heart disease, so helping your pet maintain a healthy weight is important. For example, consider how many treats you give your pet throughout the day. 

Treats can reinforce good behavior, keep pets occupied, aid in training or show love. However, they should be given in moderation, accounting for no more than 10% of a pet’s caloric intake. Pet food is formulated to provide dozens of essential nutrients that pets need in their diets, so avoid using treats in place of regular meals. Also know that sharing table scraps adds calories and many common human foods can be dangerous for animals. 

Providing your pet with the right nutrition early in life can help ensure proper growth and long-term well-being. 

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