Anyone who has a dog or cat knows that once sat at the table to eat, he feels imploring eyes upon himself of his four-legged friend, eager to get some food. If you fall into this category then you know you satisfied him, one or more times, aware that your adventure companion loves most foods that are pleasing to you.
It’s so simple to please our pets with food, but is it a good choice nutritionally?
It’s pretty intuitive that the nutritional needs of a pet are not equal to ours, but who really knows what is the right diet for your friend?
This short beginner’s guide to cat and dog nutrition will guide you on what they need to stay healthy and, why not, even in shape.
Let’s talk about calories
Little dogs not conducting much of exercise need from 185 to 370 calories per day, while a dog between 30 and 40 kg may need to ingest between 1,000 and 2,000 calories, depending on the gender and the frequency with which carries out physical activity. Yet many of our dogs get much more food than they really need. More than a third of the dogs of the United States with more than 1 year of age are overweight.
A healthy cat of 5 kg, however, only requires 220, maximum 350 calories a day. No wonder if at least one-quarter of the cats of the United States are considered overweight or obese.
The cat: the importance of meat
The next time you see your cat napping blessed under the sun, remember that actually he requires twice the protein humans and dogs need. In particular, the building blocks of good nutrition for your cat can be summarized in one word: meat. This is, perhaps, that continuous mewing of cats at the mere sight of a morsel of chicken.
The cats are in fact “carnivores bound”, which means that only eating animal proteins they are able to get all the amino acids they need in their diet. In particular, the vital amino acid that cats can not get from a source different from animal protein is taurine, a critical factor for the heart, eyes, and reproductive functions.
A diet rich in meat supplies to cats not only taurine they need, but also vitamin A, a nutrient that they cannot convert from beta-carotene, says Joe Bartges, Professor of medicine and nutrition at the University of Tennessee.
The cat: fat is good, but be careful not to overdo it!
Fats are a significant source of energy for cats, helping them to get the fatty acids and absorbing fat soluble vitamins such as A, D, and E.
The problem is that some cats like the flavor of the fatty foods a bit too much, just as some people. If your cat digs into his bowl more than usual or if they are allowed too many morsels of food, be more careful: obese cats may suffer from many of the health problems that affect humans, including diabetes and arthritis.
The cat: excessive carbohydrates
Domestic cats fed with dried food can get up to 40% of their calories from carbohydrates. But cats don’t need them in the percentages that can be found in most dry transformed foods. In fact, there is no recommended minimum requirement of carbohydrates for cats and taking too many carbohydrates can be the main reason for the weight gain of many domestic felines.
The cat: water is vital
Cats, men and dogs are all approximately 70% water. However cats have evolved with a low impulse to drink, probably a legacy of their ancestors. If you add this factor to a diet rich in dried foods, which typically contain only water from 5% to 10%, it is clear that your cat may become dehydrated: it is advisable, therefore, to strike the right balance between dry and wet diet.
Of paramount importance is to always help to your four-legged friend a lot of fresh, clean water.
The cat: the first signs of obesity and the importance of exercise
If you can’t hear the ribs of your cat without pressure or if you can’t make out his waist there is a good chance that he/she is a little overweight. Fortunately cats love exercise, as knows anyone who has experienced an ankle or a surprise ambush attack after having descended the stairs.
Your task in this case is to stimulate it by playing with him. Since cats are geared towards short bursts of intense activity, feel free to use your laser pointer, a toy with feathers, or a string and play with him for five or 10 minutes, several times a day. Only try not to overdo it at the beginning, if your cat is not used to. Always play it safe and make sure your vet to know how much and how you play with your puppy to keep him in shape.
The dog: proteins and vegetables
Proteins should be about 18% of the diet of your dog, the same as yours. Animal protein derived from meat and fish provide the protein balance of which dogs need. Unlike cats, dogs also eat some vegetables, but that does not mean that they can be vegetarian, because you still need to supplement their diet to provide all essential amino acids for good health.
The dog: the fat as source of energy, but also of excess
Dogs need healthy fats to maintain the coat, skin, nose, and feet. Fat is also a great source of energy that contains more than twice as many calories per gram than protein or carbohydrates.
This doesn’t mean that your dogs should have all the fat they want. In fact, only 9-15% of calories for an adult dog should come from fat. However the excesses are frequent, especially if the dog eats food from the table or cat food morsels. The latter, in fact, is preferred by dogs because it contains more fat, protein and calories per bite than the dog food.
The dog: the limited importance of carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are not a natural energy source for dogs. They have naturally evolved to get most of their nutritional needs from fat and protein, although they can get energy from carbohydrates. However, there is no minimum recommended amount of carbohydrates for dogs, except for the period of gestation and early lactation.
The dog: water is essential
No animal can live without a lot of clean water and your dog is no exception. So fill his water bowl at least once a day and make sure he/she takes even more after a long walk, a game or any physical activity.
The dog: obesity and exercise
Dogs need exercise to stay healthy and tehy can represent a big motivation to keep in shape even their masters. In fact, one study suggests that walking the dog every day can bring great benefits to human health, including smoking cessation.
Although small dogs need to play in a less boisterous way than dogs of medium and large size, all need to do activities at least once (preferably twice) a day to keep healthy bones and muscles. Consult your veterinarian before beginning an exercise program for a dog that is not used to move much and pay deep attention to heat stroke, which is a danger to all dogs, no matter how fit they are.
Obesity in a dog increases the risk of degenerative diseases of joints and chronic pain. If you can’t discern the waistline in your canine friend and feel the ribs without applying pressure, maybe his weight might become a hindrance to his health. In any doubt, ask your veterinarian.
After reading this article, are you still not sure that the way you are feeding your pet is adequate? It can be difficult, however, translate into a daily diet all the recommendations listed above. Your veterinarian can help you optimize your pet’s diet for good health and offer advice on the most appropriate physical activity for a long, healthy and active life.