The need for proper nutrition for companion animals begins very early. It actually begins in utero, thus how our pets are fed early in life can have lasting effects on lifetime health and well-being. Nutrition can impact organ development, metabolism, bone and joint integrity and immune competence, among other things.
Beginning with puppies and kittens and continuing into the latter years, having the proper balance of protein, energy, amino acids, vitamins and minerals is critical for the following:
In contrast, an improper mineral balance can predispose dogs and cats to bone and joint challenges such as dyschondroplasia, osteochondrosis and joint deterioration.
Now that we understand why balanced nutrition is important for dogs and cats, let’s look at key components of a balanced nutrition program and how each one contributes to the well-being of our animals.
Two important components of a well-balanced nutrition program are protein and energy. Protein is key to muscle and organ development, immunity, enzymes and epithelial integrity in an animal’s skin, as well as the circulatory, respiratory, gastrointestinal, reproductive and urogenital tracts. Energy, on the other hand, is key to cellular performance, as well as hormone production and function, immunity and weight management.
A third component of a well-balanced diet is trace minerals, especially zinc. Trace minerals are foundational to the formation and function of all of the aforementioned systems. Zinc itself is involved in over 300 enzyme systems.
Let’s analyze the various consequences of an imbalance of each of these three components:
When selecting a pet food for your dogs or cats, it’s important to check the label to make sure it meets the minimum requirements for each nutrient, set by the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), and that your dog or cat actually enjoys eating it. You can explore the AAFCO requirements here.
One of the biggest mistakes that can lead to your pet not receiving a well-balanced diet is simply feeding food that is not formulated for their correct life stage. As pets age, their demand for nutrients changes, so it’s important to seek out pet food specifically formulated for the proper life stage. Generally, protein and energy requirements decrease as cats and dogs mature, although it is more pronounced in dogs since cats are obligate carnivores and function better on a high-protein diet. However, geriatric dogs and cats may have higher protein, mineral and vitamin needs due to poorer nutrient absorption.
Another factor that can lead to an unbalanced diet is feeding lower-cost pet food with lower-quality ingredients. These low-cost foods are often made with filler ingredients and byproducts that are not only difficult to digest, but can also antagonize the absorption of key nutrients, especially trace minerals. These are common problems caused by high-fiber and high-phytase ingredients, like soybean meal.
Visit our pet nutrition page to learn more about how balanced nutrition and performance trace minerals can improve pet health and well-being.