Anyone that has ever owned a puppy or a kitten knows that when you walk into the pet store for the first time, and you’re looking at the food aisle, it can be a bit overwhelming. There are so many questions that you must answer. What do you feed them? How much do you feed them? What’s the best type of food? And does what you feed them as babies, affect their health when they get older?

With regards to picking a fitting eating routine for your cat or dog, it is critical to take into consideration your pet’s age, what their body condition is, you even need to consider what kind of breed they are when it comes to their diet when they are young. It is likewise essential to be sure your animal’s daily nourishment incorporates a seal of approval from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). The AAFCO approval simply shows that the food has been tested and has met the nourishment standards and that it also meets all of the safety and nutritional guidelines for your specific pet.

Studies have shown that what an animal eats while pregnant and then what their offspring eat, does, in fact, affect how the animal grows and behaves. For example, there is currently a long-term study of cats being conducted in the UK that began back in 2010, run by Dr. Kathrani and her colleagues. It is a large and very significant study on why certain conditions, gastrointestinal being their primary focus, develop in felines and how their diet affects their health as they age.

A quick search of the web will show you multiple other types of studies being conducted around the globe. This kind of research is paramount to better understanding our growing pet population’s nutritional needs from birth to death.
To understand what your pet needs to eat as a baby to grow and thrive, you must first understand that your pet must eat food that is proposed for that specific creature. Kittens and puppies need various types of supplements, so what works for your kitty is not what will work for your puppy and vice versa. And as your pet’s age, their nutritional needs change.

As infants, they will need higher levels of nutrients, minerals, and even extra calories to enable their bodies to develop. Likewise, pregnant and nursing pets are eating for multiples, so they also need extra nutrients and calories.

When a pregnant cat or dog does not receive the proper nutrition while pregnant, their offspring will suffer physically in the short term or even the long run, they may even die during or after birth. Nutritional deficiencies early on can cause long term bone, muscle, and organ problems as well as mental and behavioral issues. When an animal does not receive the right kind or amount of food while they are growing, it can also affect their quality and length of life.

Dogs and cats both have very particular needs. For example, a feline is almost exclusively a carnivore, meaning they only eat meat. While a dog is considered an omnivore, meaning they eat both plant and animal products. If you feed them both the same type of food, then both will suffer in the long term.

You may think that when your pet is fully grown that you can become more lax with their diets. This is simply not true. Just because your pet has reached adulthood does not mean that you can stop feeding them high quality, nutrient-rich foods. Even as adults, what you feed them can affect every area of their lives and bodies. Poor quality nutrition can cause massive behavioral issues in adult dogs and cats. If they are not getting enough calcium, it can affect their bones, and if they don’t receive enough protein, it can affect their muscles.

Believe it or not, you can also overfeed your pet. Animal obesity can be found in over 50% of canines and felines in the United States today. It is crucial for you as well as your veterinarian to monitor the weight of your pet as they age. Obesity in pets is not a laughing matter. It can cause and exacerbate many issues, such as arthritis, kidney problems, diabetes, heart disease, and many others. Senior pets often struggle with this the most, because as an animal ages into their twilight years, they are not as active; therefore, they do not need as many calories as they once did. If a senior cat or dog continues to eat as it did when they were younger, they will gain weight, and that, in turn, will cause problems with their health and longevity.

There are many resources for pet owners to learn about and to understand animal nutrition. From a quick internet search to a visit or phone call with your local veterinarian. Just as proper food and nutrition affect us as humans, it also affects your furry friends’ life from birth to death. The ideal approach to keeping your dog or cat both upbeat and healthy is to go to your veterinarian for assessments and routinely talk about their dietary needs. Any unexpected state of mind change in your pet may demonstrate a nutritional problem that must be tended to and remedied. You now understand that adequate and proper nutrition can affect your dog or cat from before they are born to their senior years. Your pet is part of your family. They deserve the best food and nutrition that you can give them to live a long and happy life.

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Author

  • Sarah is the managing editor and a frequent contributor at Creature Companions. Sarah is originally from sunny Florida, but has lived in Cyprus, China and Northern Ireland from 2009-2018. She currently resides, with her husband, Derek, in the City of Love, Philadelphia. Sarah is passionate about helping pet parents create a healthy lifestyle through preventative healthcare and positive enrichment for a long, vibrant life of their four-legged friends. She's had pets (mostly dogs) and has been writing about pet-focused topics, advice and trends since 2012.