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Frequently Asked Questions -
Diets and Feeding

What causes my animal to lose weight?
What is obesity?
How can I help my dog lose weight?
How can I help my cat lose weight?
What should I feed my dog?
What should I feed my cat?
How can I safely switch my cat’s diet?
My pet is getting older. Should I change his diet?
How should I feed my pregnant animal?
My pet is sick. What should I feed him?

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What causes my animal to lose weight?
Weight loss results when the body does not take in as many calories as it requires. This can affect any of the body’s organ systems. Weight loss may be associated with many normal and abnormal conditions, and most chronic diseases will result in weight loss at some time during the course of the disease. Changes in diet, environment or stress levels, including the addition of new pets, may lead to weight loss that is rarely permanent or significant.

Weight loss is considered to be clinically significant when it exceeds ten percent of the normal body weight and when it is not associated with fluid loss or dehydration. For example, a healthy Golden Retriever weighing a breed-normal seventy pounds would have to lose over seven pounds before the weight loss would be considered clinically significant. Treatment varies depending on the cause of your pet’s weight loss.

Significant weight loss may be caused by:

  • High energy demand associated with excessive physical activity, prolonged exposure to cold, hyperthyroidism, pregnancy or lactation, fever, infection, inflammation and cancer
  • Inadequate or poor quality diet
  • Excessive loss of nutrients or fluid from vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive urination
  • Anorexia due to a behavioral condition or disease
  • Pseudoanorexia caused by loss of smell, inability to grasp or chew food, swallowing disorders, vomiting or regurgitation
  • Malabsorptive disorders that inhibit the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from the intestinal tract
  • Maldigestive disorders that interfere with the body’s ability to break down food into usable nutrients
  • Metabolic disorders such as diabetes mellitus, hypoadrenocorticism (Addison’s disease), hyperthyroidism (rare in dogs, common in cats) and cancer
  • Diseases involving the major organs (heart, liver or kidney)
  • Neuromuscular disease resulting in weakness or paralysis
  • Swallowing disorders
  • Central nervous system disease causing depression, anorexia or pseudoanorexia

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What is obesity?
Obesity is defined as weighing 30% more than the ideal weight and is one of the most common nutritional diseases of domestic dogs and cats. Obesity is the accumulation of excess energy stored as fat. It occurs when your pet receives more calories than he needs and expends. There is no scientific research that concludes that neutering causes obesity in animals. Sometimes we think we are feeding our pets only small quantities of food but tend to forget the treats and table foods, and even a few calories can add up over time.

When a dog is at an ideal weight, the ribs are easily felt through a slight fat cover. The tail base is smooth but bones can be felt under a thin layer of fat. From a side view, an abdominal tuck can be seen. A well-proportioned waist is present.

Obesity leads to several diseases. Type II diabetes, heart disease and arthritis are the most common weight-related disorders. In cats, obesity is often associated with a severe form of liver failure. Diet and weight reduction are the key to ensuring that your pet lives as long and healthy a life as possible.

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How can I help my dog lose weight?
Prevention is better than treatment, but this is not always easy. To encourage weight loss, replacing all treats and human food with low calorie treats such as Canine Plus tabs or Lean Treats, increasing the amount of exercise, and feeding a lower calorie food (Prescription Diet R/D or Royal Canin Weight Loss Hi Fiber are good choices) will help. You should begin by feeding about 10 to 15% less of the lower calorie food compared to what you were feeding before. Be sure to measure carefully the amount fed so that you will be consistent; and weigh the dog regularly.

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How can I help my cat lose weight?
Prevention is better than treatment, but this is not always easy. Commercial “restricted-calorie” and weight loss diets are available from veterinarians and provide the basis for a successful weight loss program. Limiting treats is important. In many cases owners misinterpret the cat’s attempts to elicit social interaction, through vocalization or rubbing, as a demand for food and when the cat realizes that food treats can be elicited in this way it quickly learns to develop this “food soliciting behavior”.  In order to decrease this desire for in between snacks you should increase the frequency of feeding and spread your cat’s daily food intake between multiple small meals rather than two main sittings, a timing that a cat is more naturally suited to.

However, weight loss diets are more effective when combined with additional exercise. Encouraging your cat to  exercise by playing with him, putting his food in unusual locations so he has to go looking for it, and making him work for his food (e.g. training, foraging toys) will help. Games which stimulate predatory instincts are usually irresistible for cats and the use of fishing rod toys which encourage some aerobic activity will be a helpful part of your pet’s diet regime. 

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What should I feed my dog?
When you are choosing a diet for your dog, be sure to buy pet foods approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). This will ensure that the diet is nutritionally complete. The majority of your dog’s diet should also be composed of hard, crunchy, foods that help to keep your dog’s teeth healthy and clean. Human food and an excess of treats should be avoided.

Cheaper dog foods may meet your dog’s nutritional requirements but  may contain a lot of filler ingredients and other substances which are not always healthy for your dog. Try to avoid purchasing dog foods that contain artificial colors, sugars, and other sweeteners. Dog foods which have meat as the main ingredients are healthier for your dog. We stock several of our favorite diets for healthy dogs as well as prescription diets designed to help with specific medical problems.

Some dog owners want to feed their dogs home cooked meals. This is fine, as long as the diet is complete, including plenty of fresh meats, vegetables, and vitamin supplements. Ask us about home cooked diet recipes.

Puppy, adult, and senior dog foods are specifically formulated to meet your dog’s nutritional needs during those life stage periods. Puppy food should be given to puppies for no longer than 6 months of age; at that age, slowly introduce adult food into your growing puppy’s diet. In some large-breed, rapidly growing dogs we may recommend a switch to an adult diet at a much younger age in order to slow growth rates to allow for optimal hip joint formation. Adult food should be fed to your dog between 6 months and 7 years of age. At 7 years of age, you should begin feeding your dog a diet formulated for senior dogs; slowly introduce a senior diet to your dog’s regular adult food, and over time eliminate the adult food from the diet.

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What should I feed my cat?
Commercial cat food approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials contains all the nutrients that your cat needs. Lower quality cat foods may contain a variety of ingredients, and many of these ingredients are ‘filler’ ingredients that your cat does not need in its diet. Higher quality cat foods contain fewer ingredients, and a higher percentage of meat in the diet. While these foods are often more expensive than lower quality cat foods, your cat will eat less food and eliminate less waste. Soft food and dry food can both be a part of your cat’s diet, but keep the amount of canned food to a minimum as this type of diet can cause severe dental problems in cats. The exception would be for certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or urinary tract problems. In these cases, your veterinarian may advise feeding canned food only.

It is important to feed the right type of diet during different stages of life. Kitten diets should only be fed up to 6 months of age, adult cat food should be fed until the cat is 6-7 years of age, and senior cat food should be fed for the remainder of the cat’s life. If your cat has a specific medical condition specialized prescription diets can make a big difference on your cat’s health.

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How can I safely switch my cat’s diet?
A cat’s diet will need to be changed at least twice during the cat’s lifetime, from kitten food to adult food, and from adult food to senior food. An abrupt change in diet can often lead to digestive upsets.

If a cat refuses to eat new food, do not wait until the cat gets hungry enough to eat. This can be dangerous for the cat. It is best to slowly mix in the new cat food over a couple week. Slowly mixing in the new cat food will also help the cat’s digestive system to adjust to the new food without experiencing upset.

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My pet is getting older. Should I change his diet?
The most frequent change in the aging pet is the slowing of the metabolic rate, which lowers the animal’s energy requirement. An animal who requires less energy but continues to eat as before becomes overweight. This obesity imposes an extra strain on the heart or any aged bones and joints. In this case, it would be helpful to feed the animal either less food or foods such as senior diets which frequently contain fewer calories, less protein and less fiber. Also, a less active animal with reduced efficiency of the kidneys, as most older pets are, would benefit from decreasing the total protein intake with a senior diet.

All senior diets are not the same. Depending on your animal, a specific diet may be more appropriate than another. A veterinarian can suggest appropriate senior diet.

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How should I feed my pregnant animal?
A pregnant dog or cat will require increased calories and protein in the diet. For the first two-thirds of the pregnancy, feed the same amount of food. For the last third, food intake should increase by about 50 percent. While it may be tempting to give nutritional supplements or vitamins to a pregnant animal, it is best that she gain all of her extra nutritional requirements through her diet. Her caloric requirements will continue to increase from the last third of pregnancy until the pups or kittens are 3 weeks old, at which point she might need 3 times the number of calories.

You should feed your pregnant dog or cat a high quality pet food that has a high degree of digestibility. Hill’s Science Diet and Royal Canin are good examples of Premium, highly digestible diets for dogs. Nutritional supplements and vitamins should be avoided and may be detrimental to your pet's health.

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My pet is sick. What should I feed him?
A nutritious diet is very important for a sick animal.  Human food can often exacerbate gastrointestinal problems, and it plays an important role in obesity. A simple diet of quality dog or cat food and a constantly accessible water bowl are best to help an animal recover. If an animal is vomiting or has diarrhea, be sure that he is getting plenty of water to drink, but withhold food for 8 to 12 hours, then offer a small amount of a very bland, highly digestible diet such as Prescription I/D or a home-made chicken and white rice diet, well blended.

Therapeutic diets are a mainstay of preventing, delaying or even controlling many chronic diseases including kidney failure, liver disease, inflammatory bowel disease, food allergies, and obesity. Many diets found pet stores lack the benefits of therapeutic diets, whose ingredients have been formulated specifically for the individual problem and tested for digestibility and nutritional value.

 

 

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