Basic guidelines for feeding dogs and cats
Choose a food with packaging containing a statement from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). The inclusion of this statement indicates that the diet has either been tested via food trials or has been analyzed to meet nutritional guidelines.
For puppies and kittens, choose food designated for “growth” or “all life stages.” Puppies and kittens have different nutritional needs than adult dogs and cats. It is important to feed an appropriate life stage diet until your pet reaches skeletal maturity (small and medium dogs and cats = 1 year, large breed dogs = 18 months).
Large and giant breed dogs require an even more specific diet. These dogs, such as Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and Great Danes, have a very rapid growth rate. It is therefore necessary to feed a diet formulated to help prevent developmental disorders related to their quick growth. Look for labeling with statements such as “large breed puppy formula.”
There are a multitude of food choices for adult dogs and cats. In fact, many pet parents are overwhelmed by the the number of options presented in pet stores. When it comes to choosing a food for your adult dog or cat, there are several important factors to consider such as weight and health. Obesity affects more than half of the dogs and cats in the U.S. If you are unsure whether your pet is at a healthy weight, consult a veterinarian. Your pet’s doctor can make suggestions for safe ways to promote weight loss. There are many health conditions for which prescription or specialized diets exist. Health issues that can be managed with specific diets include allergies, urinary problems, liver and kidney disease, diabetes and arthritis. There is now a special diet for pets that suffer from seizures.
While pet food manufacturers produce diets labeled for “senior” dogs and cats, there has yet to be a standardization for such a designation. As pets enter their mature years, each one has individual needs. It is therefore best to consult your pet’s veterinarian for recommendations specific to your pet.
Raw diets have become equally popular and controversial. These diets pose a risk to both pets and their families for bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella as well as parasites. Bone fragments in raw diets can result in broken teeth and can also cause severe damage to the gastrointestinal tract of dogs and cats. Raw diets are often not nutritionally balanced and pose a risk of vitamin A toxicity due to the high liver content.
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The responsibilities of pet care
- Provide clean bowls with fresh food and water daily
- Basic veterinary care
- Spay and neuter: prevents medical problems and unwanted puppies and kittens
- Fecal and blood tests
- Heart worm, flea and tick prevention
- Dental care (home care and professional cleanings)
Become familiar with what is normal for your pet (poop appearance/frequency, appetite, water consumption) and what situations warrant a call to a veterinarian such as:
- Decreased Energy
- Ingestion of toxic food (grapes, raisins, chocolate)
- Ingestion of objects such as toys, articles of clothing
- Difficulty breathing
Provide regular exercise for physical and mental health
Having a pet requires taking the financial responsibility for its well being. Owning a pet can be very expensive when you consider the cost of basic care (food, toys, bedding), boarding/pet sitter/doggie daycare/dog walker, medical care (surgery, prescription food, medicine, blood tests, veterinary visits).
6. You must make a time commitment for walking the dog before school and bedtime, training and spending quality time together.
7. It is also important to choose a pet appropriate for your lifestyle, taking into account your free time and available living space. For example, getting a Great Dane when you live in a small apartment might not be the best idea.