Spring and summer are popular times for families to adopt a new puppy or kitten. Good nutrition is one of the key factors in ensuring that your new family member achieves their full potential. Research in the growing field of pet nutrition has resulted in better understanding of the needs of puppies and kittens, and has lead to new recommendations in feeding.
We know that young kittens and puppies have unique nutritional requirements that change as they grow. Very young animals have difficulty digesting complex carbohydrates due to a lack of digestive enzymes. Excessive carbohydrate intake can result in diarrhea in these youngsters. As their digestive systems develop, they begin producing the enzymes that are needed to digest carbohydrates, so older kittens and puppies are less susceptible to this problem. Young puppies and kittens are also more sensitive than adults to dietary imbalances, particularly protein deficiency or calcium excess. A deficiency in protein can slow growth and cause irreversible skeletal problems, while excess calcium can lead to bone and joint problems.
Like human children, it has been shown that DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid, supports optimal brain development and vision in puppies and kittens. The greatest period of brain development in puppies and kittens occurs before 12 weeks of age. Feeding a diet that is rich in DHA will permit puppies and kittens to reach their full potential and develop healthy brain and eye tissues.
As puppies and kittens approach puberty, their metabolism slows and their nutritional needs decrease. When they are surgically sterilized through castration or ovariohysterectomy, they will undergo additional metabolic changes that further decrease their energy requirements.
Veterinarians and nutritionists agree that the most important two pieces of advice they can give owners of kittens and puppies are to feed a good quality growth diet and to avoid overfeeding. The common practice of offering food at all times rather than as set mealtimes encourages overeating, as well as making it more difficult to housetrain puppies. A fat puppy or kitten is more likely to be an obese adult, and obesity has become one of the more important health issues for adult dogs and cats. Obesity predisposes pets to other health problems, most notably diabetes and joint problems. Joint problems such as arthritis occur in about 20% of all dogs and cats, according to clinical research studies.
As pet owners, it is up to us to monitor our pet’s food consumption and body condition, and to provide the optimal amount and type of food to meet their nutritional needs and maintain a healthy weight. We, as your veterinary health care providers, can answer specific questions about feeding your puppy or kitten, and can give you professional advice about the general care of your new friend, thus optimizing their chance to lead a long and healthy life.
Caution: These news items, written by Lifelearn Inc., are licensed to this practice for the personal use of our clients. Any copying, printing or further distribution is prohibited without the express written permission of Lifelearn Inc. Please note that the news information presented here is NOT a substitute for a proper consultation and/or clinical examination of your pet by our clinic veterinarian.