Owning a pet is a big responsibility, particularly since our animals are usually fully dependent on us for their food, water, shelter, emotional needs, and medical care. Failure to provide exactly what they need can lead to unnecessary illness and suffering, frequent trips to see your veterinarian and costly medical expenses. Although there are lots of different aspects of pet care, one of the most obvious and essential is the diet that you provide your animal with. Nutritional counseling can help to ensure that your pet receives the right type of food, the perfect blend of nutrients and the correct amount of food to stay healthy and happy.
Nutritional counseling is a service provided by veterinarians in which the health and condition of your pet are assessed and used to make a personalized recommendation as to the diet your pet needs to remain in optimal health. These appointments are taken by experts in veterinary nutrition and who have undergone the necessary training and obtained enough experience to know exactly what your pet needs to be eating to stay as healthy as possible. This is essential since every animal is different.
Diet and nutrition play a vitally important role in the health of your pet. Not all pets are the same, and dietary requirements can vary, even among the same breed of animal. However, not only do they vary between individual pets, but they can also change considerably during their lifetime to reflect their age, their health and their circumstances. For example:
Infants and juvenile animals usually need a high-calorie diet complete with nutrients to help them grow and develop normally, into healthy adult pets.
Adult pets need a diet that helps them to maintain their weight and health. Weight maintenance is essential since obesity is one of the major challenges facing our animals and carrying excess weight significantly increases the likelihood that they will suffer from health problems, many of which can prove debilitating and, in some cases, fatal. Some of the conditions associated with overweight animals include diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, liver disorder and arthritis.
If you have a female that becomes pregnant, you will also need to adjust her diet to reflect her circumstances whilst she carries her babies and nurses them when they are firstborn.
Finally, when your pet reaches a stage where they are considered a senior animal (generally around 11 years old for cats, and ages for senior dogs vary depending on breed) their diet may change again. They may need specific nutrients to strengthen their bodies or to help them counteract any health issues that they may have developed. For example, glucosamine supplements are often recommended for pets with arthritis. Chances are your pet won’t be getting as much exercise as before, meaning that they can normally move onto a lower calorie diet which will help ensure that they don’t gain weight and become obese.
Generally speaking, controlling portion sizes isn’t something that humans do best. However, it isn’t just our own food that we naturally super-size. Overfeeding is one of the most common causes of pet obesity, driven by our natural tendency to do everything that we can to avoid going hungry. Most owners happily state that they would rather overfeed their pet and they leave food, than not give them enough. The trouble is that pets aren’t very good at recognizing when they are full, and many will continue to eat everything that is put in front of them! Even just adding a few extra snacks each day can quickly lead to your pet consuming more calories than is necessary and cause them to gain weight. Nutritional counseling educates owners on the importance of portion sizes and how to stick to them.
You will almost certainly need to move your pet onto a new diet at least several times during their lifetime. However, this isn’t something that should be done quickly and with no preparation. Doing so could cause your pet to reject the new food and refuse to eat at all, or in the event that they do eat, the new food could upset the delicate balance of their digestive system. Any dietary changes should be made gradually and nutritional counseling will guide you through this process so ensure that your pet experiences minimal adverse effects.
If you’d like more information about nutritional counseling, or to schedule an appointment, please get in touch with our animal clinic in Rome, GA.