Do you wish you had a guide to simplify your path through the profusion of pet food? The choices are overwhelming. Opinions vary on what to feed, when, and how much. We can help you “keep it simple.” Lebanon Animal Hospital is your compass in navigating nutrition for your pet.
Landmarks of pet nutrition
As your family pet doctor, we know the medical history, lifestyle, and risks for your precious family member. Each pet is unique, and each nutrition plan is unique, but all plans share some landmarks. The nutrition guideposts are your pet’s life stages, from active youth to venerable senior, and any health conditions you meet along the way.
- Puppies and kittens — A growing puppy or kitten needs a growth formula food. Small and medium breeds need growth formula for the first 12 months, and large and giant breeds for the first 18 to 24 months. Feeding growth formulas into adulthood is not recommended, since the more energy-dense food can lead to obesity and behavior problems, if energy levels don’t match exercise levels. And, an adult formula food does not meet the needs of a large breed—or any—puppy. A large-breed puppy formula will help larger pups keep a lean body condition, and grow at an ideal rate during their first 12 to 24 months of life.
- Healthy adults — A healthy adult pet needs high quality adult formula pet food, and limited treats. Use guides on pet food labels as a starting point when deciding how much to feed, and then work with our team to pinpoint the amount. Always use a measuring cup, and never a scoop of uncertain volume. A maximum 10% of your pet’s daily caloric needs should come from treats. If you use a food storage bin, always keep the original pet food or treat container for reference. Check with us to choose healthy treats and food for your adult pets. By simply feeding the same high quality adult formula pet food and limited treats every day, you can bypass many health problems as you trek the nutritional road through adulthood.
- Food-allergic pets — A pet with a food allergy or intolerance requires an elimination diet and an ingredient challenge to diagnose the cause. Treatment will often be a prescription diet with a novel or modified protein source the pet has never eaten. All household members must comply with the plan and feed their pet only prescribed treats, food, and medications, while avoiding all table food. Pets are allergic to many human food ingredients, and many, such as xylitol, raisins, and onions, are toxic to pets. Strict adherence to the prescribed diet keeps your pet on track to food allergy relief.
- Under- and overweight pets — Our team can determine the correct amount of food needed by an under- or overweight pet. In some cases, we will prescribe a particular food; for example, overweight dogs often respond to a high fiber diet, while cats respond better to lower carbohydrate diets. Pets who eat too rapidly can benefit from slow-feed bowls, especially deep-chested, large-breed dogs, who can be predisposed to stomach bloating and torsion. Pets who are not eating enough, usually due to illness, may be prescribed higher-calorie canned foods and appetite stimulants. You must commit to bringing your pet to the hospital for regular weigh-ins, and to giving only the type and amount of treats we prescribe. Knowing how much your pet eats will help our team address weight issues, to keep your pet moving along the nutritional trail.
- Pets with medical conditions — Pets with health problems, which can range from hairballs to seizures, often require specialized food as a cornerstone of treatment. When feeding your pet a new diet, always make the change gradually, over several days, because sudden changes in the type or amount can cause your pet to reject the new food, and may cause stomach upset. The diet we prescribe is always the best option—homemade or raw diets in particular are not recommended. Home-cooked diets often result in an imbalance of critical nutrients, while raw diets can put your pet at risk because of infectious agents such as Salmonella. Many pitfalls on your pet’s path, from urinary stones to cognitive decline, may be avoided through diet.
- Senior pets — A senior pet (i.e., 7 years or older) must be switched from an adult formula to a senior diet that has been adjusted for lower activity levels, and may contain joint health or other supplements. As for pets at other life stages, a high quality pet food is all your pet needs, and adding vitamins and minerals, unless prescribed, can create imbalances. Fresh water is crucial, especially for senior pets. Sometimes creative delivery may be necessary; for example, a pet fountain may encourage a cat who likes to drink moving water. Monitoring the amount your senior pet eats and drinks, especially cats who have kidney disease, will help us maximize their health as they walk through their golden years.
Let our veterinary team be your guide
Your pet’s diet is the ground beneath their feet for health and longevity. The landmarks of life stage, body condition, and health issues will guide you along the path. At every step, let our caring Lebanon Animal Hospital team be your compass. Contact us, and together, we can make it through the pet food jungle to the trail that will ensure the healthiest options for your pet.