The Importance of Feeding Guidelines: Is your dog or cat getting a balanced diet?

cat licking his lips with empty bowl feeding guidelinesEvery manufacturer has different feeding guidelines. In fact almost every variant of pet food that manufacturers produce will have different guidelines on how to feed your pet. Although you may feel you know your pet best, these recommendations are based on the kind of testing and analysis you can’t do at home, meaning that it’s important to follow these guidelines unless you have a very good reason not to.

The right food?

You will notice that feeding guidelines will give portion sizes for different-sized animals, but even before looking at this the question to ask is do you have the most suitable food for your pet?

While some pet food manufacturers develop products that are suitable for animals of any size, in some cases there will be variants for small and larger animals. Although this is almost exclusively done for dog food, breed specific cat foods such as Royal Canin Maine Coon are developed to meet the needs of these larger cats too.

Some dog food brands offer simply a standard food and a large breed food, which besides higer energy also feature a adjustable dog bowls for different sized dog breeds larger kibble size and a different composition of nutrients to support muscles and joints. Some brands, like Royal Canin, will have as many as 5 variants for different sized dogs.

Finding and using Feeding Guidelines

When you do come to look at the cat or dog food feeding guidelines, the animal’s weight will usually be given in kg in a table alongside the daily portion you should give in grams. If you can’t find this information on the packaging it may be necessary to visit the manufacturers’ website or a product specific page on zooplus where we endeavour to display manufacturer’s  feeding guidelines where available.

Complete and Complimentary Foods

This is quite simple if you are giving a complete food such as with our Arden Grange Feeding Guidelines. However, with a complimentary food things get a little more difficult, especially if you are mixing brands. You may want to give a mixture of wet and dry food which each give your pet an important part of their diet, as well as variety. Some brands, such as with Almo Nature’s feeding guidelines, include recommendations on which products to mix for a complete guideline: otherwise you should be careful and may need to get advice from your vet.

High Energy and Light Foods

If you have a pet with either high energy needs or who has lower energy needs, including those needing to lose weight, you may also want to consult your vet on portion sizes if you want to keep them on the same food, however, you could also look at high energy foods or light foods respectively. High energy dog foods are aimed at working dogs and very active dogs and may lead to other dogs putting on excess weight if put on these foods.

Light dog foods and light cat foods are designed to include the vital nutrients a dog or cat needs but with less energy and often less protein. As opposed to simply reducing portion sizes, light foods have the major advantage that your dog or cat still gets the quantities of nutrients, including  fibre, vitamins and minerals, that they need for a healthy diet.

dog and cat with Savic feeding bowls Reasons for differences between brands

One reason why owners do under- or over-feed dogs or cats is that they have changed brands but carried on with a similar portion size. It may be that to you and to your pet the recommended portion seems far too small especially with premium pet food brands. The reason for this is that many lower quality brands actually have a lot of filler with little nutritional value and which can often have negative effects on sensitive dogs or cats. It may take a little while for your pet to get used to smaller portions but they should be healthier and because you use less foods premium dog food and cat food brands can still be very good value.

Monitoring your pet’s weightlady with kitten and puppy

Whatever food you are using and however closely you follow feeding guidelines, you should always monitor your pet’s weight, and not just during puppy-hood and early adulthood while they are still growing. Putting on or losing weight can be a sign of other problems or it could just be your dog is using more or less energy than average.

To check you should try to weigh your pet, if your pet is small enough the best way is to carry them onto a set of scales and then subtract your own weight. You should also do a visual check and do this regularly between veterinary check-ups.

You shouldn’t be able to see your dog’s ribs, if you can they may be underweight. But you should be able to feel their ribs when applying pressure and this should be through a thin layer of fat. If you can’t feel their ribs or can only just detect them they may be overweight. Dogs should also have a visible waist, which will start to ‘blur’ into their stomach and abdomen with excess weight . Poor skin or coat quality may also suggest a problem with diet such as a portion size which is too small or food that isn’t meeting all of their requirements.

With your cat, you should check their ribs in a similar way, they shouldn’t be too easy to feel and there should be a noticeable layer of fat above the ribs but if you can only just feel them your cat may be overweight. You can best check the shape of your cat from above and they will normally start putting on extra weight around their rear end first.

If your dog or cat does appear to be under- or overweight a vet’s appointment may be a good idea. They may even recommended a brand such as Hill’s prescription diet products for dogs or cats with variants aimed at overweight cats or dogs but which should only be used when recommended by a vet.
Dog with a bone, licking his lips

The importance of your pet maintaining a healthy weight

Feeding guidelines and paying attention to your pet’s weight and condition are important if you want to ensure they have a long and healthy life. Although they may not show signs of health issues immediately, some problems will develop later in life, especially after prolonged periods of carrying excess weight.

Cats and dogs who are underfed or have an unbalanced diet may suffer from lethargy as well as skin and coat problems and, in extreme cases, problems with eyesight and kidney problems.

Over-fed pets’ health problems include hyperactivity in some cases but long term a pet can become overweight and this can lead to them becoming less active and becoming less mobile and agile. This is then compounded when as they age, the extra weight has an effect on muscles and joints: particularly in dog breeds susceptible to these problems; overeating in pets like humans can sometimes be a contributing factor in diabetes as well.

One Reply to “The Importance of Feeding Guidelines: Is your dog or cat getting a balanced diet?”

  1. There is no generally accepted systematic practice for defining ingredients that are present in ‘high quantity’ (so GoodGuide assumes the first five ingredients on a product label are in this category). Ingredient order can be manipulated by using high weight, water-dense ingredients, or by “splitting” ingredients such as wheat into components such as wheat middlings, wheat flour and wheat germ meal. AAFCO ingredient definitions can be vague. For example, ‘meat by-products’ can contain liver, kidney and lungs (high in nutrient value), or udder, bone and connective tissue (poor in nutrient value). GoodGuide’s Science Team worked closely with a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN) to ensure that our ratings criteria were science-based, and feedback from these experts consistently indicated that reliance on pet food ingredient categorization alone would be a poor indicator of a product’s overall health impact for a pet.

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