Dog and Cat Nutrition (Part 1 of 3) – Meals

Dog and Cat Nutrition (Part 1 of 3) – Meals

Cut visits to the vet and turn the frown upside down on an unhappy pet by focusing on good dog and cat nutrition. We outline how to do that through nutritious meals for your pet.

Did you know that feeding your dog or cat high quality pet food with whole-food ingredients can prevent chronic health issues such as diabetes mellitus, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, renal and urinary disease, osteoarthritis, and other complications?  Your pet’s wellness over a lifetime depends on a good diet. Choosing a good diet will likely minimize visits to the vet and all the associated cost and discomfort that go along with that. In fact, making good lifestyle choices for your pet is an investment in a long, happy and healthy relationship together. Unfortunately, choosing a good dog or cat food is not as simple as it sounds.

While the Association of the American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) sets the nutritional standards for commercial pet foods, determining the amounts of grains, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals needed for different animal species, it’s important to keep in mind that a variety of whole, fresh foods are important to a dog and cat’s nutrition requirements. For instance, cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they require an animal-based protein source, good quality fats and low carbohydrates/grains. Dry food, which is mostly grain based, should be limited or avoided in cats for this reason. In fact for both dogs and cats, I typically recommend good quality canned food over dry food.

I recommend always reading the label when buying commercial pet food. There are several things I consider when choosing a food for a dog or cat. First, the food must be made in the USA. I also prefer fresh, whole ingredients and limited grains. The protein source should be animal based such as chicken or beef and not plant based such as soy or corn. Ideally, the first 3 ingredients should be a named meat and not a meat by product.  The fewer manufactured ingredients listed, the better.

Sample ingredient list from pet food to avoid in dog and cat nutrition:

Beef meal, peas, cracked pearled barley, pea flour, ground white rice, chicken fat, fish meal, pea protein, dried beet pulp, egg product, natural flavor, flaxseed, potassium chloride, salt, choline chloride, dried chicory root, kale, chia seed, pumpkin, blueberries, oranges, quinoa, dried kelp, coconut, spinach, carrots, papaya, yucca schidigera extract, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Bifidobacterium animalis fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus reuteri fermentation product, vitamin E supplement, beta carotene, iron proteinate, zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium iodide, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, ascorbic acid, vitamin A supplement, biotin, niacin, calcium pantothenate, manganese sulfate, sodium selenite, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin D supplement, folic acid.

Raw or Homemade?

Raw, frozen diets are a good option for owners who are willing to give it a try. Good alternatives to raw frozen include dehydrated/freeze-dried diets. Another good option is making your pet’s meals yourself. When you decide to give your pet a homemade diet, make sure you use a reliable resource for balancing the nutrition to make sure they are getting everything they need.

Resources for raw, frozen and freeze-dried diets:

Resources for homemade diets:

  • com
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  • The Whole Dog Journal

If your pet has medical concerns or you have diet-related questions, your veterinarian is always a good resource. You can also text VET to 67076 and a veterinarian at Ask.Vet can help you navigate pet food questions. Other good resources include and, and several veterinary schools have a nutrition center for pet owners, Ohio State University, Tufts, and University of California, Davis, to name a few. Finally, the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition lists resources for veterinarians, students and pet owners.

Dog and Cat Nutrition Resources

I’m hoping these recommendations will help you choose your pet’s diet wisely. Stay tuned. In parts two and three in our nutrition series for cats and dogs we will be discussing supplements and treats.

For more information, read part 2 and part 3 of the series.

-Juli Potter, DVM