Get the Dish on Proper Nutrition for New Pets

(Family Features) As families continue to cope with changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, many are taking advantage of more time at home by welcoming a new puppy or kitten to their households.

One possible reason for animal lovers looking to expand their households is the mental and physical health benefits from the human-animal bond. A library of studies shared by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute found pet ownership can provide a variety of benefits, including lowering blood pressure, reducing feelings of loneliness or stress and helping manage depression.

However, before welcoming a new pet, even seasoned pet owners may benefit from a refresher on proper care, especially when it comes to feeding and nutrition. Dogs and cats have unique nutritional requirements, which means their pet food recipes must be carefully formulated. Puppies and kittens need more of certain important nutrients such as protein, fat and key minerals to grow into healthy, strong adult animals.

If you’ve welcomed a new pet to the family, or plan to soon, learn how you can care for his or her special nutritional needs with this advice from the Pet Food Institute.

Identifying Life Stages

Food labeled as appropriate for puppies and kittens or pets of all life stages includes different levels of nutrients than food for only adult pets. For example, this food includes additional sources of energy, such as protein and calories, to support rapid growth and development.

Your veterinarian can help determine an appropriate time to transition your pet to adult food; usually when it is nearly full-grown. For kittens, that may be around 10-12 months. For puppies, the timing can vary depending on size with larger breeds taking up to two years to fully mature.

Understanding Food Labels

Pet food labels are full of information to help shoppers make informed decisions about their dog or cat’s food. Some key pieces of information include the intended life stage for the pet eating the food and a claim of complete and balanced nutrition, which confirms each serving provides the proper levels of more than 40 essential nutrients pets require. Pet food labels also include a guaranteed analysis, which identifies a minimum or maximum of at least four nutrients: protein, fat, fiber and moisture. State regulators, who read pet food labels for compliance, also review the package to ensure accuracy. In fact, pet food is one of the most highly regulated food products in the United States with oversight at both the state and federal levels.

Keeping Pets at a Healthy Weight

Pet obesity can lead to a range of health issues, such as joint damage, difficulty breathing, cancer and heart disease, which makes helping your pet maintain a healthy weight important. For example, as you spend time at home with your pet, consider how many treats are given throughout the day.

Treats can be useful tools to help reinforce good behavior, keep pets occupied, aid in training or show love. However, they should be fed in moderation, accounting for no more than 10% of a pet’s caloric intake. Pet food is formulated to provide dozens of essential nutrients that dogs and cats need in their diets, so avoid using treats in place of regular meals. Also know that sharing table scraps adds calories and many common human foods can be dangerous for animals.

Providing your pet with the right nutrition early in life can help ensure proper growth and long-term well-being. Find more advice to ensure your four-legged family member is getting the necessary nutrition at petfoodinstitute.org.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images

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