For the most part, pet parenthood has a long list of benefits. Pets offer companionship, loyalty, inspire joy, and become essential members of families all over the globe. Yet as your parents undoubtedly warned at some point (and as you may well have already said to your own children): pets come with incredible responsibility. Much like in human parenthood, looking out for their health and well-being is first and foremost. This responsibility is vast, but there’s a perk to doing it right: potentially lower vet bills throughout your pet’s life.
When it comes to the connection between nutrition and health, puppies and kittens are no different from human beings. From their first days until their golden years, nutrition is essential to the comfort level of an animal’s daily life. A holistic approach to healthcare can prevent unnecessary illnesses and health problems.
“You are what you eat” is a saying that applies to pets as much as it applies to us. Longevity and quality of life are both direct parallels to animal nutrition. When a human diet lacks essential vitamins and nutrients, they are at a higher risk of illness. The same logic applies to animals. It’s not enough to simply feed an animal a couple of times a day. High-quality foods with high-quality ingredients will show their benefits through an animal’s mood, coat, muscle tone, energy, and more. For example, this is why dogs or cats suffering from allergies or skin conditions are often prescribed a new pet food from their veterinarian: better nutrition leads to a happier and healthier animal.
Most Common Animal Diseases Related to Poor Nutrition
Nutritional imbalance can cause an increased risk for many common animal diseases, affecting everything from the heart to the bones and kidneys. For instance, one of the biggest risks of an imbalanced diet is congestive heart failure. Many dog parents are unaware of the fact, but too much salt in their pet’s diet can dramatically increase the likelihood of congestive heart failure. Additionally, when animals are young they require certain levels of calcium to develop strong bones. But calcium deficiencies from inadequate nutrition often lead to brittle bones or abnormal rates of bone growth in an animal, which can cause problems throughout their life. And kidney disease is yet another concern that’s often correlated with nutritional issues. Not only do different nutritional imbalances raise the likelihood of kidney disease, but kidney issues can also be brought on by low hydration levels. Animals without regular access to water throughout the day, or who eat dry kibble but don’t drink frequently enough to make up for that lack of hydration, are at a much higher risk of kidney disease and other health-related issues.
The Obesity Problem
In America, 40 percent of pets are overweight or obese. When animals are heavy, they’re putting extra pressure on their joints and their organs. Lean, healthy animals live 15 percent longer than their overweight counterparts. Pet parents must notice the warning signs of poor nutrition—the most apparent tip-off being an obese animal.
You can check your pets by looking at their ribcage. When running a hand along a rib cage, you should easily make out the ribs. When you can no longer feel them, the pet is overweight. Dogs and cats will often store extra weight around their hips, back, and abdomen. Pet parents often blame thick coats for their pets appearing bulky, but it’s harder to hide behind a fluffy coat when you make an effort to check their rib cage for excess fat.
When a pet parent has an overweight animal, they should know that it is 100% preventable and, luckily, reversible. Talking to a veterinarian about a dietary switch is a great place to start. Pet parents should also ask about the recommended dose of food provided. Overfeeding pets is one of the leading causes of animal obesity. Poor portion control is often unintentional. When a pet gets the proper portions and nutrients in their meal, they will be less lethargic and more likely to exercise or play. Exercise will help shed unnecessary pounds. It is important to reiterate that pet parents should make no dietary switch without the advice of a trained veterinarian.
Other Signs of Poor Pet Nutrition
Numerous factors have nothing to do with weight, but should set off alarms that a pet is not getting the nutritional value they should be receiving from their diet. Below is a list of a few things to look out for that are most common in dogs, but do mostly apply to other pets:
- Bad Breath
- Dull Coat
- Excessive Shedding
- Hair Loss
- Unusual Bowel Movements
- Severe Weight Loss
The Power of Knowledge
One of the biggest culprits to poor health in animals is the poor quality of their food. There are countless pet foods on the market that rely on fillers or by-products that may be helping create a sense of fullness in an animal, but are not actually contributing to their health. Developing an understanding of what makes a pet food high-quality is essential. When pet parents understand the power of nutrition, they can take action to boost the immune systems of their pets through a quality diet.
What Makes Up High-Quality Pet Food?
When considering healthier pet food options, veterinarians will often advise pet parents on the ingredients to watch out for on pet food packaging. For instance, chemical preservatives, artificial colors, and artificial flavors are all warning signs. Freshpet is often recommended because it does not contain these ingredients and instead focuses on meat and fresh fruits and vegetables. The quality of the protein found in dog food will also have a direct impact on the ease of digestion for a pet. While it may be cheaper for the manufacturer and the consumer, ingredients like “meat meal” and “meat powders” frequently found in kibble are harder to digest. Ideally, the protein sources consumed by pets should come from the same protein sources their humans would enjoy.
Besides pure ingredients, the choice of pet food can also hinge on what stage of life a pet is in at the moment. Younger animals may follow a different set of nutritional guidelines than an adult pet would need. Again, this is why talking to a veterinarian is so vital. They can instruct pet parents when it is time to consider a dietary switch to maximize the health benefits of their animal’s diet.
A Worthy Investment
It’s true that many higher-quality animal food products come with a slightly higher price tag. However, Freshpet knows that healthier pets require fewer veterinarian visits, which will often save pet parents substantial amounts of money in the long run.