Diet & Nutrition

  • Breed-specific diets are a category of commercial pet feeds available for dogs and cats that are formulated to accommodate various breed predispositions. This article provides a concept overview of these diets, including what they are and what benefits they may serve. Specific examples are reviewed in brief to illustrate case scenarios for common canine and feline breeds.

  • When the digestive tract is upset, vomiting and diarrhea may result. Since the causes of these symptoms are varied, it’s best to consult a veterinarian. Often, a bland diet is recommended to rest the digestive tract and to decrease vomiting and diarrhea. Bland diets consist of a single easily digestible protein source and a simple carbohydrate. Pet owners may prepare bland diets at home or choose one of the many commercially available diets.

  • Veterinarians generally agree that there is no single best food for all dogs or all cats. Our pets are individuals: some will prefer dry kibble, while others will prefer wet or canned food. Pet owners may also have preferences related to cost, convenience of shopping, and how a particular pet food manufacturer conducts their business. This handout briefly outlines key aspects of selecting the most appropriate food and water for your dog or cat.

  • Designer diets cover a range of options that target specific canine nutritional needs. While some designer foods include certain ingredients like novel protein sources, others exclude certain ingredients like grains. There is a potential link between heart disease and diet. Determining which type of diet is best for your dog should include a discussion with your veterinarian as there is no documented data that designer diets are any better for the average, healthy dog than are traditional, commercial preparations.

  • Many veterinarians, including nutritionists and behaviorists, believe it is important for dogs and cats to express their natural foraging and hunting behaviors. For pets living indoors, this can be difficult, and the lack of this stimulation can sometimes lead to behavior problems. Enriching a pet's environment with food toys and puzzles at mealtimes can fulfill the need to forage. The use of toys, puzzles and other novel methods of food delivery can also be effective ways to increase daily movement in overweight or inactive pets.

  • Dogs and cats have different nutrient requirements, which is why separate commercial pet foods are made for each species. Even pets of the same breed or body weight have unique calorie needs, so pet parents should feed them in separate bowls to avoid having any pets gain or lose weight. Diets designed for young growing puppies or kittens are different from adult dog or cat foods, so pups/kittens should be fed separately from adults until around the age of 11-12 months. Body condition scoring should be a part of regular monitoring to make sure each pet does not gain (or lose) weight.

  • Interactive feeders that require a pet to think and work for their food call upon the natural instinct to hunt or forage. Besides being fun, these food puzzles may help both physical and behavioral problems in cats and dogs. When used correctly, interactive feeders may benefit pets that eat too quickly, become bored when alone, or suffer from separation anxiety.

  • Pigs are omnivores that typically eat multiple small meals throughout the day. A mini-pig’s base diet should consist of a commercially available, nutritionally balanced pelleted chow formulated for mini-pigs. Different formulations are available based on the life stage of the pig. In addition to pelleted pig chow, pigs may be fed small amounts of other foods, including fresh or frozen vegetables and small amounts of fruit. Pelleted food should be offered first to help ensure it is consuming a balanced diet. The exact amount of pelleted food to feed depends on the brand being fed; most brands give general feeding recommendations calculated from their caloric content. Treats such as small pieces of succulent fruits or vegetables may be offered once or twice a day and are best used as rewards in training.

  • Food allergies can be problematic for many cats, especially after years on the same diet. Clinical signs may manifest as gastrointestinal or skin problems. Animal proteins are the most common causes and strict avoidance is the best way to treat affected cats. An 8 to 12-week elimination diet trial on a special veterinary diet is the only definitive method to diagnose a food allergy and, in some cases, the veterinary diet may need to be continued long-term.

  • Skin and gut issues are problematic and can be caused by many things, including food allergies. The best way to identify food allergies is through an elimination-challenge diet trial, in which you eliminate potentially allergenic foods and treats for the length of the diet trial, then methodically add foods back into the diet to determine response. If a food allergy is identified, avoiding the food usually results in a good outcome, although some cats develop new allergies in later years.