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Why Pet Nutrition Matters

The First Step in Preventative Care

With more than half of all dogs and cats overweight or obese, pets are 
increasingly at risk for a number of chronic health problems, according 
to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). An appropriate, 
balanced diet can make a significant difference for a pet’s overall health, 
reducing the risk for chronic health conditions including heart disease, 
diabetes, arthritis, and other types of chronic pain.

Nutrition counseling and weight management are an essential part of every 
veterinary wellness exam. Just like humans, dogs and cats have unique 
wellness needs. A one-size-fits-all approach to dietary management 
overlooks important aspect of nutrition counseling. Today’s veterinarian 
makes dietary recommendations based on a pet’s specific needs, such as 
weight loss, organ function, mobility restrictions, or a chronic pain condition. 
A veterinary nutrition evaluation will also take into account a pet’s medical 
history, food preferences, and current activity level.

For some health conditions, dietary management can completely resolve 
the problem, no medication or surgery required. For example, consider the 
case of Max, a dog who was overweight and suffered from disc-related back 
pain. Max had been on chronic pain medication, including muscle relaxers, 
but was still unable to be active. Dietary management helped Max safely 
lose weight and today he romps in the neighborhood dog park like he was 
never in pain. The lesson here is simple: nutrition and dietary management 

Dietary management should start as soon as pet owners introduce a new 
pet into their family. Puppies and kittens have unique nutrition requirements 
in order to grow into healthy adult pets. For example, large-breed puppies 
should be fed a large-breed puppy food; this food helps these puppies safely 
grow slowly over time. Rapid weight gain should be avoided as it can strain 
the musculoskeletal system and increase the risk for skeletal and joint 
problems, including hip dysplasia.

In addition to considering which pet food to use, the AAHA also reminds pet 
owners to keep a close eye on their pets’ treats. Treats can be a sneaky 
source of calories and sabotage a pet’s weight management diet. Positive 
praise is just as effective and calorie free.

An extra few pounds may seem insignificant to us, but those pounds can 
adversely affect a pet's health. Veterinary care that proactively monitors 
a pet's weight and diet is the best way to keep pets healthy and active 
throughout their lives.

American Animal Hospital Association, “Nutrition: The First Step in 
Preventative Care.”

How to Pick the Right Food for Your Pet

With an almost overwhelming number of food choices in today’s pet 
superstores, choosing the right food for your pet can be a challenge. 
Your veterinarian can help. Ask your veterinarian the following:

•    How much food should I feed my pet each day?
•    Should I feed my pet once or twice per day?
•    Does my pet need a special dietary food to address a health problem?

Don’t wait until your pet is sick or overweight to ask these questions; 
a proactive approach will keep your pet healthy and active for life.

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