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100 Expert Nutrition Tips for a Happy & Healthy Pet
September 26th, 2010
By Kitty Holman
Your pet's nutrition is an important part of a healthy, happy, and active life. As a pet owner, it's your job to make sure that you've giving the animals in your care the best opportunity to eat good food, and with the right information, you can. Read on to find tips for offering your furry friends excellent nutrition to support a healthy life.
These nutrition tips apply to most pets.
- More expensive doesn't always mean better: Pet food isn't better just because it costs more.
- Feed the equivalent of two meals a day: Whether you allow your pet to graze on food all day or feed at regular times, be sure they are getting two square meals a day.
- Follow realistic serving sizes: Many pet food labels will tell you to feed a larger serving size than is really needed, so talk to your vet and consider your pet's lifestyle.
- Regularly check for recalled food products: Visit the American Veterinary Medical Association's list of recalled food products.
- Watch for symptoms: Keep an eye out for distress like increased urination, lethargy, drinking excessive water, and dehydration.
- An active and healthy pet is OK on nutrition: Experts assert that if your animal remains healthy and active, you shouldn't worry too much about the food you're feeding.
- Wash bowls regularly: Prevent bacteria by washing food bowls and water dishes on a regular basis.
- Measure food: Measure out food amounts before feedings.
- Feed dry food for dental problems: Wet and dry food is pretty much the same, except that canned food may promote tartar buildup.
- Limit treats: Treats can be an overindulgence, so be sure not to constantly offer them to your pet.
- Return or donate snubbed food: If your pet doesn't like a food, most pet stores will allow a return, or you can donate to a local shelter.
- Avoid table scraps: Table scraps can lead to poor eating habits and other problems.
- Be ready for change: A change of diet may offer relief for allergies, itchiness, and other problems.
- Store food in closed containers: Prevent food from getting stale, losing nutrients, and attracting pests with the help of closed containers.
- Check expiration dates: Ensure freshness by keeping an eye on expiration dates.
- Look for a good ratio of nutrients: Your pet's food needs to have proteins, carbs, healthy fats, amino acids, and the proper vitamins and minerals.
- Protect urinary health: Choose a food that offers the best quality for urinary tract health.
- Look for named meat: Beef, chicken, or lamb is better than meat byproducts and animal digests.
- Use a drinking fountain: Give your pet the freshest water possible with a cat drinking fountain.
- Talk to your vet: Your vet can recommend good nutrition for your pet based on their particular conditions and activity level.
- Food should be complete and balanced: Make sure that the food you're feeding is not a treat, and designed for the pet's sole nourishment.
- Plant eaters need more veggies: Cats who eat plants need more cat friendly plants in their diet. Consider a plant garden.
- Claims aren't necessarily backed up: There is no official definition of premium, human grade, gourmet, or organic pet food.
- Keep plenty of water available: Make sure that your pet can stay hydrated by providing lots of water.
- You can cut costs with homemade food: If you want to make your own pet food, look for nutritional guides to creating a balanced diet.
Pamper your pooch with these nutrition tips.
- Don't let your dog consume alcohol: Alcoholic beverages can cause intoxication, coma, and death.
- Feed age appropriate food: Follow guidelines for puppy, adult, and aging dog food.
- Avoid preservatives: Preservatives can be toxic to a dog's liver, so be sure to stay away from them.
- Give each dog an individual bowl: You can keep an eye on eating habits by giving each dog their own bowl.
- Don't feed too frequently: Avoid feeding your dog too frequently, or you can turn him into a picky eater.
- Stop poop eaters: When your dog eats poop, he's telling you he's not getting enough nutrients.
- Pay attention to size: Small breeds may need smaller food that can fit in their mouth.
- Know when to change to a senior diet: Small and medium breeds will need to switch to a senior diet at 7 years, large at 6, and giant breeds at 5.
- Don't hover: Don't stare at your dog while he eats, or you may make him anxious.
- Try feeding in several different places: Train your dog to eat anywhere by feeding them inside, outside, and in different rooms.
- Don't allow your dog to eat bones: Bones can cause obstruction or laceration of a dog's digestive system.
- Be tough on refused meals: If your dog refuses his meal, don't give in right away and offer something else.
- Minimize fillers: Corn and wheat may be allergens for your dog.
- Take food away after 30 minutes: If your dog doesn't finish his food in 30 minutes, remove it in order to train him to eat his food.
- Maintain levels of protein for older dogs: Senior dogs need just as much protein as younger ones do.
- Watch out for reduced intake: If your dog suddenly stops eating, it could be a dental or stomach problem.
- Make only gradual food changes: When transitioning your dog's food, make it a gradual process.
- Fat trimmings are not healthy: Don't give your dog fat trimmings, as it can cause pancreatitis.
- Watch carefully when making food changes: If you change your dog's diet in any way, watch carefully for any new problems.
- Help older dogs promote beneficial bacteria growth: Be sure your senior dog's diet includes FOS (fructooligosaccharides).
- Increase GLA intake with age: Older dogs may have diminished gamma-linolenic acid, so they need help with this nutrient.
Read these tips to find information for feeding the special cats in your family.
- Avoid feeding too much: Cats only need from 24 to 35 calories a day per pound each day to maintain a healthy weight.
- Offer a variety if necessary: Your cat may get bored eating the same food and quit eating.
- Don't let cats eat dog food: Repeated feeding of dog food can result in malnutrition and diseases affecting the heart.
- Cheaper may not be good enough: Cats will eat as much as they need to get their nutrients, so you may actually need to feed more cheap food to give them enough.
- Start a senior diet at 7 years of age: Your cat will need to be changed to a senior diet starting at about seven years of age:
- Feed cats meat: Although you may be vegetarian or vegan, your cat is a carnivore and must eat meat and animal organs to survive.
- Don't give cats milk or dairy: Some cats will get diarrhea from dairy products.
- Increase vitamin E for older cats: Support the antibody levels of your older cat by increasing the intake of vitamin E.
- Often, canned food has more meat: Wet food may be beneficial for your cat, as it usually has more meat and animal protein than dry food.
- Feed wet food: Cats don't voluntarily drink water like dogs do, so feeding wet food can help improve their intake of liquids.
- Make slow changes to feeding habits: Abrupt changes can cause sever stress for a cat.
- Preservatives can be good: Preservatives help slow the breakdown of food and hold its nutritional value-and they might even be antioxidants themselves.
- Don't feed homemade food: Most people do not have the nutritional knowledge to create a healthy homemade diet for their cats.
- Offer lots of water: Water deficiencies can have serious repercussions for pets, so be sure to make water available where you cat likes to drink it.
- Don't give garlic for tapeworms: Garlic can't prevent parasitic infestations, and too much can destroy a cat's red blood cells.
Enjoy feeding both wild and pet birds good nutrition with these tips.
- All seed diets aren't recommended: Feed more than just seeds, including fruit and vegetables.
- Offer a mineral or calcium block: Put a block of mineral or calcium in the cage.
- Replace your bird's food daily: Replacing your bird's food can ensure that your bird has fresh seeds.
- Vitamin supplementation is recommended: Powdered vitamins can be sprinkled over foods.
- Be careful about what you give your bird: You must avoid giving your bird avocado, iceberg lettuce, caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, and seeds from fruits.
- Clean tossed food: If your bird tosses or turns up food containers, be sure to clean it up quickly, as it will mix with droppings.
- Place bird feeders where you want to see them: Put your bird feeders in a location where you'll be able to see the birds you're feeding.
- Don't feed grit: Pet birds don't need grit, and it may lead to impaction or death.
- Offer a variety of fruits and vegetables: Food like corn, yams, apples, and grapes make good supplements to your bird's diet.
- Cooked foods may have bacteria: Cooked foods that have been left out can have bacteria.
- Expose your bird to the sun: Allow your bird to soak up UV rays to help with calcium absorption.
- Cut out high fat seeds for obesity: Cut down obesity by avoiding high fat seeds.
- You can create your own bird food: Follow recipes to make homemade bird food.
- Try alternative foods: Alternative foods like fruits, nectar, and mealworms may attract different species of birds to your feeder.
Fish & Small Animals
Check out these tips for feeding fish and small animals.
- Feed what can be finished quickly: Only offer as much as your fish will finish in 2 minutes.
- Give your rat something to chew on: Be sure that your rat can chew on wood, rawhide, dog biscuits, or cardboard to keep their front teeth in good condition and ready to eat.
- Automatic feeders can be useful: Automatic feeders will dispense exactly the amount of food you specify at regular intervals.
- Offer variety: Use a staple diet, plus a supplemental diet and supplements.
- Be careful about overfeeding: Overfeeding can lead to poor water quality, stress, and unwanted breeding.
- Offer two or three small feedings: A few feedings are better than one large daily feeding.
- Salt licks and vitamins are unnecessary for rabbits: Your rabbit simply doesn't need salt licks or vitamins.
- Give rats small amounts of fresh food: You can feed rats a bit of fresh fruits and vegetables every day.
- Supplement hamster mix with fresh food: Seeds, buts, grains, fruits, and vegetables make a great hamster supplements.
- Feed premium or kitten food to ferrets: Look for ferret foods, or substitute kitten food for ferrets.
- Use an inverted bottle with a tube: Share fresh water with your pet using an inverted bottle and change it daily.
- Table scraps are OK for rats: Rats love people food, and occasional scraps are OK, as long as you avoid rat hazards including candy, onions, junk food, sticky food, caffeine, and carbonated beverages.
- Pellets should be limited as a rabbit reaches maturity: Pellets should make up a small part of the diet for a mature rabbit.
- Feed gerbils and hamsters differently: You should pick sunflower seeds out of the mix for gerbils and save them for treats.
- Give mice fresh fruit and vegetable treats: Every day, offer your mice small amounts of fresh vegetables and/or fruit as a supplement to their rodent chow.
- Ferrets can't have raw fruits or vegetables: Intestinal blockages can result from raw vegetables and fruits for ferrets.
- Allow rabbits to eat their own pellets: It might seem gross, but recycling nutrients by eating their own waste pellets is normal behavior and healthy for rabbits.
- Don't overfeed mice: Mice have tiny tummies, so be careful about the portions you're feeding.
- Guinea pigs are vegetarians: Guinea pigs are strict vegetarians, and need a diet of hay, pellets and vegetables.
- Feed rabbits vegetables: As early as 3 months of age, you can offer your rabbit vegetables to eat.
- Don't dump a gerbil's old food: Your gerbil will pick through and eat all of the best treats out and leave the rest, so you should have them finish a meal before giving more.
- Guinea pigs enjoy cucumbers: Guinea pigs love to eat cucumbers, so be sure to offer them.
- Use a heavy crock or hopper: Avoid letting food get tipped over by feeding in heavy crocks or hoppers.
- Avoid processed sugars: Processed sugars like bread and cookies are not good for rabbits.
- Feed grass hay, but not alfalfa: Grass hay is healthy for rabbits, but alfalfa can introduce ailments to a rabbit.