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Your Pet’s Nutrition Needs Compared to Yours

What kind of nutrition does your cat or dog really need to stay healthy?

Carbohydrates and Cat Nutrition

Domestic cats fed on commercial dry cat food may get up to 40% of their calories from carbs. Yet cats "do not need them in the percentages that are found in the majority of processed dry foods," McGeorge tells WebMD. In fact, there is no minimum recommended requirement of carbohydrates for cats, and too many carbs can be a prime reason domesticated cats put on pounds.

Water Is Vital to Cat Nutrition

Cats, people, and dogs are all made up of about 60% to 70% water. But unlike their canine and human friends, cats evolved with a low thirst drive, probably a legacy of their desert-dwelling ancestors.

Add a cat's low thirst drive to a diet rich in dry foods -- which contain only 5% to 10% water -- and it's clear cats can run the risk of dehydration. This may lead to serious urinary tract problems. Although a diet that includes wet cat food (about 78% water) helps, you should always have multiple sources of fresh, clean water available for your cat.

Fat Cats and Feline Fitness

If you can't feel kitty's ribs without pressing or if he doesn't have a visible waist, chances are good that your cat is a bit overweight. Fortunately, cats love exercise, as anyone who's experienced an ankle attack knows. Your job? Provide enriching play for both of you.

Because cats are geared toward short bursts of intense activity, get out the laser pointer, feathered toy, or string and play for five or 10 minutes several times a day (less at first if your feline friend is unfit). Always play it safe and let your vet know your fitness plans for your Fluffy. And don't forget, even a svelte kitty needs exercise and the bonding attention playtime provides.

Dogs: How Meat Helps Meet Dog Nutrition Needs

Dogs love many of the same foods we do. But if you think your precious pooch as a hairy little human, think again. Although your canine companion needs protein and good fats, he may need far fewer carbohydrates than you think.

Protein should make up about 18% of your dog's diet, as it should for you. Animal protein from meat and fish offers the balanced protein dogs need. Unlike cats, dogs also eat -- and enjoy – some vegetables, too.

Does this mean your dog could be vegetarian? The pros generally don't recommend it unless you feed your dog an Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) compliant diet. This ensures that all the essential amino acids are included. (Check the dog food label for the AAFCO designation.) If you feed your dog a homemade plant-based diet, you may need to supplement it to provide all the amino acids vital to good canine health.

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