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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?

Dogs Love Fat, But How Much Is OK?

For good nutrition, dogs need fats to keep their coat, skin, nose, and paw pads healthy. Fats are also a great energy source and contain more than twice the calories per gram than protein or carbs.

That doesn't mean your pooch should have all the fats she craves. About 9% to15% of an adult dog's calories should come from fat. But it's easy for dogs to get too much fat, especially if they get treats from the table or sneak cat food tidbits. (Cat food has more fat, protein, and calories per mouthful than dog food, which is why dogs love it so much).

Carbohydrates and Canine Nutrition

Carbs aren't a natural energy source for dogs. Their bodies can make use of carbohydrates for energy, but they have naturally evolved to get most of their nutrition needs met by fats and protein.

As with cats, there's no minimum recommended amount of carbohydrates for dogs. The exception is at the end of gestation and early in lactation, Bartges tells WebMD. “Likewise, dogs do not have an absolute fiber requirement – although a no-fiber diet often results in diarrhea."

Dog Nutrition: Water Is Vital

Animals can't survive without plenty of clean water, and your dog is no different. Refill her water bowl daily and be sure to give her extra water after a long walk, game, or any other energetic activity.

Dog Obesity and Exercise

We've all heard the old saying that dogs tend to look a lot like their owners -- especially around the middle. Dogs need exercise to stay healthy -- and they're a great motivator for you to get exercise too. In fact, one study suggests that walking a dog daily can give as big a health boost as quitting smoking.

Although little dogs need less rambunctious play than medium- and large-breed dogs, all canines need activity at least once and preferably twice a day to maintain healthy bones and muscles. Talk to your vet first before starting an exercise program for an unfit pooch and be careful of heatstroke, which is a danger for all dogs, no matter how fit they are.

Obesity boosts a dog's risk of degenerative joint disease and chronic pain. If your canine companion doesn't have a waist, you can't feel her ribs without pressing, or there's no "tuck" in her tummy, she may be too heavy for good health. Ask your veterinarian to be sure.

Making Sense of Pet Nutrition

So is your cat or dog getting all the nutrients he needs? It can be difficult to understand all the fine points of pet nutrition and translate them into your pet’s daily diet. Your vet can help you optimize your pet's diet for good health, offer advice on exercise and behavior modification, and help your much-loved companion get the preventive care he needs for a long, healthy, and active life.

Reviewed on August 04, 2010

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