Why Pet Nutrition Matters

Image of an overflowing bowl of kibble.

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 matters.

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.

Sources:

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

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  • "We are from out of town and our dog erin had an ear infection. We were able to see a doctor quickly who took care of the problem. We appreciate what you did for us."
  • "I have never been disappointed with the care received with Berwick."
  • "Great visit! I loved how they smeared peanut butter on the exam table in order to distract my puppy while the Dr gave her her vax. Great idea! I’ve never seen that before! The entire staff was professional and super friendly. They understood our full-time RV lifestyle and were very accommodating to help us to get our new puppy off to the right and healthy start. Thank you!"
  • "We still get the same high quality and friendly service that we got ten years ago. The staff at Berwick animal Hospital is exceptional. You know you’re in a good place when your pet is excited and happy about going in!"
  • "I called at the last minute wanting to get Macie in for a cytopoint injection as we were going out of town. Ashley and Bridget put their heads together and got us in and out in under 30 minutes. These ladies ROCK!"
  • "Your staff is always helpful and courteous. I appreciate their kindness."
  • "Staff were friendly, professional, and showed true concern for the health of my pet. I am truly satisfied with services I received. I would recommend Berwick Animal Hospital!"
  • "We love Dr. Douglas and everyone that works at Berwick! Y all are so sweet and make it a calming experience for our dogs instead of a stressful one."