How the Right Pet Food Can Add Years to Our Pets Lives
By Lorie Huston, DVM
Pet foods, in order to promote a healthy long life, must be balanced and complete as well as life stage appropriate for your dog or cat. Many things come into play in order to achieve this, but one of the most important factors is ensuring your pet's diet includes six particular nutrients — nutrients which all animals need to maintain good health. These are:
What Are Essential Nutrients?
Essential nutrients are those that must be supplied in your pet’s diet. Your pet’s body is not capable of manufacturing these nutrients so they will become deficient if not supplied by one of the ingredients in your pet’s food. Conversely, non-essential nutrients — while still necessary to keep your pet healthy and sustain life — do not need to be added to the diet necessarily because they can be manufactured by your pet within his or her own body.
For example, amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. There are over 20 amino acids that are necessary to sustain life for all dogs and cats. Ten of these amino acids are essential in a dog’s diet and must be included in at least one of the ingredients in the diet because dogs are unable to make these ten amino acids by themselves. For cats, there are eleven essential amino acids. Unlike dogs, cats require taurine as an essential amino acid in addition to the other ten amino acids.
How Does This Make Proteins, Carbohydrates and Fats Important?
Your pet generates energy when eating the proteins, carbohydrates and fats found in his or her pet food. Each of these nutrients also play other crucial roles in keeping your pet healthy and promoting longer life.
Proteins, for instance, are critical in tissue growth and repair, in keeping the immune system healthy, in transporting oxygen through the blood, in creating hormones and much more. The benefits of carbohydrates depend on its form — sugars, starches or fiber. Sugar is used for energy production; fiber is helpful to keep your pet’s intestinal tract healthy. Starches such as fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) are useful as prebiotics which also help maintain your pet’s intestinal health. Fats, meanwhile, are the most concentrated source of energy available. There are even fatty acids such as DHA and EPA which are useful in keeping skin, joints, and other body systems healthy.
Where Do Vitamins and Minerals Come Into Play?
Unlike proteins, carbohydrates and fats — which are all macronutrients that are required in the diet in relatively large quantities — vitamins and minerals are required in smaller quantities in your pet's food. However, this does not mean that vitamins and minerals are any less critical for your pet’s health and well-being. These "micronutrients" also play key roles in keeping your pet’s body functioning normally and promoting longer life.
What About Water?
Water is frequently overlooked as a key ingredient in any pet’s diet. However, water is, arguably, the most important nutrient in your pet’s diet. Without adequate amounts of water, your pet can quickly become dehydrated. Make sure your pet has access to clean fresh water at all times.
We all want our pets to live long and healthy lives. Worry about this a little less and get the best pet food that meets your dog or cat's nutritional needs.