Pets have changing nutritional requirements during development, adulthood, pregnancy and whelping, recovery from illness, and during their senior years. A balanced diet that has appropriate levels of specific ingredients will help to keep your pet fit and healthy throughout its life. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) develops standards for pet food that ensure that all of the nutritional needs of pets are met in approved foods. Decades of extensive research and development of dog and cat food has improved the health and extended the lives of our pets significantly.
Differing amounts of essential ingredients will be found in pet foods designed for various life stages, temperaments, and body conditions. Protein is crucial for muscle growth and is the building block of all tissues in the body. Puppies and kittens need increased levels of protein during rapid growth phases. Senior pets on the other hand may have compromised kidney function, and should avoid high levels of protein. Pregnant animals will need the extra protein to deliver a healthy litter and nurse the babies.
Pet foods contain fat for energy. Any fat that is not utilized through activity will be stored by the body as reserves. Growth formulas and diets created for working breeds of dogs will contain high levels of fat that would not be appropriate for sedentary or already overweight animals. Animals that are prone to inflammation of the pancreas, the organ that produces digestive enzymes, should avoid diets rich in fat.
Carbohydrates are simple and complex sugars that provide immediate and residual fuel for cells. All carbohydrates are eventually broken down into glucose, the basic unit of energy for all tissues in the body. Sources of carbohydrates include starches such as rice, corn, and potatoes. A portion of these ingredients that can not be digested is called insoluble fiber. Fiber is important in digestion in that it provides consistency to the stools, preventing constipation. Fiber also slows absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, which may help to regulate glucose levels in diabetic patients. Diabetics are usually fed a high fiber, moderate carbohydrate diet. Fiber also helps provide a sense of fullness after eating even though it contains no usable calories. Weight loss formulas are typically high in fiber.
Other important ingredients found in balanced diets include vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and omega fatty acids. High quality pet food has the advantage of decades of feeding research to ensure that adequate levels of these ingredients are included. Good nutrition is essential to the health of your pet during all stages of life and during recovery from illness.