Healthy dog: The most important thing is a balanced diet

Hanover. When experts talk about healthy nutrition for cats and dogs, they primarily mean species-appropriate nutrition. But what is species-appropriate and what else should we take into account when feeding our four-legged friends? Agila pet insurance had a discussion with the nutrition expert and veterinarian Dr. Sandra Suren led.

“A dog is a mixed diet, which means that in addition to meat, vegetables and carbohydrates should also be on the menu, while for the cat, as a pure carnivore, meat plays the main role. Cats only tolerate and tolerate vegetables and carbohydrates to a relatively small extent,” says the veterinarian.

Basically, there are three main factors that determine the diet of your four-legged friends: age, breed and health status. When it comes to age, there are basically three life phases: young animals, adult four-legged friends and seniors. Every age has different nutritional requirements. The expert explains what this means: “Growing animals, for example, need a lot of calcium and phosphorus to develop the skeletal system. The adult animals are relatively undemanding if they do not have any illnesses. The optimal amount of food depends on the animal's individual energy needs. That's why not every food can be suitable for every animal. And with older animals it is similar to us humans that the organs may no longer work 100% and you have to support them with a certain diet.” In a similar way, the diet must also be adapted to the different breeds. Body size and weight are particularly important. Large dogs like St. Bernards, for example, need significantly fewer calories than small dogs like Roe Pinschers. Nutrition is particularly important when it comes to the third factor, the health of the four-legged friend. For example, if a cat suffers from chronic kidney failure, the diet should be changed to low-protein, high-quality food. Owners can also mitigate the consequences of diabetes or urinary stones through food. Not only in the event of illness does Dr. Suren: “I can only recommend everyone who owns it to sit down with their veterinarian or seek veterinary nutritional advice if you have the feeling that you cannot find the right food for your animal or are simply overwhelmed. Because there are so many animal feeds and getting through it as a layperson is almost impossible.”

In principle, a distinction is made between complete feed in the dry or wet version and supplementary feed. When it comes to complete feed, the manufacturer guarantees that it contains everything the animal needs. This is not strictly controlled, but you can usually assume that it is true. There is no clear recommendation on the question of whether dry or wet food is better. The expert says: “Some people swear by one thing, others swear by the other. In fact, both feeds have advantages and disadvantages. And here the owner and the animal have to decide for themselves what suits them better.” Dry food has a longer shelf life and can therefore also be used as a reward on the go, for example, but it is more concentrated than wet food. A small amount often covers the entire daily requirement. For overweight animals, wet food can be a good choice as it fills the stomach thanks to the high water content.

Those who keep animals with allergies should choose a feed in which all ingredients are clearly named. Sometimes there are only groups of substances on the packaging, so it is not clear whether the food could trigger an allergic reaction. When it comes to treats, owners also have to pay close attention to what the cat or dog can tolerate. They are not nutritionally necessary, but for many people they are important as a reward in everyday life. As a rule of thumb: treats should not make up more than five to a maximum of ten percent of the total daily requirement.

There is also a simple principle when it comes to the question of whether your pet can be fed a vegetarian or vegan diet: dogs yes, cats no. The missing amino acids can be supplied to the dog in other foods, for example in dairy products and eggs or – in the case of a vegan diet – in legumes or soy. As carnivores, cats should not be fed a vegetarian or vegan diet, as this is not species-appropriate and they would not be provided with all the important nutrients. The circle closes here, because as described above, healthy nutrition for four-legged friends is always about what is species-appropriate.

If you would like to go into more detail about the nutrition of your four-legged friend, you can have a full conversation with the veterinarian Dr. Listen to Sandra Suren in the podcast.