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Natural Pet Health and Nutrition

Healthy Pets - Cat & a Small Dog

Sandra Ketcham

Nutrition is an essential factor in the health and happiness of your pets. With so much conflicting information currently available, it can be challenging to figure out how to best care for your animals. Commercial pet foods - even those that claim to offer balanced nutrition - are often not what your pet needs to remain strong, healthy, and active.

A complete and balanced diet is crucial to ensuring that your pet gets all of the nutrition necessary for optimal well-being. Cats and dogs need clean water and a balanced diet containing adequate levels of protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Unfortunately, purchasing the correct pet food for your animal is not as easy as running to the store and grabbing the first bag of food that you see. Few brands actually provide all of the needed nutrients to ensure good health in your animal.

Proper diet and nutrition can help you avoid, reduce, or eliminate many medical conditions in your pet. Your first step when choosing a pet food for your animal is to learn to read the nutritional labels located on the food container. You will need to determine which ingredients are used in your current pet food, and then find an alternative if the food you are currently using does not provide for your pet's nutritional needs.

You must carefully examine the pet food label for the type of meat included in the product. Products containing chicken, lamb, liver, or kidney are the most frequently recommended by veterinarians. Many veterinarians urge pet owners to avoid brands that use meat by-products, or pet food brands that include several different meat sources. Your pet's digestive system is similar to that of a human, and the best quality pet food includes only ingredients that are easily digested.

One of the most important things to watch out for is the addition of artificial dyes, additives, and preservatives. Consumption of large quantities of these ingredients has been linked to health problems in animals. Most commercial pet foods are based on grain, but grain-based diets are typically not the best for dogs and cats. Dogs and cats are meat-eaters by nature, and providing them with a meat-based diet makes the most sense nutritionally. Chicken, lamb, turkey, beef, and fish are all good choices, but each may contain different levels of important amino acids and fatty acids that are critical for good pet health. If your pet has specific nutritional needs, check with your veterinarian to determine which meat source is most appropriate for your animal's diet.

A number of pet food manufacturers add meat and bone meal to their foods, or fillers such as corn gluten meal. These ingredients raise the overall protein level, but are not as nutritionally beneficial as real meat. Low quality protein sources are rarely fully digested by animals, and this can result in less overall protein utilization. Balanced, quality pet foods contain more calories per pound, and are easier to digest than less nutritious brands.

Pet food that is of low quality can result in nutritional deficiencies and is responsible for such health conditions as Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy and Panosteitis. Skin conditions, allergies, respiratory ailments, premature aging, and reduced energy can also be signs of poor nutrition in your animal, and these health problems often clear up when the diet is altered.

Some animals may have trouble digesting even quality pet foods, and may therefore suffer from nutritional deficiencies regardless of the brand used. Pets require certain levels of vitamins and minerals in their diet, just as humans do. If you suspect your animal is suffering from a deficiency not directly caused by diet, you should consult with your veterinarian. A dietary supplement may be prescribed to assist your pet in obtaining all the essential nutrients needed for a healthy and active life.

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