Pet diet tips
As a cat mum myself, I can hardly keep the treat bag away whenever my 2 kitties stare at me with their big, round eyes. I give in pretty much every time, knowing full well that their constant snacking on treats is making them chonky.
Cute as that may be, I know that can cause more harm than good in the long run. But are treats really all that bad? To understand this better, I spoke to Dr Luciana Domingues de Oliveria, a pet nutritionist who gave the lowdown on feeding your fur babies at every stage of their lives. Here are 8 pet diet tips you should know:
– 0-6 months: Puppy & kitten stage –
1. Newborns can be fed formula if mama’s milk isn’t available
Image credit: Fidosavvy
Getting a newborn puppy or kitten is quite rare, although such occasions do come up in certain circumstances, like in unfortunate cases where a mother has to abandon her babies. If you’ve taken up responsibility to be a caretaker, your first instincts might be to feed them cow’s milk.
But that’s a big no-no that Saturday morning cartoons have gotten wrong. “Cow’s milk contains very little protein and fat, and a lot of lactose, which will cause malnutrition and diarrhoea in puppies and kittens,” Dr Domingues de Oliveria said.
Instead, she advised using commercial formulas available from specialty pet stores or vets that have been developed for such purposes.
“A good indicator of your puppies and kittens being adequately nourished is if they don’t have gastrointestinal upset and are gaining weight daily according to size and breed standards,” she said. By this definition, she recommended to stay away from homemade formulas too, as these are usually unbalanced in nutrients too.
2. Introduce solids slowly from 4 weeks onwards
Image credit: ASPCA
If you’ve been bottle-feeding your pet, it might feel like a daunting task of transitioning them to solids, especially if you’ve heard horror stories of weaning leading to upset stomachs and digestive problems. But, introducing solids is much easier when you take it slow, according to the advice of Dr Domingues de Oliveria.
She recommends that pets start to transition from about 4 weeks onwards. “You’ll also know when they’re ready when they start showing signs of looking for food on top of their mother’s milk.”
You can start with softer foods first, like ground meat or mixing formula with a little bit of wet food to get them accustomed to munching on solids.
Over the next few weeks, slowly decrease the amount of formula and add on more minced, fresh meats. You can also mix kibble and formula or water to soften its texture, so it’s easier to chew on. Both cats and dogs can have a completely solid food diet from 6 weeks onwards.
Image credit: @fan.tasia052022
This rapid growth phase lasts until the dog or cat is about 4-6 months old. “Your fur kid will have greater demands for energy, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals at this age,” said Dr Domingues de Oliveria. This means picking kitten or puppy-specific foods to ensure a more nutritionally appropriate diet. That way, they’ll gain an appropriate amount of weight at this stage.
– 6-18 months: Adolescence –
3. Ensure treats don’t make up more than 10% of your pet’s diet
Image credit: @winnie_toycockapoo
As furbabies mature into fur-teens, they start to get more playful, running around the house and even tearing it up in the process. Such unwanted behaviour can cause significant damage to furniture in the long run, so most turn to pet training to prevent such issues
Any furparent will know that one of the easiest ways to motivate your pet to learn a new trick is through positive reinforcement with treats. Fluffy used the scratching pole instead of sharpening her claws on the couch? Here’s a treat. Max learnt to roll over? That deserves a treat too.
But just like how we should snack in moderation, pets too, shouldn’t be chomping on treats all day long. Dr Domingues de Oliveria warns that “treats are an incomplete food”, so watch out when giving treats to younger pups and kittens.
“They’re more sensitive to nutrient imbalances and energy excesses, even with natural treats like dehydrated meats, offals, vegetables, and fruits,” she said. Follow the 10% treats rule, meaning 90% of your pet’s main nutrition intake should still come from their main meals.
4. Extra veggies in pet diets is not always a good thing
Image credit: @pudding_dude
After putting on a couple of pounds, we’re quick to go on a greener diet, filling up on healthier foods like salads and extra portions of fruits instead of junk. Now, this may work for us, but not so for your pet.
Pets that have snuck in extra servings without your knowledge shouldn’t be put on a green diet, so says Dr Domingues de Oliveria. “It’s a common mistake to substitute primary macronutrients like animal fat or protein with more vegetables,” she said.
While it might reduce overall calorie consumption, Dr Domingues de Oliveria noted that you’ll also be drastically cutting out essential nutrients needed for healthy organ function and vitality that only animal proteins and fats can provide.
If your pooch is in need of losing weight, she recommends cutting back meals a little at a time instead. “Go slow so that you’ll prevent issues like acid reflux, changes in energy levels, upset in the gastrointestinal tract, and even hormonal disruptions,” said Dr Domingues de Oliveria.
– 18 months-8 years: Adulthood –
5. What could be a food allergy might just be intolerance instead
Image credit: @iris.the.greyhound
Picture this: You try feeding new food to your fur kid, only to have him start scratching like crazy. Allergies might be your first thought, but Dr Domingues de Oliveria says it could just be an intolerance instead. Unlike allergies, intolerances don’t include adverse reactions to the immune system.
“There are a wide variety of allergy symptoms that overlap with intolerance issues,” she said. Gastrointestinal issues like vomiting, diarrhoea, and indigestion could swing both ways to indicate intolerance and allergies.
Your best bet is to have these symptoms evaluated by a pet nutritionist or vet so that a correct diagnosis is made and treatment can begin, advised Dr Domingues de Oliveria. Once this is done, she then recommends that pet owners turn to nutrition companies like BOM BOM that can formulate pet meals to address such issues.
“BOM BOM takes into account allergies and intolerances, and addresses pre-existing and external ailments in their personalised meals for each individual pet,” she said. This means proper nutrition without upsetting stomachs or triggering reactions like skin hot spots and inflammations.
6. Pet supplements are not always necessary
Image credit: Great Pet Care
Since our pets are only with us for a brief period of our lives, it’s only natural to want to amp up their nutrition to try and prolong their lives. But feeding them supplements doesn’t necessarily mean added benefits.
“As long as your pet receives a complete and balanced diet, no extra supplementation is necessary,” said Dr Domingues de Oliveria. You’ll want to check with a pet nutritionist or your vet on the required daily intake of nutrients for your pets, as this differs from breed to breed.
It’s a recommendation that Dr Domingues de Oliveria strongly backs. “Essential nutrients form everything from cells to organs, hormones, blood, skin, and even hair,” she said. “When your furry loved ones consume the right amount, they’ll be able to function in the best possible way.”
There’s an exception to this rule though, as she shared: “Diseases or other medical conditions may require vitamin and mineral add-ons.” Again, checking in with a pet nutritionist is necessary to ensure you’re not under- or over-feeding your pet with vitamins and minerals.
– 8 years & beyond: Senior –
7. Add water to dry kibble to ensure proper hydration
Image credit: @catevolution1
Once a cat or dog reaches 8 years of age, they’re classified as seniors. While they won’t get a purple EZ-Link card a la their human owners, you’ll know they’ve reached their golden years when they start to lose cognitive and physical functions.
A common issue among senior pets is drinking far less water than they require. For some, developing conditions like arthritis might make it difficult for them to walk to their water point. Others may even experience similar conditions to Alzheimer’s and dementia that make them forget to drink often.
To keep your oldies hydrated, add water to their dry kibble, so that they’re getting hydrated even at meal times. This is also useful for senior pets who’ve lost their teeth, and might find it difficult to crunch on hard kibble.
According to Dr Domingues de Oliveria, “switching to a diet containing foods with a softer texture and those with a higher moisture content, such as fresh food, makes it easier for older pets to chew and get in their required nutrition.”
8. Adjust nutrient intake based on specialist recommendations
Image credit: @millythemeow
While pet supplements are unnecessary, you’ll still want to regularly check that your pets receive adequate nutrition as they age. This could mean reducing or even increasing doses of minerals and antioxidants wherever possible.
Dr Domingues de Oliveria suggested cutting down phosphorus levels to favour kidney functions, as well as lowering overall calories and fat to maintain a healthy weight for your pets to match decreasing activity levels with age.
In return, feeding high quality, unprocessed animal-based foods can contribute to healthy ageing. One may consider adding on nutrient dense foods, such as eggs, organ meats, and oily fish to increase intake of vital nutrients like essential vitamins, fatty acids and trace minerals.
Of course, an adjusted diet is only the tip of the iceberg for prolonging a pet’s life. “Longevity is also affected by other manageable factors,” added Dr Domingues de Oliveria. “Regular exercise, a comfortable environment, and affection and love from the family are also essential for pets to live longer and better.”
Feed your pets right with BOM BOM
Needless to say, diets are a fickle thing when it comes to raising your pet from pup or kitten to old timer. There are plenty of precautions to take to prevent overfeeding, while still ensuring they get the right nutrients for an optimal life.
It sounds like a heavy job that involves weighing out portions of kibble and wet food. But intensive meal preps just means time away from your pet that could’ve been spent on bonding instead.
Image credit: @threeshibes
Enter BOM BOM, which does all that meal prep for you with their individualised meal kits. Since every cat and dog is different, the meals are tailored to their specific needs based on a quick Q&A of your pet’s metabolic profile. This includes their breed, age, weight, activity level, allergies, and health conditions.
If the details on your pet are fuzzy aka they were adopted from a shelter or off the streets, you can even get complimentary support by their pet nutritionists on what would work best for your fur baby.
Image adapted from @bonesoffalmeat
Details are then translated into individual meals made up of bones, offal, and meat to provide adequate nutrition while hitting markers like vitamins, minerals and antioxidant intakes. This is all in adherence to the recommended daily allowance standards set out by the National Research Council (NRC).
BOM BOM offers both raw and cooked food. And for those who prefer a gradual transition towards raw feeding, the meals are also available in sous vide style. This helps to retain as much moisture and nutrients as possible that could otherwise be lost from other cooking methods.
Intolerances and allergies are also taken into account for your pet’s meals. With 10 protein choices available, this means Fluffy and Rex will be able to find a suitable alternative should commercial foods set off allergic reactions or intolerances.
Image credit: @bonesoffalmeat
As if meal prep could not get any easier, these vacuum-sealed meals are delivered straight to your home in single bags for easy freezing and storing. Come breakfast, lunch, and dinner, just thaw one to serve.
To get you started, BOM BOM is hosting a giveaway on the BOM BOM Instagram page. Pet owners will get a $100 BOM BOM Gift Card and a US$50 (~S$68.95) Lambwolf Gift Card. Simply follow the instructions to be in the running in providing nutritious and scientifically-balanced meals for your fur baby.
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