A Primer on Pet Nutrition and Wellness

By Risa Hill, LVT, Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital

The saying “You are what you eat” holds more truth than many of us realize. Because the body utilizes what it is fed to build and rebuild itself, meeting your animal’s nutritional needs will provide the foundation for his overall well-being.

Just like people, our beloved pets are all individuals. They will have their own particular needs and preferences when it comes to their appetite.

There are multiple things you as a pet owner can look into when evaluating your pet’s nutritional needs: Is he a working animal undergoing intense physical and mental strain … or is he your after-work, TV-watching, couch potato pal? Are you preparing to condition him for a show … or would you just like to see his waist again? Is he old or young? Does he have any medical problems? These are just a few of the areas you want to evaluate when choosing a diet.

Because there are so many things to consider when deciding what to feed your pet, it is beneficial to you and your animal to seek professional guidance. Your pet’s annual examination with a veterinarian is a good time to discuss and re-evaluate his dietary needs.

Many medical conditions can be managed with dietary changes if they are caught early enough. Even if your pet seems healthy, it is still a good idea to discuss his diet with your veterinarian. Some physical or behavioral problems can be connected to your animal’s diet.

Once you have chosen a new diet, monitor your animal closely for changes. At the beginning of his new diet, record his condition so you can reference it several weeks later. You may even want to photograph your animal each week so you can see any differences.

When your pet has been eating the chosen diet for several weeks to a month, compare his current condition to his starting condition. Did his skin/coat improve? Is his energy level where you want it to be, or is he too hyper or lethargic? Did he gain or lose weight? Did his medical conditions improve or clear up?

To obtain accurate results, you must be consistent. Do not spontaneously change his formula just because a different diet is on sale or more convenient to purchase. Strict adherence to the chosen diet will ensure he gets maximum benefits.

Ideally, over time, you will see improvement. If there is no change or a decline in your pet’s condition, you may have to  start over.

Remember to make all diet changes gradually and consult with your pet’s veterinarian. This is especially important  if you are trying to address a medical condition. Good nutrition has the power to heal and rejuvenate the animals we depend on for work, entertainment and companionship.

To learn more about nutritional counseling and other wellness care for your dog or cat, call Pilchuck at 360.568.3113 or visit www.pilchuckvet.com.