Holiday nutrition tips for your pet

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As a pet-parent, I am sure the holiday season is filled with ideas as to what to get your pet (“fur-child”) for the holidays.  With the hustle and bustle that has already started as of the Friday after Thanksgiving, remembering what to buy for your pet to eat is extremely important.

Some of you will have new pets and/or puppies or kittens coming into your home for the first time, and wondering what to feed can be overwhelming.  While I agree that keeping them on the food that they were on at the breeder, or shelter, or home where they came from for the first few days is a good idea, you don’t want to change their food right away because the gastrointestinal consequences make for an upsetting holiday.

Shopping for food for a new kitten or new puppy is confusing but with a few ideas from a veterinarian may make the task a little easier.  For cats, a well-balanced kitten food with high omega-3,6 fatty acids is recommended these days as the research shows (just like in babies) these fatty acids to help in brain development and produce literally a smarter kitten.  Kitten foods such as Hills Science Diet, or Iams Kitten, or Eukanuba kitten, or Royal Canin kitten formulas are the preferred diets. Why? They are made in America, they have decades of research behind the claims on the bags of food and when feeding according to the bag directions, are economical to feed.  Don’t get caught up in the boutique kitten foods, as, ironically, sometimes the more expensive holistic and boutique foods provide less quality and do not always support the wonderful claims on their bags.  And don’t forget, after your kitten has grown, and has been spayed or neutered, stop the kitten food and feed a quality indoor cat formula at ½ cup or ½ can per day. This ensures your cat does not gain weight after the surgery, which lowers their metabolism by more than 50 % and that is why they get “chunky” after they have been spayed or neutered.

Puppies are a little different and the newer puppy foods are divided into small, medium, and large-breed diets.  Remember, feed your St. Bernard puppy, large-breed puppy food and your pocket Yorkie, a small-breed puppy food and not vice versa.  The diets are truly made for the size of the puppy.  Just as in kittens, remember to rely on the quality American companies who have done decades of research documenting the nutritional needs of puppies and developed puppy foods appropriate to their size.  And just as in kittens and human babies, those omega-3, 6 fatty acids are so important for the brain development in your puppy.

There is a wide variety of puppy food choices – from breed specific i.e. Labrador puppy food to holistic to organic to fresh/freezer diets. Again, ironically the most expensive diets or boutique diets may not be providing the nutrition to your puppy that the label proclaims.  But most of all, avoid the bones-and-raw-food diet (BARF), as the FDA has shown it to be a danger to the humans in the household by having bowls of raw food available for the puppy on the floor and exposure to humans (adults and children) to deadly bacteria such as salmonella or E. coli. The BARF diet has been disapproved by all the major pet nutritional companies and provides no added value to the growing puppy.  In fact, as an emergency hospital veterinarian, the cost of bone fragments perforating the GI tract or stomach can be a costly venture.  Finally, puppy food, just as in kitten food, has manufacturers claiming many wonderful super values on the bag, but in reality they have their diet made by a generic manufacturer along with a myriad of other puppy diets.  I could go on about puppy foods but just advise you to stay with the major four manufacturers – Purina, Iams/Eukanuba, Hills Science Diet, and Royal Canin diets.

Lastly, avoid those chicken, beef or meat dry meat sticks or products. If you read the announcement at the FDA and AVMA, you will see the concerns regarding these products and the spread of salmonella to you and your animals. Enjoy your pet this holiday season. The bond we share with our fur-children is shown to be as close as a family member.  Treat them well, keep them at safe weight, and they will bring years of happiness to you and to those they meet.

Happy holidays!

Dr. Manda is a nationally-renowned doctor of veterinary medicine who has taken on many roles in the veterinary industry over the past 30 years. Dr. Manda possesses a unique mix of clinical skills in veterinary medicine, combined with an extensive background in business and marketing in the veterinary industry.

Dr. Manda has been an appointed member of the Management Committee for the American Animal Hospital Association, one of the charter members of the Institute for Laboratory Animal Management and Past-President and Charter Member of the American Veterinary Medical Law Association. He has made media appearances on the Leeza Gibbons show, had a successful talk radio show in the Philadelphia listening area entitled “Talking About Pets.”

Dr. Manda is currently a consultant to the global pet, pet food, veterinary and animal health industries and is a full time Emergency Medicine veterinarian in Pennsylvania.

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