Nutrition and Weight Watchers Clinics
Dogs and cats have different nutritional requirements depending on their age, breed, sex, activity level, reproductive status, environment and health status.
Complete and balanced diets are available for growth, adulthood and maturity to meet their nutritional requirements during each life stage.
There are also various diets available to support dogs and cats with medical conditions including liver and kidney disease, urinary tract disease (crystals, stones and cystitis), arthritis and mobility problems and many more. These are “prescription” diets and will be recommended by a vet or nurse if they feel they would be appropriate for your pet.
We stock Hill’s and Royal Canin, but some other brands are available to order.
The amount of food puppies require changes during growth and depends on the puppy’s age, breed, gender, activity, temperament, environment and metabolism.
Puppies need more energy, protein, calcium and phosphorous than adult dogs (in relation to their bodyweight). Growing puppies need twice as much dietary energy per kilo as adults; their energy need is greatest just after birth.
Protein is needed for growth and development; puppies should be fed a diet that contains at least 22% protein. Calcium is also important, but supplementing the diet with treats and milk will result in an excess of calcium in the body which can lead to developmental skeletal disease. It is important not to feed a high calorie diet as puppies that become overweight will have an increased number of fat cells and will be pre-disposed to obesity for the rest of their lives.
Free-choice feeding – Providing food all day long allows the puppy to feed as and when it wants to. This can help combat boredom, however it can encourage overeating.
Time-limited feeding – Food is available for a set amount of time two to three times a day. This leads to a reduced intake in most breeds of dog. It is important to measure the amount of food consumed so that they do not over or under feed. Three 10-15 minute feeding sessions are normally recommended for the first month after weaning. After this two meals per day are adequate.
Food-limited feeding – This method maintains optimum growth rate and body condition. A measured amount of food is given based on the energy requirements (as indicated by the food manufacturer). Large and giant breeds of dog need to have the amount of food adjusted more frequently than smaller breeds.
In general, a measured amount of food should be fed to control bodyweight and growth rate. Feed 2-4 meals per day to begin with and decrease to two meals per day once they are six months old. When introducing new foods blend them in gradually over 4-7 days to prevent stomach upsets. During the growth phase the amount of food given should be adjusted every two weeks.
Small and medium sized breeds reach 50% of their adult weight by around 4 months old, compared to 5 months for large breeds. Small breeds of dog can reach adulthood by 8 months old, large breeds can take 2 years.
Weaning starts at 3-4 weeks old and should be complete by 6-8 weeks old. Dry puppy food can be soaked in water or milk formula, gradually adding less water until they are weaned onto dry food.
Small breeds can have adult food gradually introduced from 8-10 months of age, split into two meals.
Medium sized breeds can have adult food from one year old; large breeds from 15 months and giant breeds from 18-24 months.
Small dogs can have mature/senior food from 8 years old; medium sized breeds from 7 years and large breeds from 5 years.
The nutritional requirements of mature dogs are based on examination of physical body condition and medical history. Protein levels must be controlled. Excess protein is broken down by the liver and excreted by the kidneys, and as mature dogs are more likely to have some degree of liver or kidney disease, this excess protein will put unnecessary strain on these organs. Diets containing 18-20% protein are recommended.
Sodium levels should be between 0.2-0.35%. Increased sodium in food can contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease.
Weaning starts at 4-5 weeks of age and should be complete by 7-8 weeks. Kitten weaning diet can be mixed with milk formula or water and eventually given dry. This can be fed up to four months old (variable – according to manufacturer’s guidelines). Growth food containing high levels of good quality protein can be fed until they are neutered (or until 12 months old). High energy food is needed during this growth phase. Milk should not be given as lactose can cause diarrhoea.
Home-made all meat diets and those containing lots of liver should be avoided as they can cause mineral imbalance and lead to weak bones. It is important to weigh out the correct amount of food required; this can be split into set meals or be left down all day for the kitten to eat as and when they want to.
Adults require less protein and fat. Most cats are fully grown by the time they are one year old.
Royal Canin diets are divided into “neutered” and “un-neutered”; once neutered, cats require fewer calories.
Mature and senior cats
Most mature or senior foods can be fed from 7 years of age. As with dogs, older cats require less protein as the conversion of protein to energy becomes less efficient, which can lead to muscle wastage and weight loss. Diets containing 30-40% good quality protein are recommended. Calcium levels should be controlled to reduce bladder stones and crystals. Phosphate levels are reduced as kidney disease is common in older cats and phosphorous is excreted via the kidneys. Diets should contain around 0.7% phosphorous.
Royal Canin have changed their senior and mature ranges. There are now low calorie options and options for cats showing signs of arthritis or those that have been diagnosed with medical diseases (such as kidney disease). The new “senior consult” range replaces the mature and senior ranges.
Nutrition and neutering
Neutered dogs and cats require fewer calories, so in order to prevent obesity the amount of food given should be reduced by 15-30% on average. Where possible, low fat or light diets should be given.
Obesity is a growing problem among cats and dogs. Some breeds are more prone to becoming overweight than others and indoor cats are more at risk as they tend to exercise less.
There are many health problems associated with obesity including heart problems, exercise intolerance, arthritis and joint problems, diabetes, liver disease, urinary problems, increased blood pressure and breathing problems. Overweight animals also find it more difficult to groom themselves and their coat can become matted.
Free Weight-Watchers Clinics
Nurses run weight clinics where your pet will be weighed and given a body condition score (BCS). The ideal BCS is 3/5, this means that the ribs and spine are not visible but are easy to feel, there is an obvious waist and minimal abdominal fat. If your pet is overweight the nurse will recommend a low calorie diet and calculate the daily amount of food needed based on your pet’s ideal weight and BCS. Treats can be given as part of the daily amount, but must be kept to a minimum and human foods are not allowed as tit-bits. The nurse will arrange to see your pet every 2-4 weeks and the daily amount can be adjusted if required. Once your pet has reached its ideal weight, a suitable maintenance diet will be selected and the amount will be calculated.
The most common diets used for weight loss are Hill’s w/d, r/d and m/d (cats only). Royal Canin obesity management and satiety support are also available.