The importance of good nutrition in pet food for dogs and cats depends on the fact that each has a very different gastrointestinal physiology. The food your pet will eat will decide on how well its system can cope with everyday life, healing and recovery. A good nutritional plan is essential for survival and/or if there is an underlying disease and specific needs for that animal.
There are six nutrients which are necessary for both dogs and cats. These are Protein, Carbohydrates, Fats, Vitamins, Minerals and Water. There is “energy-producing” and “non-energy-producing” nutrition. Energy-producing nutrition aids in digestion, metabolism and conversion while non-energy-producing nutrients are essential for certain metabolic processes.
With regard to Energy-producing nutrients, we can break these down into more detail. First of all, we can look at Proteins – also known as Amino Acids – which are essential for the muscles, the organs, all hormonal processes and enzymes and other body tissues. Proteins are essential – they are required in a diet and without them, this can lead to malnutrition. Some Amino Acids are non-essential and can be synthesised by the animal itself if they are needed (depending if cat or dog). Lastly, Proteins can produce energy but not as much as carbohydrates can.
While the above is true for both animals, each has its own needs and tendencies. Cats are Obligate carnivores due to their absolute need for nutrients gained from a meat diet which is required for its metabolism. Dogs on the other hand are Omnivores.
Dogs will eat grass but cats need only meat (and occasionally catnip for some “mental” stimulation!). They cannot sustain life without it. Grain-based cat foods are seriously bad for cats. Dogs are able to survive by only eating plant material. Dogs by nature are meat-eaters, however, they can survive by only eating plants. This does not mean though that greenery alone will provide a good source of nutrition for the dog. In fact, too many will be under-nourished if owners choose cheap dog foods which are purely based on grains alone.
As a dog can eat plants, they can convert these into Vitamin A as they have enzymes in the lining of their intestines which will break down plant carotenoids. Cats cannot satisfy their Vitamin A needs with a herbivore diet as they are unable to convert carotene into retinol. Vitamin A must be gained from meat.
Cats have 30 teeth which are sharp for cutting and tearing. Dogs have 42 teeth designed for cutting, tearing and grinding. Dogs will use their molars for crushing plant material. Cats do not have molars. Their stomachs are designed for eating many small meaty meals throughout the day. The stomachs of both the cat and dog have a pH which is acidic for the digestion of bones but the dog’s stomach is more expandable. The cat´s small intestine is smaller so it has a shorter transit time of 12-24 hours compared to 12-30 hours for the dog. The cat also has a slightly less well-developed caecum (a sac at the start of the large intestine) than the dog. These differences are important in the way each animal will process its food.
So many chemical substances are required by the cat in order to keep it alive. The small intestine of the cat is well suited to digesting proteins and fats. Cats have a higher need for dietary protein than dogs. They cannot regulate protein-digesting enzymes so need a protein-rich diet. Cats will use 20 percent of that protein for growth metabolism and 12 percent for maintenance, whilst dogs will use 12 percent for growth metabolism and only 4 percent for maintenance. Arginine is an amino acid and is vital to many internal bodily functions. Dogs will produce enzymes internally which will produce sufficient quantities of Arginine whereas cats are extremely sensitive to even a very slight deficiency in this nutrient. They cannot make it themselves. Cats need a lot of protein and Arginine helps to eliminate protein waste products so they don´t pollute the whole body.
Taurine is required for a healthy heart, retina, bile fluid and reproduction, in parts. Taurine is an essential nutrient for the cat as a cat cannot synthesise taurine as well as the dog. Just like Arginine, dogs can synthesise their own Taurine.
As far as Vitamin B goes (Niacin), this is essential but cats can only get this by eating it pre-formed ie from another meat source/pre-formed food. Dogs on the other hand can consume Vitamin B in two ways. Either by converting an amino acid called Tryptophan into Niacin or by eating pre-formed Niacin. The cat cannot produce sufficient nicotinic acid from tryptophan.
Dogs can make their own Vitamin C themselves in the liver. Cats too. Dogs will gain Vitamin D through sunlight synthesis so walks are essential but cats´ Vitamin D comes from their diet.
One nutrient that cats can produce themselves is Felinine and they are the only animals which are able to do so. Dogs do not produce Felinine as they do not need it.
When it comes to fat and energy production, Arachidonic Acid plays its part. This is another substance that cats cannot produce by themselves even if an adequate quantity of linoleic acid is available. Cats are unable to convert enough linoleic acid to reach its need for arachidonic acid. Dogs can produce their own if they eat enough linoleic acid by eating the correct fats but this is not an essential fatty acid for dogs.
Cats are unable to cope with high levels of carbohydrate in the diet and seem to be in a constant state of gluconeogenesis.
The type of food each eats is so important. A vet or vet nurse should always check with the owner to find out which food is normally given to the animal. Some eat dried food whilst others prefer canned food. Of course, there may also be a medical reason why one is used in preference to the other. However, the least desirable diet is always better than nothing at all. If you have a fat cat, never put them on a total starvation diet because they are at risk from Hepatic Lipidosis with an episode of anorexia if they do not eat anything, whereas dogs can survive with a few days of fasting as they can use their own reserves of fat for energy.
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Pet food storage
Taking all this into account, it is so very important to make sure your pet´s food is stored properly and safely especially if it is dry food. In a cupboard, on a high shelf, somewhere that won´t be “invaded” by smelling noses on the hunt or insects! There are many types of pet food storage containers out there. They can be made from plastic, metal, enamel or ceramic and they come in all shapes and sizes. Here are just a few of the different pet food storage containers found on Amazon.
So for a cat, it is imperative to have a meat-based diet for its welfare and survival. Vegetarian diets for cats are a complete no-no! Home-made meat recipes for cats can also be very dangerous. Always buy a well-known and tested brand of food for both your dog and cat which will cater 100 per cent to each of its needs. They will love you all the more for it. It seems that dogs might be easier to manage than cats but they are both as beautiful as the other!!
The Importance of Good Nutrition in Pet Food for Dogs and Cats
If you have more than one small pet and you find they fight over their food, you may be interested in reading my review of an automatic pet feeder to stop one stealing from the other.
Thank you for reading. If you have any questions or comments, please write them below and I´ll be sure to get back to you. ?
2 thoughts on “The Importance of Good Nutrition in Pet Food for Dogs and Cats”
very informative …… well done Susan
Thank you ?