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Proper Diet for Pets: The Foundation for Good Health

Cats and dogs, unfortunately, do not come with an owner’s manual or guidelines on how to properly feed or care for them. Many veterinarians believe that an important part of their job is to teach clients how to best care for their beloved pets. In the opinion of many vets, nutrition is the foundation of health. Without a good foundation—namely, the diet—it is difficult for an animal to heal or maintain good health.

Many pets benefit from eating a raw-food diet. As with any diet, there are risks associated with feeding raw. It’s helpful for pet owners to try one of the many brands of pre-made raw foods. Pre-made raw diets eliminate the labor-intensive preparation of creating a raw diet and the risk of nutritional imbalance. For a raw diet to meet a pet’s nutritional needs, it should contain muscle meat, organ meat, ground bone, vegetables and nutritional supplements to fill in any nutrients that are deficient in the main ingredients.

Raw diets may not be appropriate for all pets, however, as they can be difficult for some individuals to digest. Geriatric pets or pets with “sensitive” stomachs may not tolerate a raw diet. Cooking the food sometimes makes it easier for these animals to digest. Cooking also changes the texture of the food, making it more palatable for those finicky, texture-sensitive feline patients.

One other dietary recommendation is important, whether a pet is eating raw, canned or kibble food: eliminate grain from the diet. Grain in pet food is used as filler or a cheap source of protein. Grain-based proteins are difficult for many animals to digest and they do not contain the correct ratios of amino acids required by animals, which can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Grain also enhances inflammation in the body. Pre-existing conditions such as arthritis, dermatitis or inflammatory bowel disease may be aggravated by grain-based diets. Currently there is a large selection of high-quality, grain-free diets available for cats and dogs. Pets that eat a grain-fee diet will stay healthier and happier, which also means fewer trips to the veterinarian.

Susan Swanson, DVM, practices holistic veterinary medicine at the Cat Care Clinic, located at 1524 Mahtomedi Ave., Mahtomedi. For more information, call 651-429-4153 or visit

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