The NRC and the internal Nutritional Guidelines issue tables recommending the basic nutrient levels in cat and dog food and the industry follows these findings in manufacturing a wide range of products and recipes under biochemical, bacteriological and organoleptic control.
In fact, the use of detailed research has enabled the industry to continuously increase the nutritional value of prepared pet foods. The industry, working closely with nutritionists, vets, biochemists and animal behaviourists, has been able to become even more precise on the feeding requirements of pets.
These provide variety, are nutritionally sound, convenient to use and are categorised according to their manufacturing process or method of use.
Requirements of the pet animal
The nutritional requirements of cats and dogs are different from those of humans and any error in feeding may have serious consequences on their health. A badly-balanced diet, composed of table scraps and over rich foods may cause disorders (obesity, digestive problems, dysfuntion of the liver, renal insufficiency, bone problems...). In other words, shorten the life of the animal.
A balanced diet for a cat or dog is achieved through a precise dosing of meat, cereals and vegetables in order to meet their needs in terms of amino acids, carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, trace-elements and vitamins. Besides, the nutritional requirements of an animal will vary according to its size, age and activity. A hunting dog will not be fed in the same way as a house dog, just as a puppy will not be fed in the same way as an ageing dog.
The rations on offer by the manufacturer are adapted to the needs of the different kinds of pets. Whether they represent a daily ration (complete food) or are used in conjunction with other foods (complementary food), industrially prepared pet foods contain all the right components in carefully prescribed proportions for a pet to lead a healthy life.
Some examples of nutritional requirements:
- Dogs need a careful balance of calcium/phosphorus and sufficient vitamin D for strong bones and healthy teeth.
- Fats and oils are a source of energy which is important for active and large dogs.
- Protein is required to maintain the body muscles.
- A cat needs almost twice as much protein as a dog.
- Vitamin A is necessary but within very precise limits. Too much liver (rich in vitamin A) can be harmful
- The wrong balance in essential fatty acids will take the shine out of a cat's coat.
- Taurine - a vitamin-like substance - is essential to prevent eye and heart disease.
- Contrary to widespread belief, each type of rodent has its own specific nutritional requirements.
- For example, a hamster needs high levels of protein (meat), whereas a dwarf rabbit is strictly herbivore.
- The guinea pig has an imperative need of vitamin C as it cannot synthesize it. It is therefore either systematically present in prepared foods or offered in the form of vitamin supplements.