The Importance of Nutrition Everything that goes into your dog's body affects their health. A proper diet allows your dog to grow, function, repair and defend the body! Dogs cannot choose their own food so it is our responsibility as dog owners to provide them with a diet that contains the right kinds and amounts of nutrients and energy. An improper diet can cause your pet to become over or under weight and lead to a variety of health conditions, while good nutrition can help prevent them. We spoke to the team at South Lincs Vet Group, one of the practices that cares for our rescue dogs and supports us as a charity, about the importance of tailoring nutrition to your dog and the risks associated with poor nutrition. Here’s what they told us: ‘Nutrition is an area of animal healthcare that is vitally important in taking care of our pets. Good quality nutrition that meets animal needs is essential for all stages of life and can help with some medical conditions. Life stage nutrition means ensuring animals get the nutrition they need at every stage of their life. Puppies and kittens need more calories than adults, as well as higher vitamins, minerals, proteins and fats to ensure their bones develop properly, and they gain weight safely to grow well. Some puppies, such as Great Danes and other large breeds, need a large breed specific puppy food until they reach their adult body size. For comparison, a small dog may reach this between 9 and 12 months, whereas large breeds may not reach it until 18 to 24 months old! Once they reach adulthood, dogs and cats should move onto an adult diet. This has the correct maintenance balance of nutrients for their needs. Neutered adult diets are also available; neutered animals are more prone to weight gain, so neutered food has more fibre in it to keep pets feeling full, rather than a high fat content. Senior life stage food tends also to have lower fat content, due to older animals being less active. Some diets are tailored for certain medical conditions, such as dentistry, kidney support, liver support, urinary health and allergy support. They may be recommended alongside medication as nutrition plays a vital role in overall pet health. One of the biggest nutritional areas we see pets needing our help for is obesity. In a study done by the Royal Veterinary College in 2021, 1 in 14 dogs are overweight in the UK. Similarly, the PDSA reports 1 in 3 cats in the UK are overweight. Obesity can lead to a multitude of problems, such as joint disease, breathing difficulties, organ strain, hygiene and circulation issues. Overweight animals are more likely to develop certain types of blood clots, strain injuries to joints, may not be able to groom themselves and be more likely to suffer from heat exhaustion – to name a few things that obesity in pets can affect. Your vet or nurse can assess your pet’s weight and come up with a plan to help your pet get to a healthy weight. There are pet food diaries, weight graphs and weight loss specific food all to help. Food is weighed out for the animals’ ideal weight, and once they reach that weight, it can be used for correct weight maintenance. Healthy and safe weight loss is best discussed with your veterinary team. There are lots of sources of information relating to pet nutrition, but these may not always be reliable. Therefore, it is best to find information from reputable sources; for example, the Pet Food Manufacturers Association. The PFMA is the leading trade body for pet food in the UK, with unbiased and factual information about a wide range of pet food. If you want to do some research, their website is www.pfma.org.uk. Pet nutrition has so much value in caring for our pets, and is important through every stage of their life. If you wish to talk to someone about nutrition, call your veterinary team today! Lottie O’Rourke, RVN’ Here at Jerry Green Dog Rescue we wanted to create a resource where owners could find information on what they should consider when planning their dog’s diet into one handy guide so they can make a more informed choice. Our ‘Good Nutrition Guide’ can now be downloaded HERE.