The Importance of a Balanced Diet for Pets

By Jennifer Doherty


All pets require a balanced diet to ensure that they remain healthy. This article provides an overview of pet dietary requirements and identifies some problems that can occur from a poor diet.

The Canine Diet

A dog’s diet needs the correct balance of six major nutrients. These are protein, fat, water, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Dogs are omnivores, so although they may not biologically require carbohydrates in their diet, carbs provide energy and promote a healthy gut. Fat is a key energy source for dogs and a lack of good quality fat can lead to skin and coat problems and reproductive disorders.

Dogs require protein for a number of functions, including muscle, skin and hair growth and repair, immunity and oxygen transport around the body. A lack of protein causes loss of muscle, a poor coat condition and an increased risk of infection. Too much protein in the diet is stored as fat, leading to obesity. A dog that loses as little as 15% of its body’s water will probably die, this is why clean fresh water should always be available. Vitamins and minerals are essential for dog health and a complete food from the tienda de animales or pet store will usually provide the correct amount of these. A lack of specific vitamins and minerals can cause many conditions, including skin problems, brain damage, cataracts, conjunctivitis, rickets, arthritis and diarrhoea.

Dietary Needs Of Cats

Cats are carnivores, so their diet requires a high level of animal protein, as they are unable to use proteins from cereals or vegetables properly. Dietary meat in good quality tienda de animales or pet store foods also provides cats with vitamin A, which is essential for good vision and a healthy coat. Fats are also necessary, to promote healthy skin and coat and a carbohydrate source can provide easy energy, although cats are biologically unable to utilise large quantities of carbs. Cats do not require milk and they do struggle to process it properly, instead, they must always have access to fresh clean water.

The Dietary Requirements Of Rabbits And Guinea Pigs

Rabbits require hay and grass for good digestive health, dental health and mental wellbeing. A handful of appropriate greens (such as celery leaves, cabbage, radish tops, sprouts or broccoli) and a small quantity of commercial nuggets every day will also help a rabbit to stay healthy and receive the nutrients that it requires. Always feed carrots and fruit in moderation as they are high in sugar and rabbit muesli is linked to dental problems.

Guinea pigs require a similar diet and owners can promote good health by feeding tomatoes, spinach and leafy vegetables. These are high in vitamin C, which guinea pigs may occasionally struggle to obtain enough of from their diet. Fresh water, usually from a bottle with a spout is ideal to provide rabbits and guinea pigs with their daily water requirements.

Commercial hamster mix provides balanced nutrition for hamsters, although small quantities of fresh, washed fruit and vegetables should be given regularly. Hamsters can also utilise additional protein, such as from hard-boiled egg, once or twice a week. Rats, mice and gerbils also require the correct amount (as indicated on the packaging) of a good quality commercial food and should always have access to clean fresh water. Remember to remove uneaten food from cages to prevent it from going mouldy.

Complete pet foods ensure that pets receive the correct balance of nutrition. Owners that choose to feed complete and balanced food help promote good health and well being in their pets, whilst preventing a number of diet deficiencies and diet-related disorders from developing.


AUTHOR BIO: Jennifer Doherty manages her own tienda de animales or pet store and specialises in pet nutrition. Lindsey regularly contributes articles to a range of pet blogs and websites.

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The Importance of a Balanced Diet for Pets — 3 Comments

  1. I think the important point is that cats are not able to use proteins from non meat sources properly. I know from having read about an in depth tour of the Hills factory that the way they creat their food is by compiling the ‘ideal’ set or combination of ingredients. The put the right amount of proteins and the right amount of vitamins etc bla bla. However they obtain these proteins from the wrong places so thats the catch in their whole, good sounding theory, and the basic reason why it can’t work properly and truly be ideal and healthy for your cat. They have this whole ‘science diet’ philosophy down to tee and they really believe in it too apparently. Obviously obtaining the protiens from the right places would be more expensive but even if that fact doesn’t play into it, the calculated and ‘prescribed science diet’ sounds almost perfect having all the right stuff in it basically. When asked about the underlying question of the origins of the fundemental ingredients they, apparently, couldn’t answer or avoided the question. I don’t want to villify them, I think they just don’t think of it that way and they really believe in what they are doing. Just to clarify, my sources for this are a group of people who were invited to tour the north american facility in Kansas, many of whom wrote about it in great depth.

    Anyhow, nice article – a summary of different diet requirements. I never knew much about dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs and so on so it’s interesting to get an idea of what all these other petfoods on the shelves should contain. I always see all kinds of different foods when I pick up my cat food in the ‘petfood aisle’.

    • It surprises me how peculiarly abnormal dry cat food is. It is nothing like the constituents that make up a mouse. I think cat food is very overpriced. Hills pouches (12 of 100 gms in a box) in the UK bought in a vet’s clinic is about £8! That is as expensive as prepared human food I reckon. More expensive that lots of human food yet it is based on rubbish.

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