Nutritional Counseling & Therapeutic Diets
Proper nutrition is essential to keep your pets healthy throughout all of their life stages. So, here at Harmony Animal Hospital, we take nutrition very seriously. This is why we offer affordable and tailored nutrition consults that provide you with clear guidelines based on your pet’s age, health condition, breed, and weight. We want your pets to have the best nutritional advantage possible.
Pet nutrition is a science involving many variables and considerations. Food provides not only energy and essential nutrients for your pet, but it also serves the role of preventive medicine. Let our nutrition specialist, Dr. Laura Gaylord, guide you in keeping your pet on the path to a long, healthy lifestyle. We will design a feeding plan that works for your pet, your family, and your budget. From dry kibble to canned diets to commercial fresh and homemade formulations, our nutritional consultations will give you the information and tools you need to help your pet maximize nutrition and get to and maintain their optimal weight.
Harmony’s nutritional consultation services include:
- General Nutritional Counseling
- Targeted Life-Stage Weight Loss Plans
- Nutritional Optimization for Performance/Working Dogs
- Assisted Feeding / Critical Care Nutrition
- Disease Condition Management with Nutrition
Targeted Life-Stage Based Nutritional Plans
- 30 Min. Healthy Pet/Weight Loss Nutrition Consult: $85
- 30 Min. Puppy/Kitten Nutrition Consult: $85
- 60 Min. Nutrition Exam/Consultation: $145
Appointments by phone or in-person.
Pet must have been examined within 6 months of nutrition consult for phone appointments.
Nutrition and Life Stages
As your pet ages, their nutritional needs evolve. It is important to change your pet’s diet to what best suits their needs through each of the four life stages:
- Puppy/Kitten (birth through age 1)
- Adult (age 2-7)
- Senior (7-12)
- Geriatric (12+)
During Puppy/Kitten stage, for example, your pet needs a lot of energy to grow. You want to give your pet the right balance of nutrients and calories to support that growth and development. Senior and geriatric pets, on the other hand, are often dealing with slower metabolisms and weight gain, slower-moving digestive systems, and health conditions or diseases that come with aging. The right food choices may help prevent certain conditions such as orthopedic disease in larger breeds of dogs. Specific diets may also help with kidney disease or urinary tract stones with pets in middle-age or older. Talk with one of our Harmony specialists about your pet’s particular needs.
Determining a Pet’s Ideal Body Condition Score
At each life stage, our veterinarians can assess your pet’s current and ideal body condition score (a score similar to a human’s body mass index score). With this score, they can calculate how much you should feed your pet to reach and maintain optimal weight.
Below is a chart from the American Veterinary Medical Association that provides a visual guideline for assessing your pet’s optimal weight.
Activity Level, Pet Size and Breed
An important variable that contributes to weight management is your pet’s breed and activity level. For example, a 45-pound labrador and a 45-pound basset hound have different calorie needs. More active dogs, like a young labrador, usually need to have diets higher in fat content as fats provide more energy than proteins or carbohydrates. Other nutrient needs in the labrador’s diet may be similar to those of the less active 45-pound basset hound.
Smaller dogs and smaller cats tend to have a higher metabolism, which means they need more calories per pound than larger breeds. Your Harmony veterinarian will talk with you about the lifestyle tendencies of your pet in determining the recommended diet.
According to the 2017 clinic survey from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 56% of dogs and 60% of cats were classified as clinically overweight. Obesity in pets can cause long-term effects, such as:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Liver / Kidney disease
- Difficulty breathing
- Increased surgical / anesthetic risk
- Lower immune system
- Increased risk of developing cancer
If your pet is currently overweight, Harmony Animal Hospital can create a nutritional plan to help your pet reach his or her desired weight for a happy and healthy lifestyle. We can also help you come up with a daily exercise regime to help them maintain that optimal weight.
Daily Exercise is Key to Reaching and Maintaining Weight Goals
For your dog, scheduling day walks or hikes, taking them to a dog park, signing them up for a group agility course, arranging playdates with other dogs, and bringing them to Harmony’s Doggie Daycare are all ways to incorporate daily exercise.
Increasing exercise for your cat may include having her chase a laser pointer or toys such as a feather wand or other items that resemble animals they might hunt (birds, mice, or fish).
Allocating 20 – 30 mins each day to engage in some form of physical activity will help your pet achieve and maintain optimal weight.
Nutritional Needs are Sometimes Breed Specific
Pets of particular breeds may have particular dietary needs. For example, if you have a corgi, you will want to ensure that their diet is high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids needed to keep their skin and coat healthy. Adding DHA is also helpful for a corgi’s brain and eye development.
A long-haired cat breed, such as a Himalayan, might benefit from a diet with higher levels of fiber than a short-haired breed to help reduce the cat’s hairballs.
Our Harmony nutrition specialist is here to discuss your pet’s particular needs and tailor a diet accordingly.
Pet Health Considerations and Disease Conditions
Different pet breeds are more or less susceptible to various diseases and health conditions. These susceptibilities will determine the dietary recommendations your pet’s nutritionist outlines for you. Miniature schnauzers, as an example, are more prone to high cholesterol and overall blood fat levels than other breeds. Labradors are more prone to becoming overweight, and Himalayan cats tend to get more hairballs. Some of these health conditions can be mitigated somewhat by dietary choices.
And across breeds, pets might be vulnerable to allergies, joint health, urinary tract issues, diabetes mellitus, liver disease, or dermatitis among other health conditions.
Our Nutritionist can work with you one-on-one to ensure your particular pet has exactly what they need in their diet to help them maintain a healthy and longer life.
Pet Food Brands
There are many different pet food brands in the marketplace. Some make claims that can be confusing. We want our clients to choose brands that contain meat as the first ingredient. A best practice is to avoid foods that begin with corn or wheat on the label. These products most likely contain too many filler ingredients resulting in poorer quality nutrition for your pet. Our veterinarians and nutrition specialist can guide you to the right choices for your pet.
Grain-Free Pet Diets: Good or Bad?
One of the pet dietary trends right now is grain-free food. While you might think grain-free could be beneficial for your pet, the FDA is currently investigating the link between grain-free diets and canine heart disease. Some of the effects the FDA has recorded with a grain-free diet include heart disease, decreased energy, cough, difficulty breathing, and episodes of collapse. You can read the full article from the FDA here. If you currently have your pet on a grain-free diet or are considering one, we encourage you to meet with our nutritionist to discuss the effects such a diet may have on your particular pet.
To Share or Not to Share Table Scraps
When it comes to feeding your pet table or cooking scraps, we recommend avoiding this altogether. While tempting, this practice is not healthy for your pet. Not only is human food high in calories and fat, but it can also cause pancreatitis, toxicity, vomiting, diarrhea, and can contribute to obesity in pets.
If you feel strongly about giving your pet human food, we highly recommend a nutritional consult to determine the right mix. Here are a few examples of healthy human foods that can be served to some pets: boiled skin-free chicken, carrots, green beans, sweet potatoes, apples, and bananas. However, choosing human foods for your particular pet is best determined with an in-depth nutritional analysis and specific recipes that we can provide.
Here is a list of foods to never give your pet. They can be very harmful: chocolate, onions/onion powder, grapes and raisins, macadamia nuts, mushrooms, pits from any fruits, moldy food, and items containing xylitol (this is an artificial sweetener found in candy and sugar-free gum). The ASPCA has a complete list of dangerous foods and plants to avoid in your home.
Signs of a Healthy Pet Diet
Pets that have healthy diets look healthier. Here are some of the signs you should be looking for:
- Shiny coat and skin
- Clear eyes
- Good energy
- Appropriate weight
- Good breath
- Solid stools (for dogs, about 2-3 times daily; for cats, 1-3 times daily )
Your pet’s diet is as important to their health and well-being as your diet is to yours. Making sure that your furry loved one gets the right nutrition is one of the most important jobs of pet ownership. Our nutrition specialist here at Harmony Animal Hospital can help formulate a nutrition plan that meets all your pet’s unique needs during the entire course of your pet’s life. A nutrition consult is a good investment in ensuring you have a faithful friend for many years!