Pet Nutrition

Nutrition

our dog’s diet should support their growth and development through each stage of their life. With so many options to choose from, our team wants to ensure you understand your dog’s nutritional needs based on their age, breed, size, and lifestyle. Our team will assess your dog’s body composition at each wellness visit to determine their ideal weight and make feeding recommendations.

Nutritional Requirements for Dogs:

Dogs require a combination of protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water in their diet. Their nutritional requirements do vary depending on your dog’s life stage, breed, and activity level; and of course, a prescription diet may even be necessary depending on any diagnosed health conditions. It’s very important to discuss your pet’s diet with their veterinarian to identify any discrepancies in their nutrition.

When deciding what to feed your dog, our healthcare team recommends adhering to a few key standards:

  • Does the diet meet AAFCO (the association of American Feed Control Officials) standards of nutrition?
  • Was the diet formulated by a veterinary nutritionist?
  • Are feeding trials done to ensure the health of the pet long term?

Diets such as Hill’s Science Diet, Royal Canin, and Purina Pro Plan are recommended options as they meet all of the above standards.

Poor Nutrition in Dogs:

A poor diet can result in many health issues for your pet such as obesity or emaciation, which in turn will cause secondary health concerns. These disorders are typically due to either the amount or quality of food they are being fed. There are several symptoms that indicate your dog is receiving inadequate nutrition in one way or another. Some of the signs that their diet or digestion needs to be re-evaluated can include: 

  • Bad breath
  • Body odor
  • Dandruff
  • Dull coat
  • Excessive shedding
  • Flatulence 
  • Hair loss
  • Inconsistent or unusual bowel movements        
  • Increased allergies
  • Obesity
  • Skin disorders
  • Weight loss

The problem with a grain-free diet:

Just like humans, dogs need a combination of carbs, protein, and fat for healthy development.

Diets made without wheat, corn, rice, or other types of grains that serve as the main source of carbohydrates actually deprive your dog of their nutritional needs. The veterinary community has started noticing a correlation between dogs being fed these diets and an increase in Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM), a heart condition that can be fatal. The concern was raised when this disease was being found in young dogs that did not have a breed disposition to it. Research is ongoing, but it is suspected the use of legumes used in replace of traditional grains play an important role.

Dog Nutrition Q & A

How many times a day should I be feeding my dog?

– Puppies under 12 weeks should be fed 3 times a day.

– Older puppies and adults can be fed twice a day.

Most dogs are very routine oriented, so feeding twice a day on a regular schedule can help your pet anticipate feeding time. Some dogs prefer to graze all day. If this is the case, I recommend measuring the food at least once a day to monitor appetite closely. 

Do I need to feed a diet specific to my dog’s breed or size?

This is more important if you have a giant breed/large breed dog or small breed dog. Giant and large breeds have specific nutritional requirements that differ from very small dogs from puppies to adulthood.

If my dog eats grass, does that mean they are missing something in their diet?

Not necessarily, dogs may nibble at grass occasionally without issue. If your dog is eating lots of grass, this could indicate a digestive problem especially if followed by vomiting.

Can changing my dog’s diet suddenly cause harm?

An abrupt food change can trigger vomiting, diarrhea, and GI discomfort. A gradual transition to a new diet over at least 5 days is recommended to avoid any harm. Dogs with very sensitive stomachs may need a longer period of time to adjust.


Feeding your cat a well-balanced, veterinarian formulated diet is essential to their overall wellbeing. Cat’s have varying nutritional needs based on their age and health, so it is important to discuss food options with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will also assess your cat’s body composition at each wellness visit to determine their ideal weight and make feeding recommendations.

Nutritional Requirements for Cats:

Cats require water, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and minerals just like humans do! However, human food is not meant for our pets because it can be too fatty and most can be toxic for our feline friends. Also, it is important to always incorporate some canned food as well because cats are not as effective at drinking as dogs are. Canned food can help sneak that water into their normal routine to help maintain the cat’s hydration.

Wet Food vs Dry Food:

Both wet and dry food have their own individual benefits – so it’s unsurprising that we will often recommend a combination of both. 

Wet food has a higher moisture content, which can help increase your cat’s total water intake but is also prone to bacterial growth and should not be left out longer than an hour. Wet food also is also easier for cats to chew and contain more variety in the diet.

Dry food is more convenient and has a longer shelf life, making it more cost effective! Additionally, crunchy kibble helps reduce plaque and tartar buildup on cats’ teeth but may be more difficult for older cats to chew.

Nutritional requirements throughout each stage of life: kitten, adult, and senior.

Your cat will have various nutritional requirements during each stage of their development and it is important to feed them food specifically formulated to support their growth. Kittens need more calories, whereas senior cats may need food with lower proteins and more electrolytes due to chronic kidney disease which is common in older cats. Additionally, your cat may even need a prescription diet to manage any GI or health issues. It’s important to consult with your veterinarian regarding your cat’s diet and any changes you want to make in their normal feeding routine.

Poor Nutrition in Cats:

Obesity is one of the most common health issues among cats and is often a result of poor nutrition, which can lead to many other health concerns. Since it is difficult to increase their exercise levels, it is especially important to be proactive in maintaining your cat’s healthy diet.

Signs of poor nutrition in your cat:

  • Obesity
  • Inconsistent appetite
  • Skin disorders
  • Changes in stool
  • Weight fluctuations

Cat Nutrition Q & A:

What are some common food allergies in cats and how can I tell if my cat is suffering from them?

Food allergies or sensitivities can present as GI related with vomiting or diarrhea, or skin lesions/hair loss.  

Will free-choice feeding make my cat overweight?

Potentially. Most cats are innately grazers, so feeding a properly measured amount of food either once or twice a day may help to reduce overeating. Keeping your cat active and engaged with play helps promote a healthy weight.

What supplements should I give my cat?

Supplements should be considered on an individual basis. Discuss these with your veterinarian. 


Pet Nutrition in St. Petersburg, FL

Have questions or concerns about what your pet is eating? Call us at (727) 470-6949.

Nutrition Courses with Dr. Wolfe

Nourish – a pet parent’s complete guide to nutrition.

This course walks them through the basics of pet nutrition, how to select a pet food, how to change a pet’s diet throughout the different life stages, how to cook for their pet, how to manage their pet’s weight, and provides educational information on supplements. It’s broken down into easy to follow modules and is suitable for anyone regardless of background in nutrition. It covers both kibble and fresh food diets. Pet parents can learn more and enroll here: https://empowered-paws.teachable.com/

The Ultimate Guide to Homemade Pet Food – a mini course on cooking for dogs and cats.

This course covers the basics of homemade pet food, selecting ingredients, determining how much protein/fat/carbs to feed, how to formulate diets using BalanceIT software, and how to cook and store the food. Pet parents can learn more and enroll here: https://empowered-paws.teachable.com/p/homemade