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Dog and Cat Nutrition

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services jointly created the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to address proper nutrition and the prevention of diet-related diseases in people. The nutrition and health experts in both departments re-evaluate current science and medical knowledge every 5 years and use that information to revise the guidelines when necessary.

Until 2010, the guidelines provided nutrition advice for healthy Americans over the age of 2 years. The latest revision, released in January 2011, addresses this healthy population and those Americans at an increased risk of obesity-related diseases. The guidelines, written for the general public, provide recommendations on how to eat healthy and maintain proper calorie balance (calories in equal calories out) to prevent becoming overweight or obese. An easy–to–understand picture, the USDA Food Plate, is a companion to the guidelines and gives people a visual example of proper food portions on their dinner plates (http://www.choosemyplate.gov/).

Unfortunately, similar dietary guidelines don’t exist for pets. In summer 2010, however, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) released a document written for veterinarians and their staff, entitled AAHA Nutritional Assessment Guidelines for Dogs and Cats. The association drafted the document because “good nutrition enhances pets’ quality and quantity of life, and is integral to optimal animal care.”The guidelines give veterinarians and their staff a no-cost, quick way to obtain crucial nutrition information for pets. Using this information, veterinarians are better able to help pet owners make better decisions about their pets’ nutrition and overall health