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2024 Ultimate Guide to Pet Nutrition for Dogs & Cats

Welcome to Bone & Biscuit’s “Ultimate Guide to Pet Nutrition.” This comprehensive guide delves into the complex world of pet nutrition, highlighting the crucial role of balanced diets in ensuring the health and well-being of your pets.

Nutrition is pivotal at every stage of your pet’s life – influencing everything from their energy levels to their immune system strength. With insights into modern dietary trends, the significance of sustainable packaging, safety standards, and economic considerations, this guide aims to equip you with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions for the dietary needs of your cherished companions.

Essential Nutrients: Macro and Micronutrients

Protein: The Building Block

Why Balanced Amounts Matter: Proteins are essential for growth, tissue repair, and immune function. Puppies, kittens, and pregnant or nursing animals require higher levels of protein to support their developmental needs. For adult pets, a balanced protein intake helps maintain muscle mass and overall health. However, excessive protein can strain the kidneys, putting pets at risk – especially in older animals.

Benefits: Proteins provide essential amino acids that are vital for the body’s metabolic processes. They are the building blocks of body tissues and play a critical role in creating enzymes, hormones, and other bodily substances.

Sources: High-quality animal proteins like chicken, beef, fish, and eggs are excellent sources. Plant-based proteins can also contribute to your pet’s diet, but you usually need to combine different protein sources to provide all of the 9 essential amino acids.

Fats: Energy and More

Why Balanced Amounts Matter: Fats are the most concentrated form of energy in a pet’s diet and support cell structure, hormone production, and nutrient absorption. Essential fatty acids, such as omega-3 and omega-6, are crucial for skin and coat health, cognitive function, and reducing inflammation. However, too much fat can lead to obesity and related health issues.

Benefits: Besides providing energy, fats enhance the taste and texture of pet food, making it more appealing. They also facilitate the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and provide essential fatty acids that the body cannot produce on its own.

Sources: Animal fats and oils from fish, flaxseed, and canola are primary sources of essential fatty acids. It’s important to choose foods with a good balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Carbohydrates: Energy and Fiber

Why Balanced Amounts Matter: Carbohydrates provide a quick source of energy and are important for gut health and waste elimination. Dietary fiber – a type of carbohydrate – aids in digestion and helps regulate blood sugar levels. However, excessive carbohydrates can contribute to obesity and diabetes, especially in pets with lower activity levels.

Benefits: Carbohydrates can improve the texture of pet food and contribute to satiety, helping pets feel full. They are also a source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Sources: Whole grains, vegetables, and fruits are beneficial sources of carbohydrates & fiber that also provide essential nutrients & antioxidants.

Vitamins and Minerals: Micronutrients

Why Balanced Amounts Matter: Vitamins & minerals are essential for supporting a wide range of physiological processes, including bone health, nerve function, and energy production. Since each vitamin & mineral has a specific role, and a balanced intake is crucial to prevent deficiencies or toxicities.

Benefits: Micronutrients support immune function, skin health, and overall well-being. They are involved in almost every aspect of health, from vision and reproduction to blood clotting & energy metabolism.

Sources: A varied diet that includes meats, vegetables, grains, and fruits can provide a comprehensive range of vitamins & minerals. Some pets may require supplementation to meet their specific needs.

Water: Vital for Life

Why Balanced Amounts Matter:  Ensuring your pet drinks enough water is essential for hydration, temperature regulation, and the transportation of nutrients & waste products. Dehydration can lead to serious health issues, including kidney dysfunction and overheating.

Benefits: Adequate water intake supports digestion, joint health, and overall physiological functions. It’s crucial for maintaining the health of every cell in the body.

Sources: Fresh, clean water should be available at all times. Wet pet foods also contribute to overall water intake and can be particularly beneficial for pets that are prone to dehydration.

Detailed Look at Vitamins and Minerals

Each vitamin and mineral plays a unique role in maintaining your pet’s health. Here’s a closer look at some key micronutrients, their benefits, and sources.

Vitamin A

Benefits: Essential for vision, immune health, growth, fetal development, and cell function.

Sources: Liver, carrots, and leafy greens.

B Vitamins (Biotin, Folate, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Riboflavin, Thiamine, Vitamin B-6, and Vitamin B-12)

Benefits: Support energy metabolism, enzyme function, glucose generation, and nervous system health.

Sources: Meat, fish, eggs, and whole grains.

Vitamin C

Benefits: Acts as an antioxidant, supports cognitive aging, and reduces inflammation.

Sources: Dogs can synthesize it, but supplementation may be beneficial.

Vitamin D

Benefits: Regulates calcium and phosphorus for bone health and muscle function.

Sources: Sun exposure and fortified foods.

Vitamin E

Benefits: Protects against oxidative damage.

Sources: Nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils.

Vitamin K

Benefits: Essential for blood clotting and bone health.

Sources: Green leafy vegetables and liver.

Essential Minerals

Minerals are crucial for various bodily functions in pets. Here’s a quick guide to essential minerals, their roles, balanced importance, and common sources:

  • Calcium (Ca)
    • Role: Bone health, teeth, muscle function.
    • Balance: Imbalances can lead to skeletal issues or kidney stones.
    • Sources: Dairy products, bones, leafy greens.
  • Phosphorus (P)
    • Role: Bone formation, energy metabolism.
    • Balance: Works closely with calcium; imbalances can affect bone and kidney health.
    • Sources: Meat, fish, poultry.
  • Sodium (Na)
    • Role: Fluid balance, nerve impulses.
    • Balance: Too much or too little can impact health.
    • Sources: Salt in commercial pet foods, some snacks.
  • Magnesium (Mg)
    • Role: Enzyme function, muscle relaxation.
    • Balance: Imbalances can affect muscle and nerve function.
    • Sources: Whole grains, nuts, leafy green vegetables.
  • Potassium (K)
    • Role: Nerve impulses, muscle contractions.
    • Balance: Imbalances can lead to weakness or heart issues.
    • Sources: Fruits, vegetables, lean meats.
  • Chloride (Cl)
    • Role: Fluid balance, digestion.
    • Balance: Imbalances can affect acid-base balance.
    • Sources: Salt in commercial pet foods.
  • Iron (Fe)
    • Role: Oxygen transport, enzyme function.
    • Balance: Deficiency can lead to anemia.
    • Sources: Red meats, liver, poultry.
  • Zinc (Zn)
    • Role: Immune function, skin health.
    • Balance: Deficiency can impact growth and immunity.
    • Sources: Meat, fish, poultry.
  • Manganese (Mn)
    • Role: Enzyme activity, bone health.
    • Balance: Excess can be toxic.
    • Sources: Whole grains, nuts, leafy vegetables.
  • Iodine (I)
    • Role: Thyroid hormone production, metabolism.
    • Balance: Deficiency can lead to thyroid issues.
    • Sources: Seafood, iodized salt.
  • Selenium (Se)
    • Role: Antioxidant, immune function.
    • Balance: Deficiency can affect muscle function.
    • Sources: Meat, seafood, eggs.
  • Copper (Cu)
    • Role: Iron metabolism, connective tissue.
    • Balance: Excess can be toxic.
    • Sources: Liver, seafood, nuts.

Individual Needs and Variability

Pets have unique nutritional requirements based on their age, breed, activity level, and health status. Understanding these needs is crucial for your pet’s overall health.

Daily Caloric Requirements for Dogs & Cats

Caloric needs vary greatly, as most dogs and many dogs have different requirements influenced by factors such as weight, activity level, and life stage. It’s crucial to tailor your pet’s diet to their specific needs to ensure they receive the right amount of energy to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Understanding your pet’s daily caloric requirements can help you make informed decisions about their diet – whether you’re feeding commercial pet food, homemade meals, or a combination of both.

Tailoring Your Pet’s Diet:

To accurately tailor your pet’s diet to their caloric needs, consider their:

  • Weight: Heavier pets require more calories, but the exact amount depends on their overall health and body condition.
  • Activity Level: Active pets burn more calories and thus may require a higher caloric intake than sedentary pets.
  • Life Stage: Puppies and kittens – being in their rapid growth phase – need more calories compared to adult pets. Senior pets may need fewer calories due to a slower metabolism.

Try Our Raw Food Calculator:

Not sure where to start? Our Raw Food Calculator can help you determine the ideal daily caloric intake for your dog or cat, making it easier to plan their meals and ensure they’re getting the nutrition they need. Whether you’re considering a raw diet or just looking to understand your pet’s nutritional needs better, our calculator is a valuable tool.

Try the Raw Food Calculator Now

By inputting your pet’s details, you’ll receive a customized caloric requirement that can guide you in selecting the right amount and type of food. Remember, while our calculator provides a great starting point, it’s always best to consult with a veterinarian or a pet nutritionist for personalized advice, especially if your pet has specific health concerns or dietary needs.

Choosing the Best Pet Food

Selecting the right pet food is essential for ensuring your pet’s health, happiness, and longevity. With a myriad of options available, understanding the benefits of various food types can help you make an informed decision that meets your pet’s specific nutritional needs. Let’s explore the advantages of premium, raw, and air-dried pet foods.

  • Premium Pet Foods


    Premium pet foods are known for their high-quality ingredients and balanced nutrient profiles. These foods often feature whole proteins as their primary ingredient and include a mix of fruits, vegetables, and grains that provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Manufactured with higher standards, premium foods typically avoid fillers, artificial colors, and preservatives, offering a more natural diet for your pet.


    • Tailored Formulas: Many premium brands offer formulas tailored to specific life stages, breeds, and health conditions, allowing for a more customized diet.
    • Cost: While generally more expensive, the investment in premium food can lead to better health and potentially lower veterinary bills over time.

  • Raw Pet Foods


    Raw pet foods aim to mimic a natural, ancestral diet, offering raw, uncooked meats, bones, fruits, and vegetables. Advocates suggest benefits such as a shinier coat, healthier skin, improved dental health, and better digestive function.


    • Safety: Handling and bacterial contamination (e.g., Salmonella, E. coli) are significant concerns. It’s crucial to follow safe handling practices and consult with a veterinarian to ensure a balanced diet.
    • Preparation Time: Raw diets may require more preparation time compared to other food types.

  • Air Dried Pet Foods


    Air-dried pet foods offer a convenient middle ground between raw and traditional kibble. The air-drying process gently removes moisture from the food at low temperatures, preserving the nutritional integrity of the raw ingredients while eliminating harmful pathogens. This process retains more nutrients than high-heat cooking methods used in making kibble, providing a nutrient-rich, convenient option.


    • Nutrient Density: Air-dried foods are often more nutrient-dense, so you may need to feed less volume than traditional kibble, adjusting portions to prevent overfeeding.
    • Cost vs. Convenience: While more expensive than standard kibble, air-dried foods offer a convenient, less processed alternative to raw diets without the need for refrigeration.

Exploring Dietary Trends

The world of pet nutrition is ever-evolving, with new trends constantly emerging. Let’s explore some of the most popular dietary trends and what they mean for your pet.

Raw Diets

Raw diets may offer benefits such as improved coat condition and better dental health.

However, it’s important to consider safety and consult with a vet. Explore raw food options for your pet:

Air Dried Foods

Air-dried foods provide a convenient and nutrient-rich option for pet owners. Check out Bone & Biscuit’s air-dried food selections:

Vegan Diets

Some pet owners opt for vegan diets for their pets due to ethical reasons or health concerns. While ensuring a complete nutritional profile without animal products can be challenging, it’s crucial to ensure pets receive all essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals necessary for their health.

Dehydrated / Freeze Dried Foods

Dehydrated and freeze-dried pet food involves the removal of moisture from raw ingredients to extend shelf life while preserving nutrients. In the dehydrating process, heat is applied to remove water content, while freeze-drying entails freezing the ingredients and then subjecting them to a vacuum, allowing the water to sublimate. The low-temperature methods in both processes help maintain the integrity of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes by avoiding high-heat exposure, ensuring that these essential elements remain largely intact and unprocessed in the final pet food product.

These foods offer a great balance of convenience and nutrient preservation. For dogs, explore the Dehydrated/Freeze Dried options.

Wet Food Diet

Wet cat food, commercially available in sealed cans or pouches, is a protein-rich mixture of meat, poultry, fish, or other sources combined with water or broth, supplemented with vitamins and minerals, known for its high moisture content, offering hydration and a palatable choice, particularly beneficial for cats with dental issues or prone to dehydration.

Explore wet food options for cats:

Sustainability in Pet Nutrition

Can Pet Food Pouches Be Recycled?

Yes, many pet food pouches can be recycled, but it depends on the materials used and your local recycling program’s capabilities. As sustainability gains momentum in the pet food industry, manufacturers are increasingly turning to recyclable or biodegradable packaging options to minimize environmental impact. However, the recyclability of pet food pouches varies wildly, so it’s essential to understand what you can do to contribute to sustainability efforts.

Understanding Packaging Materials:

Pet food pouches are often made from mixed materials to preserve the food’s quality and extend its shelf life. While this is great for maintaining your pet’s food, it can pose challenges for recycling. Look for pouches labeled with recycling symbols and instructions on how to recycle them properly.

How to Recycle Pet Food Pouches:

  1. Check Local Guidelines: Recycling capabilities vary by location. Contact your local waste management or recycling center to find out if they accept pet food pouches.
  2. Prepare Pouches for Recycling: If your local facility accepts them, ensure pouches are empty, clean, and dry to avoid contamination in the recycling process.
  3. Specialized Recycling Programs: Some brands partner with recycling programs specifically designed for pet food pouches. These programs may offer mail-in options or drop-off locations for recycling.

Alternatives and Sustainable Practices:

  • Bulk Buying: Consider purchasing pet food in bulk to reduce packaging waste. Some stores offer sustainable packaging options or allow you to bring your containers.
  • Choose Brands Committed to Sustainability: Support pet food brands that use recyclable materials, participate in take-back programs, or invest in sustainable practices.
  • Educate Yourself and Others: Stay informed about sustainable packaging innovations and share your knowledge with fellow pet owners to encourage more eco-friendly choices.

Safety and Recall Awareness

Staying informed about pet food recalls is crucial for ensuring the safety of your pet’s food.

How to Stay Informed: Regularly check resources like recall lists from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Food and Drug Agency (FDA) and subscribe to pet food safety alerts.

In the USA, DogFoodAdvisor publishes an up-to-date list of dog food recalls.

In Canada, you can see a complete list of product recalls – including pet foods – at the Government of Canada’s recalls website.

Choosing Safe Foods: Opt for brands with high safety standards and transparent sourcing practices. At The Bone & Biscuit, we analyze each and every product on our shelves to ensure your pet gets a safe, reliable, and enjoyable source of nutrients.

Nutrition for Life Stages

Understanding that pets’ nutritional needs evolve with age – in line with the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines – is crucial for their overall health and well-being.

From the eating habits of playful puppies to the golden years of senior pets, each life stage brings unique dietary requirements that influence how long and well they live. Puppies need to eat diets rich in nutrients to support their growth.

Puppies and Kittens:

During this rapid growth phase, young pets – especially large breed puppies – require diets that are rich in protein and calories to support their development. High-quality, age-appropriate food ensures they get the necessary nutrients for strong bones, muscles, and a healthy start in life. Supplements and healthy treats can also play a role in supporting this developmental stage – providing essential vitamins and minerals.

Adult Pets:

Feeding your adult dog food that provides a balanced diet is key to sustaining their health and energy levels. Adult pets thrive on a diet that balances proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and fibers, along with essential vitamins and minerals. Regular exercise paired with a consistent, nutritious diet helps prevent obesity and keeps your pet in top condition. For adult pets, supplements can address specific nutritional needs or health concerns, such as joint support or digestive health.

Senior Pets:

As pets age, their metabolism slows down, and they may become less active. Senior pets, especially those needing to lose weight, often require diets lower in calories but rich in fiber. Adjustments may also be needed for health issues like kidney function or arthritis. It’s important to monitor their health and adjust their diet accordingly, possibly incorporating supplements designed for senior pets to support joint health, cognitive function, and overall vitality.

Tailoring Nutrition to Your Pet’s Life Stage:

Each pet is unique, and factors such as breed, size, and health status can further influence their dietary needs. Consulting with a veterinarian can help you navigate these changes and ensure your pet’s diet supports their health at every stage of life. Regular check-ups and nutritional assessments are key to adapting their diet as they age, ensuring they continue to thrive.

Explore our range of supplements for dogs and cats to complement their diet at each stage of their lives.


Navigating the world of pet nutrition can be complex, but armed with the right information, you can make choices that support your pet’s health and happiness throughout their life. Remember, consulting with a veterinarian or pet nutritionist is the best way to ensure your pet’s diet meets their individual needs.

*Disclaimer: The contents of this blog post, such as any graphics, images, text and other material contained on this site are for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s medical condition. Never disregard professional advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

If you think your pet has a medical emergency, call or visit your veterinarian or your local veterinary emergency hospital immediately. Reliance on any information appearing on this website is at your own risk. If you have medical concerns or need advice for your dog or cat, please seek out your closest holistic or integrative veterinarian.


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