Diet Manual

The following tables contain some nutrient parameters of the veterinary foods available in our hospital. The diets are classified as veterinary foods because they are to be used only under veterinary supervision. Commercially available foods also may be appropriate for some of the conditions listed (as described where appropriate in the tables). The tables are based on the most commonly recognized nutrient modifications for a particular disease. This format was chosen because veterinarians commonly make the diagnosis, decide on necessary nutrient modifications, then choose the most appropriate diet for their particular patient. Some foods are used for more conditions than are mentioned in the tables.

All tables contain a title, brief introduction if necessary, a table of indications, contraindications, major nutrient modifications, and commercial substitutions if available. The nutrient tables are ordered by dog, canned and dry followed by cat, canned and dry. Table columns include:

  1. Diet - the type, canned or dry, and the name of the diet.
  2. Mfg. - the manufacturer of the diet.
  3. unit - the unit of feeding, can for canned foods, cup for dry foods.
  4. weight - the net weight, in ounces (oz.), of the unit.
  5. Energy - the number of kilocalories (kcal) contained in each unit.
  6. Nutrient amount per 100 kcal - the grams of Protein, Fat, Carbohydrate (CHO). Fiber and Water, and milligrams (mg) of Calcium (Ca), Phosphorus (P), Sodium (Na), Potassium (K), and Magnesium (Mg) contained in 100 kcal of each diet as fed.

To estimate the % of kcal as protein, or carbohydrate, multiply the grams by 4; for fat multiply by 9.

All data was obtained from manufacturer’s advertising literature available in the Autumn of 1998.

The data in the tables can be used to compare the nutrient content of different diets and, to compare nutrient content of a diet with the nutrient needs of a patient:

To compare diets:

  1.  
    1. of similar moisture content and energy density, one can use the amount of nutrient per unit as fed - AAFCO regulations require that minimum percentages of protein and fat, and maximums for moisture and fiber, be reported on all pet foods.
    2. of differing moisture content (e.g., dry vs. canned) and similar energy density, one can use the amount of nutrient per unit dry matter. For example, a dry diet containing 20% protein and 9% water (=91% dry matter) on an as fed basis contains 20/91 * 100 = 22% protein on a dry matter basis, whereas a canned diet containing 5% protein and 77% water (=23% dry matter) on an as fed basis contains 5/23 * 100 = 22% protein on a dry matter basis.
    3. of differing energy density (e.g., high vs. low fat), one can use the amount of nutrient per 100 kcal - For example, a diet containing 25% protein and 7% fat on a dry matter basis contains 8 grams of protein per 100 kcal, whereas a diet containing 25% protein and 21% fat on a dry matter basis contains only 5 grams of protein per 100 kcal.

To compare nutrient content of a diet with the nutrient needs of a patient, use the amount per unit body weight per day - because many veterinary foods contain restricted amounts of some nutrients, one must compare the number of grams of nutrient in the amount of food consumed with the needs of the animal to ensure that deficiencies are avoided. This is of practical concern for protein and sodium. For example, the minimum protein intake to sustain protein reserves in dogs is approximately 1 gram per pound per day. If a dog with advanced renal failure consumes 20 kcal per pound body weight per day, the diet would need to contain at least 5 grams per 100 kcal to provide enough protein to meet the dog’s needs. If the dog consumed 30 kcal per pound body weight per day, only 3.3 grams protein per 100 kcal diet would be necessary.

Because diet therapy for a number of diseases consists of restriction of nutrient intake, and because many (most?) patients with nutrient-sensitive diseases are older and don’t eat much, the risk of nutrient deficiencies must be considered. This is particularly true when the therapy is anticipated to continue for months or years. For these reasons, estimates of daily minimum intakes of some essential nutrients (amount per pound body weight) for adult, average-sized pets are presented below:

NutrientDog Cat
Energy 10 kcal
Water 10 ml
Protein 1 gm 2 gm
Sodium 10 mg
Phosphorus 20 mg

Veterinary foods often are sold as containing "high" or "low" levels of some nutrients. Currently, no generally accepted definition of these terms exists. My own definitions, many extrapolated from humans, follow:

Definition of "high" and "low" nutrient densities

NutrientDogCat
Low calorie < 3 kcal/gm dry matter < 3 kcal/gm dry matter
High calorie >4.5 kcal/gm dry matter >4.5 kcal/gm dry matter
Low protein <5 gm/100 kcal <7 gm/100 kcal
High protein >8 gm/100 kcal >10 gm/100 kcal
Low fat <2 gm/100 kcal <2 gm/100 kcal
High fat >5 gm/100 kcal >5 gm/100 kcal
Low fiber <0.25 gm/100 kcal <0.25 gm/100 kcal
High fiber >1.5 gm/100 kcal >1.5 gm/100 kcal
Low sodium <100 mg/100 kcal <100 mg/100 kcal

General feeding suggestions: Remember, It is always better for a patient to eat some of the "wrong" diet than none of the "right" diet!

  1. Introduce diet gradually, once the patient’s condition is improving, to avoid creating a learned aversion, which is the association of an adverse stimulus with a novel diet. If one intends to feed a particular diet long-term, it should be introduced when the patient is feeling better so it is associated with feelings of improving health.
  2. Amount- use the "Energy needs of sedentary dogs and cats" graph for initial guidelines, or offer ~20 kcal per pound body weight per day to cats and most dogs (~10 kcal/pound if > ~100 pounds), adjusting intake as necessary to maintain a moderate body condition.
  3. Follow instructions in the section entitled "treating inappetence" when patient food intake falls below the above intake estimates.