What is an appropriate diet for a small/medium-breed puppy or kitten?

Answer:

  • An appropriate diet for a small/medium-breed puppy or kitten is complete and balanced. It meets all of their nutritional requirements, has excellent nutrient bioavailability, and is easily digestible and palatable.
  • Start by selecting a food with key nutritional factors closest to target levels. Since most commercial pet foods meet all of the AAFCO’s nutritional allowances,1 adopting the concept of “key nutritional factors” is beneficial because it narrows the focus to nutrients of concern. Veterinarians and their teams can target a few nutrients (nutrients of concern) rather than the 40 plus nutrients currently identified for cats and dogs.1
  • It is still important to recognize AAFCO’s vital role in pet foods and confirm that the selected food has been approved for puppy (or for kitten) growth by AAFCO.
  • Why AAFCO?
    • AAFCO has established nutritional criteria (minimums and in some cases, maximums) for essential nutrients for the “growth and reproduction” life stage.2
    • These recommendations are used to help validate the nutritional adequacy of puppy or kitten foods claiming to be “complete and balanced.”
    • If a food makes this claim, it must have a nutritional adequacy statement on the label that contains the method and life stage for which it was validated.3
    • The preferred method of validation is by an AAFCO approved feeding trial/test, since this method accounts for palatability of the food and nutrient bioavailability.
    • A suitable pet food for a puppy or kitten would contain a nutritional adequacy statement on the label that reads like this: “Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that (complete product name) provides complete and balanced nutrition for growth of puppies” (or kittens if it was labeled as cat food).4
    • Note: A nutritional adequacy statement may declare the food is appropriate for “all life stages.” A food labeled “for all life stages” can be considered “complete and balanced” if it has been formulated or substantiated by feeding tests to meet the nutrient levels established in the AAFCO Cat/Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for growth/reproduction (puppies and kittens) and adult maintanance.4
  • Once a food and feeding method are chosen, it is important to regularly monitor body condition, weight gain, and overall health by the pet’s veterinarian.

More supporting facts:

  • There is no published nutrient profile by AAFCO for large/giant-breed puppies.
  • An AAFCO feeding protocol to substantiate a “complete and balanced” claim for puppy or kitten food is conducted for a minimum of 10 weeks.3
The Science Behind our Recommendations
1. Thatcher CD, Hand MS, Remillard RL. Small Animal Clinical Nutrition: An Iterative Process. In: Hand MS, Thatcher CD, Remillard RL, Roudebush P, Novotny BJ, eds. Small Animal Clinical Nutrition 5th ed. Topeka, KS: Mark Morris Institute; 2010: 8. 2. Association of American Feed Control Officials. 2011 Official Publication. Association of American Feed Control Officials, Inc. 2011: 146. 3. Zicker SC: Evaluating pet foods: how confident are you when you recommend a commercial pet food? Top Companion Anim Med. 2008 Aug; 23(3):121-6. 4. Roudebush P, Dzanis DA, Debraekeleer J, Watson H. Pet Food Labels. In: Hand MS, Thatcher CD, Remillard RL, Roudebush P, Novotny BJ, eds. Small Animal Clinical Nutrition 5th ed. Topeka, KS: Mark Morris Institute; 2010: 199.