VCA Pets First Animal Hospital
By Carol Petit
Published: February 17, 2010

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Feeding your youngster (up to 12 months) 

Puppies and kittens need a diet formulated for growth, strong muscles and teeth. Higher levels of protein and nutrients provide these benefits. By maturity, most youngsters will have increased their birth weight by 40 to 50 times!
The nutritional needs of puppies can vary by breed. Both underfeeding and overfeeding can lead to health problems. With kittens, it is very important to make sure they eat their own food and do not snack on the food of other household pets. 
Feeding your adult pet (Years 1-6)
The nutritional needs of animals naturally taper off as they enter adulthood.
Dogs are omnivores, meaning that they can eat vegetable matter and grains as well as meat, but they do require a significant amount of protein in their diet.
Cats are true carnivores, who required even more protein. Cats also cannot produce the essential amino acid taurine (found in eggs, fish, meat and mild), and as a result, need a diet supplemented with it in order to stay healthy.
Feeding your senior citizen (Years 7+)
All pets age differently, so the decision to start your pet on a senior diet should be made in consultation with your veterinarian. 
Fortunately there are now senior diets that offer: Antioxidant blends that can help boost your aging pet’s immune system, and improve age-related cognitive behavioral changes, and Joint Supplements that can help manage arthritic joints, and Special Formulations that are easier on more sensitive senior digestive and urinary systems. Body weight often becomes an issue in older animals. Thankfully, there are diets to help with both obese and underweight animals.
Due to better nutrition and veterinary care, America’s pets are living longer. However, as a result, they’re increasingly suffering from many of the same chronic diseases that affect humans: heart and kidney disease, diabetes, and cancer - therapeutic diets can help prevent, manage, or even treat many conditions
How to read pet food labels
  1. Make sure the label of any food you feed your pet states that it offers "complete and balanced nutrition for all stages of life". The label should support that claim by stating that the food has undergone feeding tests or trials.
  1. Two different pet foods can have the exact same ingredient list, but differ greatly in terms of the actual nutrition they offer. Lower cost brands tend to provide less nutrition.
        3. Check for a "best before" date to make sure the food is a fresh as possible.
  1.  Always offer plenty of fresh, clean water. 
  1. Pay close attention to your pet. Bright eyes, an energetic attitude, proper body condition and a shiny coat are all indications of proper nutrition.


Specialty Care

Sometimes sick or injured pets need the care of a veterinary medical specialist. When that happens, VCA specialty hospitals work closely with the general practitioner veterinarians who refer cases to us in order to provide seamless veterinary care to your pet. When your pet is facing any kind of serious illness or injury, our specialty referral hospitals will provide the compassionate and expert care your beloved pet needs.

Our goal is to make sure that when you and your pet are in need that you have access to board certified specialists who are up to date on the very latest developments in their field. In our state of the art hospitals, our specialists also have access to the most sophisticated diagnostic and treatment tools and techniques from ultrasonography and endoscopy to CAT scans and even MRI.

As part of the VCA family, we have over 83 specialty hospitals across the US and Canada which provide referral specialty care, so there may be one near you. Our specialized services include: behavior, cardiology, critical care, dentistry, dermatology, integrative medicine, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, radiology, rehabilitation, reproduction, and surgery.

Find a VCA Specialty Care Animal Hospital near you:


See all VCA Animal Hospitals >


Emergency Care

In case of emergency, please call us immediately. If it is after hours, please call one of the following emergency hospitals:  

Dogwood Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Center (804)716-4700

Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Center (804)353-9000