How your dog or cat can get the most out of their diets this year.

While many of us are making resolutions to improve our health in 2017, have you thought about your dog’s or cat’s nutrition? Just as we strive to enjoy a balanced diet, there are ways we can help our dogs and cats eat well, too. U.S. pet food makers are continuously exploring new recipes and ingredients that will deliver the nutrients your pet needs to enjoy a long and healthy life. The most important consideration is whether your dog or cat food provides total nutrition for your pet’s life stage.

Fortunately, U.S. pet food makers work with pet nutritionists, food scientists and veterinarians to craft healthy recipes that your pets will also find tasty, and you’ll feel good feeding them. With a fuller understanding of your pet’s complex nutritional needs, you’ll find lots of options to choose from, no matter what you or your pet prefer.

Most commercially prepared pet food is “complete and balanced” and provides all these nutrients in the proper ratios for your pet’s life stage. Look for this information on the package label or reach out to the manufacturer to learn more. If a puppy joined your family over the holidays, make sure to look for food labeled for puppies. Dog food formulated for puppies will include more protein and fat and will also contain levels of vitamins catered to developing the brain, vision and a healthy immune system. When you stop using puppy food, formulas can vary based on the dog’s breed and size, so a veterinarian can help you determine when he or she is ready for adult dog food.

For example, protein may come from sources such as poultry, lamb, beef, pork, alligator, bison, shrimp, fish or corn. Fats are often provided by animal and vegetable oils. Carbohydrates and fiber sources may come from wheat, corn or other grains, peas, carrots, potatoes or other vegetables.

Just like with us, a healthy lifestyle for your pet is about more than just diet. Bring your dog with you for longer walks or a jog. If you have a cat, take some extra time to play games that keep him or her active. Lastly, take your pets to the vet regularly, and enjoy a more active and healthier lifestyle with your pet.

Veterinary researchers have identified essential nutrients for cats and dogs. These nutrients can be grouped as:

Protein – builds and maintains muscle, bones, blood, organs and the immune system
Carbohydrate – supports gut health and saves stored protein by providing energy
Fat – provides energy (a much more concentrated form that protein)
Vitamins, minerals and amino acids – added in small amounts but make up half the nutrients required in pet food (and make the ingredient label so long)

Learn more about smart feeding schedules and different types of food.

Cathleen Enright, Ph.D., is the president and CEO of the Pet Food Institute. Enright is responsible for helping the pet food industry meet today’s escalating legislative, regulatory and public acceptance challenges. She is the former Executive Vice President for food and agriculture in the Biotechnology Industry Organization, and former U.S Agricultural Trade Negotiator. Most recently she served as deputy assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Agricultural Affairs. Cathy earned her doctorate in biochemistry from the State University of New York.