The essential nutrients for cats and dogs fall into many categories: protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, minerals and amino acids. How do these relate to feeding habits? Here’s the scoop for a healthy lifestyle for your pet:

Wet vs. dry food

Both wet and dry food can be healthy options for your pet. In dry pet food, the ingredients are ground, mixed, baked and shaped in a process very similar to how cereal is made. It is then coated—to enhance flavor—and packaged. The ingredients in wet pet food will be ground and mixed before being put into cans which are sealed and then cooked, similar to canned food for humans. Dry food has a moisture content of about 10 percent while wet food has higher moisture content, between 75 and 78 percent. Both wet and dry pet food can be formulated to provide complete and balanced nutrition. If you are choosing between wet or dry dog food, consider factors such as your dog’s health and life stage. For example, your older dog may find it easier to chew wet food. If you choose to feed your dog wet food, remember that it can spoil if left in the bowl for too long. Always cover and store opened cans of wet food in the refrigerator.

Feeding schedules

A regular, twice-daily feeding schedule can be helpful for both a dog and the rest of your family. This can help control your dog’s hunger. You’ll also be better able to predict when your dog may need to go outside. Cats, however, tend to eat their food slowly throughout the day and may benefit from a less strict feeding schedule. Regardless of the schedule you and your pet follow, it is important to carefully measure the serving size with a measuring cup to avoid overfeeding and keep fresh water readily available at all times.

To learn more about having a healthier pet this year, check out the guide to a balanced diet for dogs and cats.


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.