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3 keys to innovative nutrition for puppies and kittens

March 26, 2021
Puppy and kitten

Nutrition for puppies and kittens requires different considerations based on the nutritional requirements for growing animals.

If your pet food company produces balanced diets for puppies and kittens, you know that it is not always easy to differentiate yourselves from the competition.

With numerous options at the neighborhood pet food store and on the increasingly popular e-commerce sites, new pet parents are often bombarded with decisions. Should they go with raw diets for puppies? Dry or wet food for kittens? High-protein diets? Vitamin and mineral supplements?

Ultimately, you want pet consumers to choose your nutrition programs. Let’s look at three ways to make sure that your puppy and kitten diets stand out on the shelf.

1. Beware of the “high-protein” hype.

Yes, puppies and kittens have nutritional requirements that include high protein and calorie levels, but be wary of oversimplifying this message.

Protein sources are not created equal, and claiming that a food is “high protein” is not as important as the levels of essential amino acids that are present in the diets of young kittens and puppies.

Protein requirements for puppies and kittens are really requirements for higher levels of high-quality protein. Do your best to convey to consumers that your pet food brand contains excellent-quality protein from a traceable source that specifically meets the needs of a puppy or kitten.

Furthermore, taking a step backwards, a growing animal’s body also requires nutrients that support its cells’ ability to produce proteins.

Nutrients such as nucleotides, which are the molecules that make up an animal’s genetic material (DNA and RNA), are in high demand throughout the animal’s life, but never more so than during the growth phase, when the gastrointestinal and immune systems are developing quickly.

Nucleotides are found in high levels in the mother’s milk, but young companion animals still have an increased need for nucleotides, even after weaning. Research has shown that nucleotide supplementation in puppies increases their immune systems’ capacity to respond to dangerous diseases, such as parvovirus.

Arming your pet food with the organic molecules and amino acids that really matter for growth and development in puppies and kittens, such as those found in Alltech’s NUCLEO-SACC™, will deliver real results for your consumers and, ultimately, the pets they love.

2. Make it palatable.

This may seem fairly obvious, but reduced food consumption in growing kittens and puppies can lead to major growth and developmental problems.

It is important to communicate to pet owners that while the desired growth rate for both puppies and kittens is “slow and steady” so as to prevent the over-development of their musculoskeletal systems, young animals will grow the quickest in their first 6 months of life and need to be fed in line with those needs.

Building your puppy and kitten diets with highly palatable ingredients, such as glutamic acid, can help promote feed intake in a controlled manner. Additionally, using a body condition scoring system can help to guide nutrition for kittens and puppies. Teaching pet owners how to use body conditioning can help prevent under- or over-development.

For both dogs and cats, body condition is typically assessed on a scale of 1 to 9, with 1 being severely underweight and 9 being obese. An ideal body condition for cats and dogs is between 4 and 5, where their ribs can be easily felt but not seen and a waistline can clearly be identified.

In growing companion animals, body condition is likely to change more rapidly, and there could very well be some “awkward” growing phases. All is well. The important thing is to keep their body condition in mind so that you can adjust their diet as needed before anything gets too out of whack.

Overall, helping consumers understand that growing pets require a balanced diet that meets their increased nutritional demands without overloading their body systems is key. Designing pet food diets that are palatable and therefore encourage consumption means that consumers are less likely to overfeed an imbalanced ration to compensate for what is missing, and that could have a hugely positive downstream effect on their pets’ long-term health.  

3. Focus on functional nutrients.

Functional nutrients are those that may provide health benefits beyond the basic nutritional requirements. Regardless of what type of pet food your company produces, be sure to include functional nutrients that can assist with young companion animals’ proper growth and development.

One functional nutrient that often goes unmentioned is inositol. Inositol is a sugar that is found naturally in the body. Inositol supports proper nerve and muscle function, in addition to optimal cell membrane development. Because of its role in cell structure, it is important for growing animals to have quality sources of inositol in their diets.

Additionally, ensuring that your young companion animal pet food contains 100% organic trace minerals (including copper, zinc, manganese, iron and selenium) will provide a huge boost to your nutrition program. Trace minerals are especially critical during growth to ensure the proper development of all of the animal’s body tissues. Organic trace minerals have been shown to be absorbed and utilized at higher rates in the body than their inorganic counterparts, which means that development and performance can be improved just by feeding your brand’s diet!


Ultimately, you care about your pet food diets because you care about the puppies and kittens who will be eating them.

Adding sufficient levels of functional nutrients — such as essential amino acids, nucleotides, inositol and glutamic acid — in addition to high-quality essential trace minerals will make your pet food brand the best it can be while also ensuring incredible results for your customers’ new family members.


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