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When it comes to feeding our pets, there are specific nutritional requirements necessary to keep them healthy. Commercial diets contain protein, fat, fiber, minerals, and other nutrients that meet the standards of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). These standards ensure that AAFCO-certified foods are complete and balanced for your pet.

Proper nutrition starts with evaluating your pet's weight, body condition, life stage and overall health. Consult with your veterinarian about choosing the best diet for your pet's breed and age. Nutritional needs change with age and some medical conditions require special diets.

Establish mealtimes for your pet. If food is left available in a bowl all day, a pet will likely overeat and gain excessive weight.

Measure the food that you give your pet. The definition of a "scoop" can vary greatly between different people. It is best to use a measuring cup to accurately serve the proper amount of food at each meal.

Do not give table scraps. These foods can cause serious upset of your pet's stomach and intestines and also may lead to your pet becoming disinterested in his/her nutritionally balance food.

Control your pet's caloric intake and provide exercise. This is the best way to minimize unwanted weight gain. Overweight pets are more susceptible to developing respiratory problems, heart disease, diabetes, joints and ligament injuries, and arthritis. Recent research has confirmed that pets that are kept at an optimal weight live longer, healthier lives.

Avoid feeding supplements unless they are specifically recommended for your pet by your veterinarian.

Limit treats. Pets also enjoy verbal praise, grooming, play time, walks, and just sitting alongside you.