Pet nutrition is a hot topic in pet parent circles, and how you feed your pet affects much more than your animal’s weight. Poor nutrition can have an impact on your pet’s skin, coat, joint health, and even behavior. We all want to do the best for our pets and managing what we feed them is key to ensuring their well-being.The challenge is, pets can’t talk so we have to rely on other ways of recognizing when their nutrition is off-base. Here are the top five tell-tale signs your pet is not getting the correct nutrition, and the changes you should expect to see when the pet is benefitting from a healthy diet.

1.Skin and coat condition: The coat is probably the most commonly examined feature of a dog or cat in reference to its general health. Owners readily notice changes in the coat which can include dr y and flaky dandruff, a lackluster or dull-looking coat, redness of the skin, and ultimately, itching and allergies.With proper nutrition, the coat should be lustrous and shiny, free of any flax or dandruff, and with a markedly improved general body odor.

2. Halitosis: Many pet owners believe that ‘doggy breath’ is normal for all dogs and cats. This is actually far from the truth because halitosis (bad breath) is a conclusive sign of poor oral hygiene. Plaque and tar tar will build up on the teeth, leading to gingivitis (red inflamed gums), which harbors literally millions of bacteria. Left untreated, this type of oral condition will fur ther progress into reabsorption of bone and loss of teeth. The bacteria living in the plaque and tar tar can also spread into the bloodstream and seed infections into other organs, such as the kidney and the heart.

3. Fecal output: Another area where pet owners can maintain vigilance on the animal’s health is fecal output. A healthy dog eating an appropriate diet should have well-formed and firm feces, and the dog should pass these feces without significant effort. Generally if the dog’s fed once daily, they will tend to empty their bowels once-a-day. Signs of poor nutrition will eventuate in sloppy or wet feces, occasional showing signs of mucous, and blood. Dogs that have persistent sloppy feces will also have chronic anal gland problems, and are likely to be seen ‘scooting’ on their bottom or licking and chewing in the general area of the tail base.

4. Urine output: Ver y helpful when managing dogs or cats with chronic disease. Generally urine tests are done in combination with other blood tests. With urinary tract problems and UTIs we see a significantly higher presentation of dogs and cats that eat predominantly dry food. Checking the PH of your pet’s urine is a good indicator of how their diet is affecting them. A dog or cat eating an appropriate diet containing high levels of red meat will have significantly acidic urine, the PH somewhere between four and six. Dogs that are eating poor quality food which is high in carbohydrate and vegetable matter and lower in meat protein will tend to have either a neutral pH or even slightly alkaline. In the alkaline environment cr ystals and stones will form, and bacterial population of the bladder wall can result in blood in the urine, painful urination, and significantly increased frequency of urination. Older dogs and cats being treated for chronic kidney failure will generally have significantly high thirst and fluid intake, which is the natural process of dialysis.

5. Dry nose and slumped tail: A wet nose and wagging tail have always been good indicators of internal health. The dog’s nose should be permanently moist. If an animal has a persistent high fever the nose will quickly become dry, indicating that something is wrong. With chronic kidney failure, fluid intake does not always compensate for fluid loss by the urine leaving the sufferer just slightly dehydrated, which again will show up as a dry nose. Significant zinc deficiency in the diet will also lead to chronic changes in the nasal pad which tends to cause significant scaling and increased crust in the nasal area.

As with any veterinary problem, if you suspect your pet is suffering the effects of poor nutrition, the first step is to consult your vet.