Nutritional Requirements

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Manufacturers, who are members of FEDIAF and its member associations, produce a diverse range of nourishing pet foods, including wet, dry, snacks & treats and raw diets, for a wide range of species. All these manufacturers have to adhere to strict legislation to ensure the quality and safety of the pet food produced.

FEDIAF Nutritional Guidelines exist to help members in formulating complete diets. They detail the nutritional needs of different species at the varying life-stages and are peer-reviewed by independent experts throughout Europe.

In this section, we provide much more information on the nutritional requirements of pets, the ingredients in pet food plus an explanation of processing. FEDIAF has also developed a number of Fact Sheets on different nutrition topics, which are free to download. You can also read about the history of the pet food industry.


The nutritional requirements of cats and dogs are very different to those of humans and any error in feeding may have serious consequences on their health. A badly-balanced diet, composed of table scraps and over rich foods may cause health problems such as obesity, liver dysfunction, renal insufficiency etc and may shorten the life of the animal.

To achieve a balanced diet, pet food manufacturers blend a mixture of ingredients such as meat, fish, cereals, vegetables, vitamins and minerals, in order to meet the nutritional requirements of pets.

We understand that the nutritional requirements of an animal will vary according to its size, age and activity. A working dog will not be fed in the same way as a pet, just as a puppy will not be fed in the same way as an ageing dog.

The increasing knowledge of pet nutrition and food technology has transformed the industry over the years. It is recognised that pets are living longer, healthier lives as a result of improved nutrition.

The industry now provides a range of pet foods adapted to the needs of the different kinds of pets. Whether they represent a daily ration (complete food) or are used in conjunction with other foods (complementary food), industrially prepared pet foods contain all the right components in carefully prescribed proportions for a pet to lead a healthy life.

Some Examples of Nutritional Requirements:

  • Dogs need a careful balance of calcium/phosphorus and sufficient vitamin D for strong bones and healthy teeth.
  • Fats and oils are a source of energy which is important for active and large dogs.
  • Protein is required to maintain the body muscles.
  • The requirements for senior dogs are explained in FEDIAF’s Statement on Nutrition for Senior Dogs.
  • A cat needs almost twice as much protein as a dog.
  • Vitamin A is necessary but within very precise limits. Too much liver (rich in vitamin A) can be harmful
  • The wrong balance in essential fatty acids will take the shine out of a cat’s coat.
  • Taurine – a vitamin-like substance – is essential to prevent eye and heart disease.
Small mammals
  • Contrary to widespread belief, each type of rodent has its own specific nutritional requirements.
  • For example, a hamster needs high levels of protein (meat), whereas a dwarf rabbit is strictly herbivore.
  • The guinea pig has an imperative need of vitamin C as it cannot synthesize it. It is therefore either systematically present in prepared foods or offered in the form of vitamin supplements.
Fish and turtles
  • Fish and Turtles must be given complete food in flake or pellet form or natural products. The raw materials have to be selected with care.
  • Do not forget that the eating habits of fish vary considerably according to their origin. There are countless varieties of fish from the five continents of the world, many requiring their own individual diets.