Diet - they are what they eat

Lets talk about a diet - and I don't mean the lose weight variety, although that will be applicable in some cases. Here we are talking about pet food and what you need to do to ensure a happy and healthy pet. There is an important distinction between "get to eat" which applies (mostly) to us humans and "gets given to eat" which applies to most pets.

It is vital that we realise that we feed our pets and they don't "have to" have the variety of sweets, choclate, pudding etc that many pets get fed. We are in control of their what they eat, and any dietary aberration is usually human induced!

It has always been a wonder to me that many pet owners spend good money ensuring that they buy a well balanced, commercially available, pet food and then promptly spend more money to "unbalance" the diet by feeding their pets all sorts of titbits and treats.That is like buying a triple cheese burger with fries and then ordering a diet cool drink to have with your burger. I mean - why bother!

The pet food industry has forged ahead in leaps and bounds over the past 2 decades or so. Our understanding of the nutritional requirements of our pets has grown amazingly, and continues to do so. Many feed companies spend a small fortune in research in order to offer your pet the best possible diet.

The upshot of this is that there is a vast variety of pet food offerings out there, which can be confusing. Unfortunatley, you will always get someone trying to make a quick buck by offering an inferior product, but there are ways of avoiding that pitfall.

Many diets nowdays are specifically formulated for (a) a specific species, e.g. cat, dog, goldfish etc and very often for (b) a specific age group or condition within a species e.g. small breed puppy,heart disease, kidney disease and so on. Nutrition is a hugely diverse and complicated subject with whole careers being devoted to tiny niches within the broad subject. So I am not going to go down that path. What I do want to do is make sure you are aware of a few (mostly common sense) basics that you can apply to ensure your pet gets a well balanced, appropriate pet food that will optimise it's chances of good health.

Some petfood guidelines

1) Buy a complete pet food from a recognised maufacturer. Get advice on this from your Veterinarian.

2) Very often the more expensive diets available only from your Veterinarian work out cheaper per meal because of their high nutritional value per unit volume.

3) Because of their high nutritional value, most is used up by the body leaving less to have to clean up after its made it's way through the digestive system.Its no good feeding your pet a diet that it cannot digest!

4) The composition of these diets is more consistent. For example,if the formulation requires XZ % protein, then the source of the protein is always e.g. fish. This becomes important when pets suffer from a food allergy and you need to identify the offending constituent in the food. This becomes virtually impossible if the animal is being fed a diet where every batch produced by the manufacturer has a different constituent that makes up the XY % protein required.

5) Once you have made a choice, stick to that brand unless there are very good reasons to change (such as a food allergy). The digestive system appreciates a consistent diet and most animals do not need variety to maintain an interest in food - that is a human need being imposed on your pet, often with regretable side effects such as weight gain and pancreatitis.

6) Don't unbalance a balanced diet by feeding titbits and delicacies.

7) Feed your pet at the same time each day.

8) Get advice from your veterinarian on the nutritional requirements of your pet over its lifetime. e.g. the nutritional requirements of a puppy are different to those of a 11 yr old boxer which are different to those of a Jack Russel that has just whelped and has 4 pups to feed.

9) Cats and dogs do not need milk once they have been weaned from their mum. Make sure that they have a good supply of fresh clean water available at all times. Don't feed them beer or any other alcoholic beverage.

10) Many diets come in a variety of formulations - from dry pellets to canned. Generally speaking, it doesn't matter which formulation you feed. The advantage of a dry food is that you can leave it out all day while a tinned preparation is likely to spoil more quickly.

11) Don't overfeed your pet! From goldfish to golden retrievers, from parrots to poodles, overfeeding can be fatal to your pet's health.

In summary, whatever the type, age, or sex of your pet, the diet that you feed the animal will greatly influence it's quality of life. So get it right and don't allow your human needs to interfere with what is best for your pet!