The choice of diets you decide to feed your pet is very important to ensure good health throughout its life. Our vets and nurses can provide detailed advice on how to feed your pet at all stages of life and in sickness and health. If you have any concerns about the diet you are feeding or feel inclined to supplement the diet in any way it is best that you seek professional advice first.
Cat and dog diets should be well-balanced and include the correct proportions of carbohydrates, protein, fats and certain vitamins and minerals. Feeding your pet a complete, well-balanced diet should avoid the need to supplement them (in fact at certain stages of growth or pregnancy over supplementation with additional vitamins or minerals may actually cause health problems or developmental conditions).
Dietary imbalances or deficiencies can cause malnutrition, poor coat, inadequate growth, poor healing, immunosuppression and disease. On the whole there are two main categories of diets, home-prepared and commercially prepared. It is very difficult to create a complete, well balanced home-prepared meal. On the other hand reputable commercial companies undertake a great deal of research to make sure these diets meet all of your pet’s needs and even adjust their diets for individual breed and age requirements.
Cats have evolved as predators, with high protein requirements. They are ‘obligate’ carnivores and cannot be managed on vegetarian diets. They cannot achieve adequate protein from vegetable matter to meet their needs so have to break down their own muscle stores of protein, causing rapid weight loss and weakness.
Another very important reason cats must have meat included in their daily diets is that they cannot produce vitamin A, some of the essential B vitamins, and some essential fatty acids or amino acids from vegetable matter in the diet. They must have a direct source of these in the diet (i.e meat). For example deficiency of taurine (an essential amino acid) causes a life threatening heart disease called Dilated Cardiomyopathy and serious eye disease.
It is important to ensure that cats have free access to clean fresh water at all times, especially if feeding a dry diet.
Wet food or dry food?
Wet foods are mainly meat-based products with a high moisture content. They have added vegetables whilst others are combined with corn meal. Wet foods are extremely tasty as they smell good and have a nice meaty texture, which can be easily swallowed after minimal chewing. However, they are often very sticky and this results in a lot of food debris left in teeth which can lead to dental plaque, tartar and teeth problems (see dental advice section of the web page).
Dry food is extremely popular – it is easily stored, easily fed, does not produce bad smells and does not attract flies in hot weather. It also helps to maintain clean, healthy teeth as the hardness of the biscuits physically cleans the teeth during chewing. Dry diets create firmer faeces and often flatulence is reduced with dry diets. Thus we normally advise trying to at least mix wet foods with biscuits, or if teeth brushing is impossible, to try and feed complete dry diets.
Feeding for different stages in life
Kittens grow rapidly and need higher levels of protein and fats in their diet. It is vital they have the correct balance of essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. To meet all these needs it is essential they receive a specific kitten food.
Pregnant animals have increased energy requirements to enable adequate growth of their developing young, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy. Lactation creates very high energy needs for the mothers who need 2-4 times more energy than normal adults to maintain their own condition and produce sufficient milk for their offspring. Seek advice from our vets and nurses if you are planning to breed from your pet.
Senior Pets (8-10 years plus)
As our pets get older their needs change. Diets need to be highly digestible, tasty, and must allow for changes in metabolism and in altered ability to break down and use protein. A specific senior diet is advisable at this time.
Many medical conditions can be improved and managed by altering a pet’s diet. These include kidney failure, arthritis, liver disease, urinary problems, obesity and diabetes. Prescription diets are often the best way to help your pet.
Our nurses and vets are always happy to offer advice to owners on all aspects of pet nutrition.