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    • Ask The Expert
    • 16 Jul, 2021

    Managing your pet’s diet

    Like us, our pets need to have a healthy, balanced lifestyle for optimum wellbeing, so ensuring they have the right diet and are kept close to their ideal body weight is essential. Registered Veterinary Nurse Amy from our Community Vet Clinic gives the lowdown on feeding cats and dogs and what to do if your pet isn’t quite on the right track.

    A balanced diet

    A complete pet food diet will provide all the nutrients your animal needs to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It is made up of different qualities and quantities of protein, fat, carbohydrate and fibre, as well as water and inorganic matter such as ash. You’ll find key ingredients and a nutritional breakdown included on the packaging.

    Speciality versus life stage

    Speciality diets are formulated for pets who have been diagnosed with a disease or condition that can be helped by an adapted diet. A speciality diet should be prescribed by your vet and the nutritional composition will be designed to provide the best ratio of key ingredients, plus added vitamins and minerals, to support your animal’s health.

    Unless your pet is required to be on a speciality diet, a life-stage diet is the best option: it’s formulated and adapted to support them as they grow and will alter as they get older. It is especially important that puppies and kittens are fed a diet appropriate to their age group, and dog owners should also make sure they’re feeding the right diet for the breed of puppy they have, as larger breeds will need additional nutritional supplements. Always consult the guide on the packet to ensure you’re feeding the correct amount for your pet’s age group and weight.

    “Unless your pet is required to be on a speciality diet, a life-stage diet is the best option: it’s formulated and adapted to support them as they grow and will alter as they get older.”

    Amy

    Veterinary Nurse

    Home-made and raw food

    Home-made pet food diets, particularly raw feeding, are becoming increasingly popular with pet owners. If this is something you would like to explore, we advise doing so with the help of a certified veterinary nutritionist. A few pet food brands are now producing complete and balanced raw food diets, which is a great place to start.

    Veggie pets?

    Cats are obligate carnivores and must be fed a diet that includes the animal protein taurine. Dogs, however, are omnivores so could have a balanced vegetarian diet, but only on the advice of a veterinary nutritionist.

    What about food allergies?

    The majority of allergies in pets are caused by animal proteins or environmental factors such as pollen or dust. Contrary to popular belief, grain allergies among cats and dogs are quite rare and you should only feed a grain-free diet if you have had the allergy confirmed. A food trial completed with the help of your vet is the best way to establish if your pet has any food allergies. If an allergy is found and a switch to a hypoallergenic diet recommended, this should be completed under their guidance.

    Be careful with those human treats: some of our food is toxic to pets, while other nibbles will be laden with calories and contribute to weight gain.

    What if my pet is overweight?

    If you have any concerns regarding your pet’s weight, the first thing you should do is take them to your veterinary practice for a general health check. If they could benefit from losing some weight or are heading into the overweight bracket, you may then be directed to a weight loss clinic with either a vet or vet nurse who will discuss the best options to help reduce their weight. Of course, to be healthy, pets need to move, and if your pet is too heavy you will likely need to combine diet reduction with increased exercise. Search our advice hub for tips on keeping four legs moving and heart rates pumping: advice.themayhew.org.

    It’s especially important to keep an eye on your pet’s weight as increased weight gain can lead to obesity, which is a serious health condition. Animals who are obese can have difficulty grooming themselves and may also go on to develop other issues such as arthritis, diabetes, poor dental health and reduced life expectancy.

    There are a variety of weight loss diets available for cats and dogs and your vet practice will be able to advise you on what is best for your pet. They all consist of high protein and fibre to ensure your pet will feel fuller for longer and help reduce any begging. It’s very important that you stick to the recommended feeding guide for these diets to work. If you want to use treats for training and/or rewards, you can do this by weighing out 10% of their daily food allowance and using that instead (remember to reduce their meals accordingly).

    If you’re concerned about your pet’s health or weight, or are considering altering their diet, always speak to your vet before making any changes.

    If your cat has been piling on the pounds, they may be having a second dinner elsewhere. Speak to your neighbours to make sure they’re not feeding them as cats are very good at acting as if they’ve not eaten for days!

    “If you’re concerned about your pet’s health or weight, or are considering altering their diet, always speak to your vet before making any changes.”

    Amy

    Veterinary Nurse

    Our friends at Burns Pet Nutrition are here to help

    If you suspect your dog is overweight, you’re not alone. Dog weight loss is quickly becoming a hot-button issue that’s affecting more and more owners, with sadly nearly 60% of dogs in the UK now overweight.

    To get your pet back on the right path, small changes can make a big difference. If your dog needs to lose a lot of weight in the healthiest way possible, your vet practice might recommend a food that has been specially created for doggy weight loss, such as the Weight Control range from Burns Pet Nutrition.

    Burns also has a great support group for caring owners with free help and advice on managing your pet’s weight. The Hounds Dropping Pounds Facebook group (@HoundsDroppingPounds) is an informative, supportive and motivational group that’s staffed by a team of doggy nutritional experts, giving you everything you need to help your dog be as happy and healthy as possible.

    Visit our advice hub

    Head over to our advice hub for expert advice on everything from keeping your pet healthy, to training and behaviour tips!

    Visit the advice hub

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