Benefits of Providing Species-Appropriate Nutrition to your Pet
- Maintains healthy weight
- Improves energy levels
- Enhances muscle tone and body condition
- Improves skin, hair and coat health
- Aids digestion and elimination
- Improves cardiovascular health
- Strengthens immunity and prevents disease
- Improves dental health
- Modifies Behaviour
We are all bombarded with information on how to eat more healthily but often left feeling confused as the advice can change from week to week. The supermarket isles and pet stores have so many brands and sorts of pet food to choose from that it’s understandable why many pet guardians go for the ones that are heavily advertised and have images of healthy energetic looking pets eating their food.
Unfortunately, many commercial pet foods have too much carbohydrate and too little animal protein. Our pets are developing symptoms of human conditions such as diabetes, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease and many other serious illnesses. Research clearly shows that cleaning up their diet can reduce and eliminate many of these conditions.
This is not to say that all commercial pet foods are bad news, there is a growing awareness of the importance of good nutrition for our pets and a much larger variety of good quality commercial pet foods that provide natural ingredients and balanced nutrition for pets. Research shows that offering our pets species-appropriate foods is necessary for improving and maintaining good health. Findings would strongly suggest that fresh foods are best but feeding our pets the wet varieties of pet foods will always be an improvement on the dry varieties as they will contain more moisture and be generally be less processed. This is especially important for cats who by their nature do not tend to drink lots of water.
Some time ago I learned that feeding our pets real foods that mimic the foods they would eat in their natural environment, is one of the best ways of helping our treasured pets stay well. Obviously, we can’t get it exactly right otherwise our cats would be given free access to live mice every day and our dogs would be out catching chickens!
This doesn’t mean that guardians need to stop feeding their pets any form of ready-made meals; but by regularly including whole foods into their diet, their pets well-being ought to be improved.
We can offer a diet that our pets will find more appetizing, that is still easy to prepare and doesn’t take lots of time. Many of the ingredients used in making home-made pet foods are cupboard/fridge staples such as tinned salmon and fresh vegetables. By offering your pet real foods, free from undesirable chemicals and sugars, you’re providing nourishing healthy meals to help them live a longer healthier life.Dogs
Dogs in the wild are more likely to eat rabbits, ducks and chickens alongside
eggs, berries, vegetables, herbs and grasses. These foods provided a wide variety of vitamins and minerals as well as essential fatty acids that can reduce inflammatory conditions, encourage good cardiovascular health, healthy skin, eyes and coat. Dogs are carnivores but can a wide variety of foods. Some guardians choose to
feed their dog raw meat, many sources of research suggest that this type of diet is more natural and easily digestible by dogs.
As dogs became more domesticated, guardians changed their diets and many dogs now regularly eat over processed foods with high levels of low grade carbohydrates, little animal protein, few beneficial vitamins and minerals, low water levels, flavour enhancers and preservatives. These types of foods are easy to serve so they’re convenient but not necessarily that beneficial for the dog. Research shows that while dogs can eat many of the foods humans can eat, there are a number of foods that are considered unsafe for them. The following list is not conclusive but gives examples of unsafe foods for dogs: apple seeds, avocados, citrus fruits, onions, chocolate, raisins, grapes, coffee, cooked bones and alcohol.
Whatever foods the guardian chooses to feed their dog, it ought to be packed full of nutrients and changes made gradually to avoid gastrointestinal upsets.
In the wild cats would have to hunt for their food and would typically eat birds, mice and rats. Their teeth are designed to grasp, tear and cut foods so many of the foods our cats are feed today aren’t providing them with the opportunity to eat the way nature intended. Many domesticated cats’ diets don’t contain enough animal protein but tend to have too much sugar and carbohydrate. Many cat food brands are water deficient and unfortunately for our cats, research suggests that poor hydration may be linked with serious urinary tract diseases.
Cats are obligate carnivores so they need to eat animal protein to produce hormones, enzymes, anti-bodies and healthy tissues. They need to eat two essential amino acids, taurine and arginine to keep several of their internal organs working well. They also need to eat linoleic acid and arachidonic acid to support several bodily functions. They ought to have vitamin A and B12 in their diet to avoid health issues. Cats only need to eat a little amount of carbohydrate; they don’t need sugar or dairy products. There are several foods that are unsafe for cats, examples include alcohol, raisins, poppy seeds, chocolate and avocado. They should never be fed smoked or salted foods.
Once again, any dietary changes should be made gradually to avoid gastrointestinal discomfort.
These creatures have four sharp incisors that constantly keep growing. They must gnaw on things that grind down their teeth to avoid dental, mouth and intestinal problems. Optimal nutrition is the foundation for good health. A healthy diet should consist of a good quality balance of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and water.
Hamsters are omnivores, in the wild they would eat seeds, whatever vegetables they could find, grains like barley, wheat, corn and oats, plant roots, other small animals and insects. Hamsters are nocturnal and forage for food during the night to stash in their burrow and eat at a later time. Guardians should supply their hamster with a good quality commercial seed mix as a base to their diet. These little creatures can safely eat some vegetables such as broccoli and asparagus, as well as fruits like banana and apple and herbs such as parsley and basil. Hamsters can eat little chunks of beef and small amounts of boiled egg. They should not be fed tomato or potato tops, raw kidney beans, onions or raw rhubarb as it could seriously harm them.
Gerbils are opportunistic omnivores that hoard food. In their natural habitat they would eat grasses, shrubs, plants, grains like buckwheat and millet, seeds, fruits and insects. Their diet would change according to local the climate and foods available in the area. In captivity, guardians should offer gerbils a good quality commercial food mix with additional grains such as oats or millet, along with timothy or alfalfa hay. Gerbils benefit from eating a variety of vegetables such as peas and celery as well fruits like bananas and apples.
They also enjoy eating live mealworms and crickets. Gerbils should be assessed immediately by a Veterinarian if their faeces become very loose or their hind-quarters become soiled.
Rats and mice are omnivores; they eat similar foods but there are some nutritional differences. For example, rats need more fibre and protein but less fat than mice. Rats and mice should be fed a good quality commercial rodent food mix as their base diet but mice shouldn’t be given a loose seed mix as they won’t eat everything and will therefore miss out on some nutrients. According to research, rats benefit from eating a soy meal block, this not only provides them with nutrients but also offers them a chance to chew. They can eat fruits such as strawberries and blueberries, and vegetables like broccoli and butternut squash. Mice also benefit from eating a food block or pellet mix. They can eat vegetables such as cabbage, peas and broccoli and fruits like apples or bananas. Onions, corn, peanuts and beans are harmful to rats and mice and should be avoided. Rodents should never be fed chocolate, sugary products, salted foods, caffeine or anything that contains alcohol as it is very harmful to them.
Any changes to your pet’s diet should be done gradually and new foods added in small amounts. If they have a medical condition, it’s advisable to speak with a Vet for advice before making dietary changes.