Archive for the ‘Cats’ Category
Humans love fruit and we know bananas and strawberries are good for us, but did you know they are good for your dogs too? Not only will your dog love that he is getting “human food,” but you will love that the same benefits fruits provide us – aids in digestion, antioxidants, immunity boosts, better eye sight, healthier skin and hair – they also provide for your dog.
Feed fruits to your dog as a small training treat or stuff your dog’s favorite treat stuffer toy with some peanut butter and fruit for a great and healthy occupier.
Tips for Feeding Fruit to Dogs
- Always talk to your veterinarian about any treats you feed your dog, including fruit.
- Give your dog small portions of fruit only, especially the first time feeding them to your dog. Even though fruit is good for him, fruit is not calorie free. Also, you don’t know if your dog will have an allergic or other adverse reaction, such as gas or an upset stomach.
- Clean fruit thoroughly before offering it to your dog.
- If you can, introduce small portions of fruit to your dog when he is young. He may be more likely to try it and like it.
Some dogs don’t like raw fruit. Try mashing it into their food or adding it as an ingredient when you make homemade dog treats. You can also use fruit juice, but make sure it is 100 percent fruit juice and not added sugars.
- Avoid feeding your dog any type of seeds or pits. Although not all seeds are known to cause problems, it is better to be safe than sorry. What is known to be problematic or toxic are apple seeds, apricot pits, nectarine pits, plum pits, cherry pits and peach pits.
Check out this list of 13 fruits (and melons) for dogs and their benefits to get you started.
1. Apples: Source for potassium, fiber, phytonutrients, flavonoids, vitamin C. Note: Do not give dogs the core or the seeds, which contain arsenic. (Half of an apple slice is a good size treat.)
2. Bananas: Source of potassium and carbohydrates. (1 inch is a good size treat.)
3. Blackberries: Source of antioxidants (anthocyanins), polyphenols, tannin, fiber, manganese, folate, omega-3. High in vitamins C, K, A and E. (2 or 3 blackberries is a good size treat.)
4. Blueberries: Source of antioxidants, selenium, zinc and iron. High in vitamins C, E, A and B complex. (2 or 3 blueberries is a good size treat.)
5. Cantaloupe: Source for vitamins A, B complex, C, plus fiber, beta-carotene, potassium, magnesium, thiamine, niacin, pantothenic acid and folic acid. (1 inch of cantaloupe wedge is a good size treat.)
6. Cranberries: Source for vitamin C, fiber and manganese. Helps fight against urinary tract infections, plus balances acid-base in dog’s body. (2 tablespoons of stewed cranberries added to dog’s food is good size portion. Note: To stew cranberries, put them in a saucepan with water, cover and cook until tender. Put them through a sieve and add to dog food.)
7. Kiwis: Source of fiber, potassium and high in vitamin C. (A half a slice or one slice of kiwi is a good size treat.)
8. Oranges: Source for fiber, potassium, calcium, folic acid, iron, flavonoids, phytonutrients, vitamins A, C, B1 and B6. (Half of a segment is a good size treat. May cause stomach upset if fed in too big a portion. Remove the rind and any seeds.) Do no feed your dog any part of the orange tree—see below.
9. Pears: Source for fiber, folic acid, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, copper, pectin and vitamins A, C, E, B1 and B2. (1 or 2 pear cubes is a good size treat.)
10. Pumpkin: Source for fiber, beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, zinc, iron, potassium and Vitamin A. Note: Although you can feed your dog pumpkin seeds, most recommend feeding them to dogs unsalted, roasted and then grounded. Do not feed your dog any other part of the pumpkin due to the small, sharp hairs on the pumpkin stem and leaves. (1 to 3 tablespoons of pureed pumpkin [not pumpkin pie mix] is a good size treat.) We sell organic canned pumpkin for pets!
11. Raspberries: Source of dietary fiber, antioxidants, potassium, manganese, copper, iron, magnesium. Rich in vitamin C, K and B-complex. (2 or 3 raspberries is a good size treat.)
12. Strawberries: Source for fiber, potassium, magnesium, iodine, folic acid, omega-3 fats, vitamins C, K, B1 and B6. (A half or 1 strawberry is a good size treat.)
13. Watermelon: Source of vitamins C and A, potassium, magnesium and water. Do not feed your dog the seeds or rind. (1 to 3 pieces of 1-inch watermelon wedge is a good size treat.)
Fruit Bad for Dogs
Although some fruits in small portions can be good for your dog (unless your dog is allergic), never offer your dog the following. If your dog accidently eats the below fruit, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Grapes or Raisins: They have caused many cases of poisoning when ingested by dogs.
Avocados: They could cause gastrointestinal irritation.
Figs: Figs have caused allergic reactions in some dogs. Also, the fig is grown on the Ficus tree (Ficus benjamina), which causes skin inflammation if your dog comes into contact with it. Ficus plants or trees also cause diarrhea and vomiting if your dog ingests them.
Orange tree: The orange tree (Citrus sinensis) is toxic to dogs, cats and horses due to its psoralens and essential oils. You don’t want your pet to ingest the seeds, peel, leaves or stem of this tree or fruit. Symptoms of orange tree poisoning are depression, diarrhea and vomiting.
Lemon tree: The lemon tree (Citrus limonia) is toxic to dogs, cats and horses due to its psoralens and essential oils. You don’t want your pet to ingest the seeds, peel, leaves or stem of this tree. Symptoms of lemon plant poisoning are depression, diarrhea and vomiting.
Article by dogchannel.com
Warmer weather is finally here, bringing with it the much less welcome nuisance of blood sucking parasites. Ticks are already out in full force and fleas and mosquitoes will soon make themselves at home, dining on you and your pet. As a responsible pet-owner, it is essential to safeguard your pets from these unwanted pests.
Fleas can invade your home before you even realize it. Your carpets and bedding may harbor millions of immature flea eggs and larvae before you even see as much as one adult flea. Adult fleas can lay up to fifty eggs in one day, and larvae feed on the feces of the adult fleas. If fleas are observed, it is vital to treat all dogs and cats in the home as well as thoroughly cleaning all carpets and bedding and chemical treatment may be necessary.
Not only are flea bites maddeningly itchy for humans and animals alike, but fleas can act as a vector to disease. Fleas played an integral role in the transmission of the bubonic plague, and are capable of spreading a variety of blood-borne diseases and nasty bacterial and viral infections. They can also infect their host with tapeworms.
Ticks are nasty members of the arachnid family who also carry a wide variety of unpleasant diseases. In fact, Lyme disease if found in epidemic proportions in this area, with nearly half of dogs infected. Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Ehrlichia are the most common tick borne diseases. Cats and dogs should be tested twice a year for tick borne disease as they can become chronic and rob years from their lives.
While ticks won’t infest your home, they can make your yard their home. Treating your yard is important to reduce the number of ticks your pet contracts. Chemical sprays are available, and natural options include diatomaceous earth or a pair of guinea fowl, which can keep an acre apiece tick-free. Checking your dog thoroughly after each walk is an easy way to reduce the risk of ticks attaching to him or you. Investing in a specialized tick remover is worthwhile, since pulling a tick off by hand can result in it becoming traumatized and expelling the contents of its body into your pet. Additionally it is possible for the mouthparts to be left behind when the tick is pulled off by hand increasing the possibility of infection.
Mosquitoes are integral in the transmission of heartworms. Some spot on treatments and collars repel mosquitoes. Keeping your dog indoors at peak mosquito hours and out of swampy areas in the summer time are good ideas, and treating your lawn for mosquitoes is also an option. Annual heartworm tests are recommended.
All pest control products should be used all year round, due to the flea’s long life cycle. Proper prevention eliminates the possibility of an infestation. Options include:
• Spot-on treatments: These are oil based treatments that soak through the skin rapidly and become part of the treated animal’s sebaceous system. Every oil droplet secreted post treatment contains a small dose of insecticide. Typically the active ingredient attacks the nervous system of the parasite and their internal organs shut down. Most also include a growth inhibitor to prevent larvae from reaching adulthood.
• Flea and tick collars: flea and tick collars often use the same chemicals as the spot on treatments, but they supply a continuous low dosage of the chemical and often are effective longer.
• Natural options:
o Diatomaceous earth: diatomaceous earth is a powder created from the remains of diatoms, a microscopic water plant. This product dries fleas out, killing them. It can be applied topically as a flea powder and throughout the household to destroy eggs and larvae. It is recommended to apply it wet and let it dry to prevent it from getting it into your pets eyes, nose or ears. It is important to use food grade diatomaceous earth.
o Essential oil sprays and wipes: certain oils such as rosemary, cedar, eucalyptus, tea tree oil, lavender, and geranium repel parasites.
Always read labels for pest control products thoroughly. Cats and small dogs are especially sensitive to chemicals and essential oils so monitor them closely after applying any treatments.
Article by Jenny Cournoyer
Jenny is an employee at Maggie’s and a graduate of UMASS Amherst, she has studied Pre-vet and Animal Science and is very knowledgeable about pet care and nutrition
Is your pet getting enough to drink?
Like us, cats and dogs are primarily composed of water. They lose water daily through urination, defecation and respiration. Digestion, especially of dry food, requires vast amounts of water to properly prepare the food for nutrient absorption. Without enough water it is impossible for the kidneys and liver to properly filter the bloodstream, which can result in toxicity. Therefore, adequate water consumption is absolutely vital to the health of your pet.
Dehydration is a common problem for companion animals eating a diet primarily composed of kibble. Kibble is usually between seven and ten percent moisture, requiring additional supplementation of water, typically in a water bowl. The wild forebears of our dogs and cats would have met most of their water needs by eating the flesh of their prey (containing 75-80 percent moisture) and occasionally drinking from streams. In the wild, animals will only drink from a stagnant water source, such as a puddle, in times of drought or famine. Many pets will naturally choose to drink out of the freshest water source available. So when you see your cat lapping up the water around your bathtub drain, or your dog with his head in the toilet bowl, it is effort to rehydrate with fresh water.
Failure to drink enough water can result in bad breath, dry nose and mouth, lethargy, susceptibility to infection (especially urinary tract infections) , dull coat and dark, smelly urine. It is easy to monitor your pet’s hydration status by performing either a basic turgor test or a capillary refill test.
• Turgor test: gently lift the loose skin between your dog or cat’s shoulder blades and then release. If properly hydrated, your pet’s skin will return back to normal instantly. If anything other than an immediate return is observed, your pet is dehydrated. The more slowly the skin goes back to it’s original position, the more dehydrated the animal is.
• Capillary refill test: with your index finger, firmly press the gum line of your pet for three seconds, and then remove your finger. The color should return to the area in less than two seconds. The sooner it returns the better, and the more slowly it returns, the higher the level of dehydration.
There are a variety of ways to ensure that your pets are getting enough water. Incorporating canned food into a dry diet is helpful, and switching to a raw diet is ideal. In a raw diet, none of the water is cooked out of the food; therefore no additional water is needed to digest it. Freeze-dried raw diets and dehydrated diets are also excellent choices when saturated according to package directions. Encourage your pet to drink as much as possible from their dish by changing the water twice a day and cleaning it often. Stagnant water grows bacteria which smells and tastes unpleasant. To provide a constant fresh water supply, consider a pet fountain in which the water circulates continuously. Pets that are sick, pregnant, nursing or very active have greater water needs. In high temperatures, dogs and cats lose more water through respiration and will need additional access to water. Supervise dogs tied outside as they can either knock over their water bowls or become tangled out of reach. All life sustaining processes require water. Without water food can’t be digested, toxins can’t be excreted and air can’t be absorbed. It is the least expensive form of preventative medicine. Make sure your animals are getting enough for a lifetime of health.
Article by Jenny Cournoyer
Jenny is an employee at Maggie’s and a graduate of UMASS Amherst, she has studied Pre-vet and Animal Science and is very knowledgeable about pet care and nutrition
Everyone is familiar with the importance of dental hygiene in our own lives. We brush our teeth after every meal, we floss, we rinse, we whiten. Tartar and plaque from leftover food cause bad breath, gingivitis, and tooth decay and we do everything in our power to avoid a stern lecture from our dentist at our bi-annual appointment. But what about our pets?
All kibble-fed dogs and cats experience tartar build up. Even high quality, grain-free kibble contains binding agents which hold the kibble together. These sticky ingredients encourage plaque growth, which leads to tartar and bad breath.
Many make the costly mistake of allowing their dog or cat’s tartar to build to the point where it can only be removed under anesthesia, by the veterinarian. Unfortunately, this does nothing for the gingivitis that plagues our companion animals. Unsightly red, swollen gums and bad breath are symptomatic of gingivitis and result from inadequate stimulation and bacterial infection of the gums due to insufficient chewing. Without the frequent opportunity to chew, the gums become inflamed. Since chewing not only stimulates the gums, but physically removes the plaque it does double duty in preventing gingivitis. Letting this disease go unchecked can cause cardiovascular problems later on.
Other valiant souls make the commendable effort of brushing their pet’s teeth after every meal. With practice, and patience, and lots of treats some dogs and cats tolerate and even enjoy this addition to their daily routine. Enzymatic deliciously flavored toothpastes and specially designed finger or long handled toothbrushes facilitate this process. However, other cases will fight their well-meaning owner tooth and nail to avoid this invasive procedure.
Fortunately, the solution is as affordable and easy as giving your dog or cat a bone. Toys and treats that boast dental benefits are an easy way to maintain good hygiene. Dental Nylabones, Himalayan dog chews, bully sticks, hooves, and sweet potato chews are great options for canines, while crunchy grain free treats are effective for felines. Avoiding such treats containing sugars and grains, which can add to plaque build-up, is even more effective.
The absolute best method to guarantee that your beloved dog or cat has perfect dental health is to pair a high quality, grain-free or raw diet, with a weekly raw meaty bone. Raw meaty bones provide the flossing and scraping action necessary for gum stimulation and plaque removal. They come in sizes suitable for any dog and cat and are almost universally appreciated. Any wild or feral relative to our domestic pets possess beautiful teeth and gums, a true testament to the efficacy of raw bones.
Article by Jenny Cournoyer
Jenny is an employee at Maggie’s and a graduate of UMASS Amherst, she has studied Pre-vet and Animal Science and is very knowledgeable about pet care and nutrition.
‘Tis the season for friends, family and holiday feasts—but also for possible distress for our animal companions. Pets won’t be so thankful if they munch on undercooked turkey or a pet-unfriendly floral arrangement, or if they stumble upon an unattended alcoholic drink.
If you decide to feed your pet a little nibble of turkey, make sure it’s boneless.
Sage can make your Thanksgiving stuffing taste delish, but it and many other herbs contain essential oils and resins that can cause gastrointestinal upset and central nervous system depression to pets if eaten in large quantities. Cats are especially sensitive to the effects of certain essential oils.
No Bread Dough
Don’t spoil your pet’s holiday by giving him raw bread dough. According to ASPCA experts, when raw bread dough is ingested, an animal’s body heat causes the dough to rise in his stomach. As it expands, the pet may experience vomiting, severe abdominal pain and bloating, which could become a life-threatening emergency, requiring surgery.
Don’t Let Them Eat Cake
If you’re baking up Thanksgiving cakes, be sure your pets keep their noses out of the batter.
Too Much of a Good Thing
A few small boneless pieces of cooked turkey, a taste of mashed potato or even a lick of pumpkin pie shouldn’t pose a problem. However, don’t allow your pets to overindulge, as they could wind up with a case of stomach upset, diarrhea or even worse—an inflammatory condition of the pancreas known as pancreatitis. In fact, it’s best keep pets on their regular diets during the holidays.
A Feast Fit for a Kong
While the humans are chowing down, give your cat and dog their own little feast. Offer them Nylabones or made-for-pet chew bones. Or stuff their usual dinner—perhaps with a few added tidbits of turkey, vegetables (try sweet potato or green beans) and dribbles of gravy—inside a Kong toy. They’ll be happily occupied for awhile, working hard to extract their dinner from the toy.
Article courtesy of aspca.org
Easter is around the corner so it’s a good time to take note of a few Easter traditions that could cause harm to pets. Also, let’s look at human traditions that pets would likely enjoy as well!
1. Easter lilies and other lilies can be toxic to cats, causing kidney failure and death.
All parts of the lily can be toxic, and eating just one leaf can
result in severe poisoning. After eating a portion of an Easter lily,
a cat will generally vomit and become depressed within 2 hours.
The vomiting may subside, but the cat will not eat and continue
to become more depressed.
Contact your veterinarian immediately if you know or suspect your
cat has eaten any part of an Easter lily. Your veterinarian will start
treatment that includes causing the cat to vomit by giving an emetic,
administering activated charcoal and a cathartic (stimulates bowel
movements), and giving subcutaenous or intravenous fluids.
A cat must be treated within 18 hours of ingesting the plant,
or the damage to the kidneys will be irreversible.
2. Bunnies are most often NOT good gifts.
As cute as they are, a bunny should not be a “new toy” in
an Easter basket. Given as a surprise, a bunny could easily
get ignored when the excitement of being new is lost.
They are a life-long commitment and the whole family should
be involved in the responsibility a new pet brings.
If you’ve discussed getting a bunny (or duckling, another
traditional Easter animal), and feel your family is ready and
willing to take on the commitment, consider tucking some
pet supplies in your child’s Easter basket in preparation for
a new pet. They will have to figure out that the supplies mean
they will be getting a new pet, and the anticipation of then
getting a new pet will just add to the excitement of the
new family member.
3. Pets like gifts, too! Consider giving your pet an Easter basket!
When I give my dogs a new treat or toy, it’s a real joy
to watch as their tail wags in excitement over their new
treasure! Dogs love treats and toys, and so do cats!
No matter what type of pet you have, I’m willing to bet
they’d appreciate a small token of “love” on Easter morning!
Article by Ellen B.
The single best thing you can do to help prevent periodontal disease in your pet is to provide regular in-home care. Pets who receive regular in-home oral care rarely developed periodontal disease.
Even if you have only minutes each day, you have many options to help you establish an oral-care routine with your pet. This limited investment of your time and money is much less expensive than the cost of treating dental problems that result from neglect. And, assisting in your pet’s dental care is a great way for you to spend one-on-one time with your dog.
Today’s prevention options
We recommend a two-prong approach to your pet’s dental care. First, we suggest you brush your pet’s teeth daily to decrease plaque-forming bacteria. Second, we recommend that you offer your pet a dental treat or toy on a regular basis. Dental treats and toys help scrape off existing plaque, massage gums, and satisfies his urge to chew. In addition, there are plenty of ways to help freshen your pet’s breath, whether he has an occasional bout with bad breath, or his problem is chronic.
Veterinarians recommend pets receive daily tooth-brushing as a necessary, proactive approach to their dental care. Most dogs will grow to enjoy the extra attention, but the key to a successful dental care program is to start slowly and learn the correct way to perform good oral care.
Special tools offer many choices to make the job easier and more convenient for you. Special dog toothbrushes, such as the Petrodex Dual-Ended Toothbrush, ensure you have access to even the hard-to-reach back teeth. Dog-formulated toothpastes aid in removal of plaque and bacteria, while freshening breath. Oral solutions, such as Dental Cleanser Solution, are easy to apply with a soft sponge, and they require no rinsing. When you’re short on time, a simple once-over with a ready-to-use, convenient Dental Clens Pad reduces plaque buildup and freshens breath. For stubborn plaque above the gumline, you can even use a veterinary-quality tooth scaler to scrape off plaque and bacteria-harboring calculus. However, we still recommend professional cleanings by a veterinarian, who can better do the job of cleaning below the gumline.
Chewing comes naturally for dogs, which gives you a unique opportunity to provide that second step in your pet’s dental care. Dental toys and treats can effortlessly assist in his dental care, and your dog does all the work. Plus, he thinks he’s getting a treat every time you give him one, making them a delicious way to scrape away plaque and tartar, and freshen breath, all while satisfying his chewing needs. Dental toys are reusable, and depending upon on their fabrication, provide various benefits. Harder, textured toys, such as the Pro Action Dental Chew, helps fight plaque buildup and massages your dog’s gums. It is made to withstand virtually any impact without cracking and splintering, so every time your dog chews it, he receives the same dental benefits. Flossy Chews Rope Dog Boness are intended to help clean in-between your dog’s teeth, much like floss. A delicious treat biscuit satisfies your pet’s treat cravings while helping scrape plaque and help with bad breath.
Giving your dog a treat after a brushing session will make your pet look forward to your next session.
Sometimes, you simply need a quick solution for the common problem of “doggy breath.” In addition to your pet’s daily brushings, you may find it necessary to use a breath-freshener, as well. Any of our chlorhexidine solutions will help eliminate odor-causing bacteria, the culprit in most cases of bad breath. There are minty water additives available, as well as several treats and bones available that are infused with mint to make them excellent short-term breath fresheners.
Article by Dr. Fosters & Smith
Removing a tick from your cat or dog is easy if you just follow these simple steps.
To remove an attached tick, use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers, or a Tick Twister as described below. These special devices allow one to remove the tick without squeezing the tick body. This is important as you do not want to crush the tick and force harmful bacteria to leave the tick and enter your pet’s bloodstream.
1. Grab the tick by the head or mouth parts right where they enter the skin. Do not grasp the tick by the body.
2. Without jerking, pull firmly and steadily directly outward. Do not twist the tick as you are pulling.
3. Using methods such as applying petroleum jelly, a hot match, or alcohol will NOT cause the tick to ‘back out.’ In fact, these irritants may cause the tick to deposit more disease-carrying saliva in the wound.
4. After removing the tick, place it in a jar of alcohol to kill it. Ticks are NOT killed by flushing them down the toilet.
5. Clean the bite wound with a disinfectant. If you want to, apply a small amount of a triple antibiotic ointment.
6. Wash your hands thoroughly.
Do not use your fingers to remove or dispose of the tick. We do not want you in contact with a potentially disease-carrying tick. Do NOT squash the tick with your fingers. The contents of the tick can transmit disease.
Still don’t feel comfortable removing the tick? Products like Tick Twister are an easy and effective way to remove ticks without touching them.
Article by Dr. Foster Smith.
The Top 10 Things to Avoid Feeding to Your Pet
* Chocolate (all forms of chocolate)
* Coffee (all forms of coffee)
* Fatty foods
* Moldy or spoiled foods
* Onions, onion powder
* Raisins and grapes
Common Household Hazards
* Blue-green algae in ponds
* Citronella candles
* Cocoa mulch
* Compost piles
There are a large number number of toxic plants. The most common signs of a plant poison are vomiting and diarrhea ( gastrointestinal signs). These can affect other organs, resulting in liver or kidney damage, depending on the plant. The following is a good list to start with.
* Amaryllis spp.
* Celastrus spp. “Bittersweet”
* Chrysanthemum spp.
* Colchicum autumnale “Autumn Crocus”
* Euonymus japonicus “Japanese Euonymus”
* Euphorbia milii “Crown of Thorns”
* E. pulcherrima “Poinsettia”
* Helleborus niger “Christmas Rose”
* Ilex spp. “Holly”
* Phoradendron spp. “American Mistletoe”
* Solanum pseudocapsicum “Jerusalem Cherry”
Common House Plants
* Alocasia spp. “Caladiums”
* Azalea spp. “Weeping Fig” “Creeping Fig” “Mistletoe Fig” “Rubber Plant”
* Dieffenbachia spp. “Dumb Cane”
* Hydrangea spp.
* Hedera helix spp. (many indoor ivies)
* Ligustrum spp. “Japonicum’texanum’”
* Narcissus spp. “Paperwhites” and other winter forced bulbs
* Nicotiana spp. “Ornamental Tobacco”
* Philodendron spp.
* Rhododendron Ficus spp. “Weeping Fig” “Creeping Fig” “Mistletoe Fig” “Rubber Plant”
Cold Weather Hazards
Antifreeze: If you think your pet has consumed antifreeze, contact your veterinarian right away.
Liquid potpourris: Exposure to some types of liquid potpourris can result in severe oral, dermal and ocular damage.
Ice melting products can be irritating to skin and mouth.
I am of the firm belief that it is better to prevent than have to treat. But the only way to know how to prevent toxic emergencies is by being aware and educated about exactly what they are.
Article by Dr. Andrew Jones, DVM, a veterinarian and author of Veterinary Secrets Revealed.
I found this great article here by Jean Hofve, DVM… and thought I would share! (Thanks Dr. Jean, great article!)
Cats are true carnivores, requiring a meat-based diet for optimal health. Their natural diet is prey such as rodents, lizards, insects, and birds. These prey consist primarily of water, protein and fat, with less than 10% carbohydrate (starch, sugar and fiber) content. Cats are exquisitely adapted to utilize fat and protein for energy. They are not at all like dogs and people, who are adapted to use carbohydrates for energy.
When feeding our companion cats, the most logical strategy is to feed the diet that most closely mimics the natural prey diet. A homemade diet is an excellent way to accomplish this. Feeding more (or only) canned food is another way–one that is often easier for people to deal with. Canned foods are higher in fat and protein, and lower in carbohydrates, than dry foods. Their high water content increases the cat’s overall fluid intake, which keeps the kidneys and bladder healthy. The higher fat contributes to skin and coat health. Because the ingredients are more easily digested and utilized by the cat’s body, canned foods produce less solid waste in the litterbox.
Another feature of the cat’s natural diet is variety. A hunting cat doesn’t one day decide to eat only purple finches! He will eat any small prey he can catch: chickadees, mice, grasshoppers, robins, or rabbits. Likewise, we should feed our cats a variety of foods. Variety keeps cats from becoming finicky and food-addicted, lessens the chance of dietary excess or deficiency of any single nutrient, and may prevent the development of food intolerances, allergies, and inflammatory bowel disease. Feeding the same dry food year after year greatly increases the risk of these problems. With canned food, it is easy to vary the flavors and protein sources.
Dry food typically contains 35-50% carbohydrates, mostly as starch. (The new “grain-free” foods may be as little as 20% carbohydrate). This is necessary because the equipment that makes dry food requires a high-starch, low-fat dough for proper processing. Cereal grains provide an inexpensive and plentiful source of calories, which allows manufacturers to produce foods containing adequate calories at an affordable price. A few dry foods provide less carbohydrates, in some cases substituting starchy vegetables and soy for cereal grains; but they are still heavily processed and just as dehydrating (if not more so) than regular dry food.
Adult cats need 2-3 times more protein than dogs. Yet dry cat foods generally supply only about 1/3 more protein than dry dog foods—about 30-35% in dry cat food compared to 20-26% for the average dry dog food. “Kidney” diets for cats in renal failure are even more restrictive with 26-28% protein (such diets should never be fed to normal cats; they will cause muscle wasting as the cat breaks down its own body for protein). Canned cat foods contain 45-50% protein, and canned kitten foods may contain up to 55% protein. (All percentages calculated on a dry matter basis.)
Cats are attracted to food that has a strong meat or fat flavor. Pet food manufacturers go to great lengths to make their starch-based dry foods palatable to cats. They may coat the kibbles with fat or with “animal digest,” a powder made of chemically or enzymatically digested animal by-products. The result may be a cat who overeats, not because he’s hungry, but because he loves the taste of the food and doesn’t want to stop. (I think we’ve all been there!)
Dry food is very dehydrating. Our feline friends descend from desert-dwelling wild cats who are well adapted to limited water resources. Their ultra-efficient kidneys are able to extract most of their moisture needs from their prey. However, the end result is that cats have a very low thirst drive, and will not drink water until they are 3-5% dehydrated (a level at which, clinically, a veterinarian would administer fluid therapy). Cats eating only dry food take in only half the moisture of a cat eating only canned food. This chronic dehydration may be a factor in kidney disease, and is known to be a major contributor to bladder disease (crystals, stones, FUS, FLUTD, cystitis). Caution: adding water or milk to dry food does not solve the problem; and the fact that there are always bacteria on the surface of dry food means that adding moisture can result in massive bacterial growth–and a very upset tummy.
The high heat used in processing dry food damages (denatures) the proteins in the food. The resulting unnatural proteins may trigger an immune response that can lead to food allergies and inflammatory bowel disease.
There is increasing evidence that carbohydrates (starches and sugars) in dry food are simply not metabolized well by many, if not most cats. While obesity is caused by many factors, the free-choice feeding of dry food to a relatively inactive cat is a major player. Obese cats are prone to joint problems, liver and kidney disease, and diabetes.
Recent research has shown that high-carbohydrate diets are to blame in most cases of feline diabetes. Many overweight cats are carbohydrate-intolerant, and should be fed low-carbohydrate diets (think “Catkins” diet!). This means canned food. Experts are now recommending canned kitten food as the primary treatment for diabetes. Many diabetic cats can decrease or even eliminate their need for insulin, simply by changing to a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. Ultimately, canned food may be even more beneficial as a preventative for this devastating disease.
Overweight cats may greatly benefit from a switch to an all-canned diet. Stick to foods containing 10% or less carbohydrate. Many all life stages and kitten foods fit this requirement. Carbs are usually not listed on the label. However, all you have to do is subtract the other ingredients from 100% to get an estimate of the carb content. Most cats lose weight more efficiently on a canned food than dry food diet. Even though they’re often eating more calories, these diets are much better suited to the unique feline metabolism.
If your cat is not used to eating canned food, add it to the diet slowly in small amounts. It is so different in composition from dry food that it may cause tummy upset at first.
If a cat won’t eat canned food, it’s usually because of a dry food addiction, or because he isn’t hungry enough to try something new. Start by putting the cat on a meal-feeding schedule, leaving dry food out only an hour each, morning and night. Once he’s accustomed to the schedule, put a little canned food down first. Most cats will be willing to try it at that point. (See “Switching Foods” for more information on why and how to make the change.)
Quality is just as important with canned cat food as any other type of food. See this article to learn how to read a label and assess a food’s quality for yourself. If possible, buy the food in a larger can, and store leftovers in a glass jar in the refrigerator. Pop-top cans, by-products, and fish flavors of canned cat food have been linked to the development of thyroid disease in cats.
Dry food is a great convenience and may be necessary in some cases when the guardian is gone long hours or cannot feed on a regular schedule. But at least 50% of the diet (preferably 100% if you want to ensure optimum health!) should be a high-protein, high-moisture, low-carb diet such as canned or homemade food. Your cat will be healthier, and while you’ll spend a little more on food up front, ultimately you’ll save hundreds, if not thousands, on veterinary bills!