Archive for the ‘Feeding Advice’ Category

Fruits That Are Safe for Dogs to Eat

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.Dog with apple

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

How to Keep Your Pet Safe on Halloween

Halloween
Every Halloween, the streets are lined with frightening strangers – decaying mummies, wicked clowns and hungry zombies – arriving at your door every few minutes demanding a gift of food for their bags. This is what Halloween is like for your pet, and it can be terrifying! Add on to that a few holiday safety hazards and the stage has been set nicely for disaster. Keep your pet safe this October 31st with these tips:

Trick or Treat
Treats
Halloween candy is the bane of dentists everywhere, but also a regular presence on Halloween night in emergency veterinary clinics. Something that tastes so wonderful to us can be incredibly dangerous for our four-legged roommates.
Halloween puppy

    Chocolate – Halloween provides easy access to this deadly treat, especially when you have a fully-stocked bowl of those amazing chocolate-and-peanut-butter pumpkins. Chocolate is dangerous to both dogs and cats, and can be lethal, and the symptoms include diarrhea, quick breathing, high heart rate, vomiting and even seizures.
    All Other Candy – A good rule of thumb when it comes to all candy for your pet is this: don’t do it. Even non-chocolate candy is dangerous, as it may contain, xylitol, an artificial sweetener that can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar and seizures.

Tricks
All Hallow’s Eve is also called the “Mischief Night,” and while many practice harmless pranking, sadly many beloved pets fall victim to those with less honorable intentions. Many animal shelters will not allow any black cat adoptions during the month of October, to deter any would-be cruelty inflictors. No matter how deplorable, it can be avoidable, so keep your pets inside on the days surrounding Halloween.

Monsters
People in Costumes
If you live in a kid-friendly neighborhood, you better stock up and leave the porch light on, because they are coming for you. While it’s fun for us to ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ over the creative costumes America’s youth is donning this year, it’s 100% terrifying for your pets. “Who are these strangers at the door? Why do they keep knocking on the door? Why do you open the door, and then why do they yell? I’m pretty sure I just saw a zombie.” While we can’t really explain this October holiday with our pets, we can take certain steps to make sure they’re as comfortable with the situation as they can be.

    Pick a room far away from the front door and designate it the pet room for the evening. Turn on low music or a television in the room so sudden knocking or doorbell-ringing isn’t quite so jarring. Buy yourself some time with a few jerky treats and chew toys.
    If pets can’t be confined to one part of the house, at least make sure they have no access to the front door. With so many constant openings and closings of the door, all to reveal strangers in costume, it’s easy for Fluffy to slip out into the night for tricks of her own.

Your Pets in Costumes
Be sensitive to your buddy. While many pet costumes are hilarious and adorable, it’s important to make sure that your dog or cat is okay with wearing whatever you have chosen. I’m not saying that he’s going to choose whether he wants to be Lady Gaga or a hotdog, but he can let you know quickly if the costume doesn’t fit. You wouldn’t want to wear an uncomfortable costume all night, so don’t put your pet in something tight, restrictive, irritating, itchy or painful.
The one costume your pet should not go without this Halloween is an identifying tag, engraved with your phone number. Many pets go missing on Halloween, so make it easier for rescuers to reach you when they find your dog.

Pumpkins
Pumpkin is a delicious fruit can be a nice addition to your pet’s diet. However, Halloween presents its own set of dangers when it comes to the cheerful orange decoration.

    Too Much of a Good Thing – Pumpkin in small quantities can act as a natural regularity booster, but too much can quickly up that power to laxative and even intestinal blockage. Make sure any decorative pumpkins are not within easy access to dogs and cats, who may just decide they’re going to eat the whole pumpkin before you even realize it’s happening. Similarly, another fall decoration, corn, can also cause gastrointestinal problems, so keep it out of reach as well.
    Jack-O-Lantern – You certainly want the neighborhood to enjoy all the hard work you put into your jack-o-lantern, but don’t forget that the unusual glow from the candle can attract more than trick-or-treaters. Keep pets away from any items that have a flame, including pumpkins and decorative candles.

Halloween can be scary for your pet, or it can be like any other day with careful planning and consideration for your pet. Remember your first concern is your pet’s health and safety, and if that can be accomplished while dressing your dog as the Toto to your Dorothy, your Halloween will be one to remember.

Blog from Wellness Pet Food.

Does your pet need digestive support? A look at PROBIOTICS, PREBIOTICS, AND PUMPKIN

You cannot turn on the television without seeing a commercial for probiotic enhanced yogurt touting relief from bloating, or fiber supplements promoting regularity. Dogs and cats alike can suffer from gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation; these symptoms can be avoided with the addition of supportive products designed to aid digestion.

high-fiber-dog-food

What are Probiotics? Meaning “for-life”, probiotics are good bacteria which maintain the population of helpful intestinal flora. Since probiotics are already found in your pet’s digestive tract, additional supplementation acts as further support for existing flora, which boost the immune system, ferment otherwise indigestible material, make vitamins K and B, and prevent overpopulation of harmful bacteria. Adequate levels of these beneficial bacteria promote healthy stool formation and reduce or eliminate gas and bloating. And, for your feline companion, probiotics reduce the occurrence of vomiting and hairballs.

What are Prebiotics? Prebiotics are non-digestible sugars that act as food for probiotics. Fermented dairy products such as yogurt contain both the sugars that the probiotics need to thrive and the probiotics themselves, providing a double dose of digestive support. Honey, garlic, and artichokes contain naturally occurring prebiotics as well.

What about fiber? Fiber is non-digestible but edible plant matter. After digestion, fiber is what remains of plant cells. There are soluble and insoluble types of fiber, which is why fiber is useful in preventing and treating both constipation and diarrhea. Because insoluble fiber absorbs water, if there is not enough water inside of the colon (constipation) it absorbs moisture from outside of the colon. If there is too much water inside of the colon (diarrhea) it absorbs it, removing it from the stool. Probiotics ferment dietary fiber into short chain fatty acids which help repair the colon walls, which prevents colon cancer.

So, how do you incorporate these into your pet’s diet? Probiotics and prebiotics are usually a package deal. Fermented raw goats milk, Doggy frozen yogurt and supplemental powders are excellent additional sources of these super digestive aids. Many premium foods add probiotics and prebiotics after cooking to ensure optimum efficacy. Fiber is easy to supplement as well. Canned or dehydrated pumpkin or sweet potatoes make palatable options that can be mixed into your pet’s regular meal daily, or as a treat. While none of these products are essential to your pet’s diet they are invaluable in maintaining optimum digestive 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

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

Fouth of July Safety Tips

For many people, nothing beats lounging in the backyard on the Fourth of July with good friends and family—including the four-legged members of the household. While it may seem like a great idea to reward Rover with scraps from the grill and bring him along to watch fireworks, in reality some festive foods and products can be potentially hazardous to your pets. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center offers the following tips:

Never leave alcoholic drinks unattended where pets can reach them. Alcoholic beverages have the potential to poison pets. If ingested, the animal could become very intoxicated and weak, severely depressed or could go into a coma. Death from respiratory failure is also a possibility in severe cases.

Do not apply any sunscreen or insect repellent product to your pet that is not labeled specifically for use on animals. Ingestion of sunscreen products can result in drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and lethargy. The misuse of insect repellent that contains DEET can lead to neurological problems.

Always keep matches and lighter fluid out of your pets’ reach. Certain types of matches contain chlorates, which could potentially damage blood cells and result in difficulty breathing—or even kidney disease in severe cases. Lighter fluid can be irritating to skin, and if ingested can produce gastrointestinal irritation and central nervous system depression. If lighter fluid is inhaled, aspiration pneumonia and breathing problems could develop.

Keep your pets on their normal diet. Any change, even for one meal, can give your pets severe indigestion and diarrhea. This is particularly true for older animals who have more delicate digestive systems and nutritional requirements. And keep in mind that foods such as onions, chocolate, coffee, avocado, grapes & raisins, salt and yeast dough can all be potentially toxic to companion animals.

Do not put glow jewelry on your pets, or allow them to play with it. While the luminescent substance contained in these products is not highly toxic, excessive drooling and gastrointestinal irritation could still result from ingestions, and intestinal blockage could occur from swallowing large pieces of the plastic containers.

Keep citronella candles, insect coils and oil products out of reach. Ingestions can produce stomach irritation and possibly even central nervous system depression. If inhaled, the oils could cause aspiration pneumonia in pets.

Never use fireworks around pets! While exposure to lit fireworks can potentially result in severe burns and/or trauma to the face and paws of curious pets, even unused fireworks can pose a danger. Many types contain potentially toxic substances, including potassium nitrate, arsenic and other heavy metals.

Loud, crowded fireworks displays are no fun for pets, so please resist the urge to take them to Independence Day festivities. Instead, keep your little guys safe from the noise in a quiet, sheltered and escape-proof area at home.

Article courtesy of aspca.org

Have a safe and happy 4th of July!

Food Allergies & Food Intolerance

dogFood allergies account for about 10% of all the allergies seen in dogs. It is the third most common cause after flea bite allergies and atopy (inhalant allergies) Food allergies generally account for 20% of the causes of itching and scratching in dogs. Food allergies plus atopy account for another 20%.

The entire process of a pet being sensitized to a particular agent in food and the complicated antibody response that occurs in the intestinal tract in pets with food allergies are not very well understood. Despite our lack of understanding of the actual disease process, there are many things that we do know including the symptoms, how to diagnose food allergies, and also how to treat them.

Food allergies affect both dogs and cats. Unlike atopy, there is no strong link between specific breeds and food allergies. Food allergies affect both males and females and neutered and intact animals equally. They can show up as early as five months and as late as 12 years of age, though the vast majority of cases occur between 2 and 6 years. Many animals with food allergies also have concurrent inhalant or contact allergies.

Food allergy or intolerance?
There is a distinction that needs to be made between food allergies and food intolerances. Food allergies are true allergies and show the characteristic symptoms of itching and skin problems associated with canine and feline allergies. Food intolerances can result in diarrhea or vomiting and do not create a typical allergic response. Food intolerances in pets would be similar to people who get diarrhea or an upset stomach from eating spicy or fried foods. Fortunately, both food intolerances and allergies can be eliminated with a diet free from offending agents.

Common food culprits
Several studies have shown that some ingredients are more likely to cause food allergies than others. In order of the most common offenders in dogs are beef, dairy products, chicken, lamb, fish, chicken eggs, corn, wheat, and soy. As you may have noticed, the most common offenders are the most common ingredients in dog foods. This correlation is not a coincidence. While some proteins might be slightly more antigenic than others, many proteins are similar in form and the incidence of allergic reactions are probably associated with the amount of exposure.

The symptoms of food allergies are similar to those of most allergies seen in dogs and cats. The primary symptom is itchy skin affecting primarily the face, feet, ears, forelegs, armpits and the area around the anus. Symptoms may also include chronic or recurrent ear infections, hair loss, excessive scratching, hot spots, and skin infections that respond to antibiotics but reoccur after antibiotics are discontinued. There is evidence that dogs with food allergies may sometimes have an increased incidence of bowel movements. One study showed that non-allergic dogs have around 1.5 bowel movements per day where some dogs with food allergies may have 3 or more per day.

It is difficult to distinguish an animal suffering from food allergies from an animal suffering from atopy or other allergies based on physical signs. However, there are a few signs that increase the suspicion that food allergies may be present. One of these, is a dog with recurrent ear problems, particularly yeast infections. Another, is a very young dog with moderate or severe skin problems. A third tip off, is if a dog suffers from allergies year-round or if the symptoms begin in the winter. And the final clue, is a dog that has very itchy skin but does not respond to steroid treatment.

Diagnosis
The diagnosis for food allergies is very straightforward. But due to the fact that many other problems can cause similar symptoms and that many times animals are suffering from more problems than just food allergies, it is very important that all other problems are properly identified and treated prior to undergoing diagnosis for food allergies. Atopy, flea bite allergies, intestinal parasite hypersensitivities, sarcoptic mange, and yeast or bacterial infections can all cause similar symptoms as food allergies. Once all other causes have been ruled out or treated, then it is time to perform a food trial.

Food trials and elimination diets: A food trial consists of feeding an animal a novel food source of protein and carbohydrate for at least 12 weeks. A novel food source would be a protein and carbohydrate that the animal had never eaten before. Examples would include be rabbit and rice, or venison and potato. There are a number of such commercial diets available on the market. In addition, there are specialized diets that have the proteins and carbohydrates broken down into such small molecular sizes that they no longer would trigger an allergic response. These are termed ‘limited antigen’ or ‘hydrolyzed protein’ diets. Homemade diets are often used, as the ingredients can be carefully restricted. Regardless of the diet used, it must be the only thing the animal eats for 12 weeks. This means no treats, no flavored medications, no rawhide or pig’s ears; absolutely nothing but the special food and water. In addition, the dog should not be allowed to roam, which may result in him having access to food or garbage.

Food Trial Tips
Only the recommended diet must be fed.

Do NOT give:

* Treats
* Rawhides
* Pigs Ears
* Cow hooves
* Flavored medications (including heartworm preventives) or supplements
* Flavored toothpastes
* Flavored plastic toys
* Any type of food when giving medications

If you want to give a treat, use the recommended diet. (Hint: canned diets can be frozen in chunks or baked, and these can be used as treats.)

If possible, feed the other the same diet as the patient. If not, feed other pets in an entirely different location than the patient, and do not allow the patient access to that food.

Do not allow the dog access to the cat’s litter box.

Keep your pet out of the room at meal times. Even a few small amounts of food dropped on the floor or licked off of a plate can void an elimination trial and require you to start over. Wash the hands and faces of any children after they have eaten.

Do not allow your pet to roam. Keep dogs on leashes when outside.

Keep a journal in which you can record the date and any foods, treats, etc. your pet may have accidentally eaten.

A food trial consists of feeding a dog a novel food source of protein and carbohydrate for 12 weeks.

Veterinarians used to recommend that a pet only needed to be placed on a special diet for 3 weeks but new studies show that in dogs, only 26% of those with food allergies responded by day 21. However, the vast majority of pets responded by 12 weeks. Therefore, it is very important to keep the pet on the diet for the entire 12 weeks. If the dog shows a marked reduction or elimination of the symptoms, then the animal is placed back on the original food. This is called ‘provocative testing’ and is essential to confirm the diagnosis. If the symptoms return after going back on the original diet, the diagnosis of a food allergy is confirmed. If there has been no change in symptoms but a food allergy is still strongly suspected, then another food trial using a different novel food source could be tried.
The only way to accurately diagnose food allergies is with a food trial.

Blood Testing: There is no evidence that blood tests are accurate for the diagnosis of food allergies. Veterinary dermatologists insist that there is no merit in these tests whatsoever in the diagnosis of food allergies. The only way to accurately diagnose food allergies is with a food trial as detailed above. While the intradermal skin testing is excellent for diagnosing atopy (inhalant allergies) it is ineffective for food allergies. While specialized blood tests can be used to help in the diagnosis of atopy, they have no benefit in diagnosing food allergies. In our review of all the current books and articles on veterinary dermatology and allergies, we could not find a single dermatologist that endorsed anything other than the food trial as an effective diagnostic aid. If you want to diagnose and treat food allergies you must do a food trial.

Treatment
The treatment for food allergies is avoidance.Once the offending ingredients have been identified through a food trial, then they are eliminated from the diet. Short-term relief may be gained with fatty acids, antihistamines, and steroids, but elimination of the products from the diet is the only long-term solution.The owner of the animal has two choices. They can choose to feed the animal a special commercially prepared diet or a homemade diet.

If the owner chooses to feed the homemade diet, then they can periodically challenge the pet with new ingredients and determine which ingredients are causing the food allergy. For example, if the animal’s symptoms subsided on a diet of rabbit and potatoes, then the owner could add beef to the diet for two weeks. If the animal showed no symptoms, then they could then add chicken for two weeks. If the animal began to show symptoms, then it could be assumed that chicken was one of the things the pet was allergic to. The chicken could be withdrawn and after the symptoms cleared up, a different ingredient could be added and so on until all of the offending ingredients were identified. A diet could then be formulated that was free of the offending food sources.

If homemade diets are used, it is essential that they be balanced, with correct amount of ingredients, vitamins, and minerals. Homemade diets for such long term use should be developed by a veterinary nutritionist.

Be aware that some pets with food allergies may develop allergies to new foods if they are fed those foods long enough. If you see signs of food allergies returning, consult your veterinarian.

Article by Dr. Foster & Smith.

Why Cats Need Wet Food

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!

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