Welcome new year! We once again stand at the beginning of a new year – holding new 12 months and every day – a brand new 12 hours. What should we expect? That is hard to say – but may each one of us be filled with the enthusiasm to make the best of each new day – not on our own accord, but by the grace of a higher hand – may each one of you and your pets have a HAPPY AND BLESSED 2016!
Giving your pet the right nutritional diet: cats and dogs can develop a taste for many of the delicacies humans indulge in. Among these, chocolate certainly seems to be a winner. However, next time you think of sharing your dietary sins with your pet, you should know that this so-called treat could do your pet a lot of harm. In both dogs and cats, certain foods are known to cause health problems and should be avoided – these food include onions, chocolate, milk, table scraps and other human foods.
- Chocolate: The cocoa seed – theobromacocoa – which is the source of cocoa for chocolate, contains theobromine and caffeine. Theobromine is sometimes used in humans as a diuretic (pulls off water), heart stimulant and to dilate large arteries – by modern medical standards its safety margin is very, very narrow. In chocolate the theobromine quantity will give you a “lift”. During the second world war, theobromine from wasted cocoa meal was mixed into feeds for pigs and poultry – several poisonings were encountered. How much chocolate is fatal to dogs? Two dachshunds died after eating 600g of chocolate between them. Theobromine can very quickly build up in the blood, but it is very slowly released again – so small amounts can quickly build up to large amounts. Therefore death by chocolate poisoning may be delayed until certain fatal levels in the blood are reached. When poisoning occurs due to the heart stimulant, few symptoms will be present – death will be sudden. One chocolate for a 15kg dog is the equivalent to five chocolates for an adult person. The darker the chocolate the more dangerous it is.
- Milk: Some animals are intolerant to milk sugar – i.e. lactose, which means that they don’t have the enzyme, lactase, to digest lactose. The undigested milk sugar – lactose – draws water from the body into the digestive tract resulting in diarrhoea and vomiting. It is truly a myth that cats need milk – but if your conscious bothers you – rather treat it with the specially formulated cat milk available in shops.
- Onions & Garlic: Cause mineral deficiencies and that build-up of gas in the digestive tract!
- Coffee and fizzy drinks: contains many similar stimulants as in chocolate and the sugar is bad for teeth.
- Biltong: is too high in salt and may over-exert the animals kidneys.
- Raisins/Grapes: can cause kidney failure.
- Xylitol: in artificial sweeteners and sugarless candy and gum – can cause a life-threatening drop in blood sugar and even liver failure.
- Macadamia Nuts: reason not established – however can cause vomiting and dizziness.
- Avocado: especially toxic to birds.
- Mould: especially in hot humid months can cause liver and kidney failure. This is a concern in cheaper dog foods where the additive to prevent it has been omitted to save costs.
If the urge is just too much and you want to treat your pet – firstly stick to the available doggy and cat treats – now and then some cheese, yogurt or black Rooibos tea is not a problem. Also dog food is harmful to cats and cat food would be too rich in protein and fats for dogs. An exclusive diet of any one substance (e.g. only chicken livers) will also create health problems because it will not provide the balance of nutrients needed. Proper nutrition is an important part of avoiding many diseases and modern pet food has been scientifically formulated to provide all the nutrients your pet would need.
Just supplementing an imbalanced diet, may do more wrong than right, as some nutrients may play a negative role when supplemented incorrectly e.g.
- Magnesium: too much is known to contribute to urinary disease in cats – affecting the kidneys, bladder and urethra by forming bladder crystals or stones.
- Phosphorus: too much can cause bone problems and may contribute to kidney disease in both dogs and cats.
- Calcium: in excess can cause skin problems and retard growth.
- Salt: in excess can contribute to heart disease, kidney disease and hypertension.
- Protein: too much stimulates the kidneys to work “overtime” to get rid of extra waste products – and this may lead to kidney failure.
- Fat: too much in an inactive or obese – prone dog may cause obesity.
- Sugar: apart from dental decay, may eventually lead to diabetes.
It is important that pet owner’s learn to read the ingredient labels of pet foods-as a lot of “affordable’ foods are bulked with dangerous substances such as chicken faeces to increase the protein-content, and will often just contain animal derivatives and not pure protein sources.
Buy the best Pet food you can afford!
Commercial pet foods in S.A. are not regulated and most will, at the most not be more than 50% digestible!
The cheaper the food, the more your pet will need to eat, the less will be absorbed and more will come through in the stooles.
Most Veterinary endorsed pet foods will have at least 80% or more digestibility-so you will need to feed less and end up paying less than you expected-ask your vet for advice!
Vet endorsed foods are so specialised, that a lot of medical problems, such as bladder/kidney stones, hair balls and even organ-failure (Liver/Kidney) can be managed, just by feeding the right diet.
If you think your pet needs to lose weight, enquire about your local Vet’s “Weight-loss Clinics”!
Pet owners should realise, that they are faced with the responsibility of their pets health – a factor which, if neglected, may have a negative impact on their own lives (lots of expenses and heart sore).