Some 23 year’s ago, when qualifying as a Veterinarian, the first Veterinary diets were introduced to South-Africa, the brand was Eukenuba. Since then, many more Veterinary diets have come onto the Market, including Hills and Royal Canin and many more.

I must say, as Veterinarian, I have really experienced hands-on the benefits of feeding my pet’s Veterinary diets, as well as those of family and friends: my Father’s Rottweiler recently passed away at 16 year’s of age – astounding – but understandable since being only on prescription food since puppyhood (average Rottweiler age is 12), we see cat’s going into their twenties and suffering less from diet-related problems such as bladder stones!

Whatever Food you choose to offer your pet, putting some thought into your decision NOW, can produce big rewards over his or her lifetime and very probably help avoid costly illnesses caused by poor nutrition and feeding practices!

If you plan a balanced meal for yourself, it would consist of a plate made up of proteins, carbohydrates and vegetables all in the right balance – a nice piece of chicken, some roast potatoes, peas and pumpkin – mmmmm sounds mouth-watering! Now, let’s make up a plate for your pet made up of the ingredients in the bag of petfood: envision a plate filled 3/4 with low grade maize and some small portion of protein-derivative e.g. off-fall/ intestines/ beaks and feather’s………Not so appetising anymore?!

Never feed your pet something you would not eat yourself.

First and foremost learn to read labels of ingredient’s in your pet’s food:

  1. The first ingredient on the label is the ingredient which features the most in that specific food – in South Africa this will most likely be the most available, affordable carbohydrate source i.e. maize meal – not necessarily the most digestible carbohydrate, but very good at bulking things up!
  2. Check which protein is listed down the line: does it mention the source as a pure form (Chicken) or as a “derivative”? Derivative is NOT actually the proper meat, but any by-product of the protein e.g. finely grated feather’s or bones or intestines or even manure! (which regrettably feature in a lot of the cheap brands). Regrettably melamine, which is totally undigestible and even dangerous is often added to increase the protein amounts.

In the past there have been instances, where the Melamine has caused intoxications and kidney failure, hailing from a contaminated Chinese source – even in human baby milk formula!

To make some brands even more affordable some essential preservatives are left out e.g to prevent food becoming mouldy – this too can be life-threatening to your pet.

Ask yourself – if your pet food is costing R20/kg – what on earth could go into that food at that price? Is it realistic that novel proteins e.g. Ostrich which will be the most expensive cut in the meat section of the Grocer, could  be readily available in affordable dog food??

Buy the best food you can afford for your pet:

Commercially, there are few diets available that digest more than 50% – meaning that if you feed your pet 2 cups of food, at least 1 cup will be discarded as faeces – compared to Veterinary foods which digest at 80% to 90% – now your pet is only discarding 1/4 cup or less – this means your bag will last longer too and might not work out so expensive after all!

You will be surprised, that there are various affordable Veterinary diets available – the best is to go to your vet and have a chat about your requirements and your budget.

You should not find a commercial pet food sold by a Veterinarian – if so – is this for financial gain?

Veterinarians should be advising on diets which are good for your pet and not good on their pockets! Consumers don’t realise, that the mark-up on veterinary diets is much less than they can imagine and the diets are sold mainly for the benefit of your animal’s health – and so it should be!

Always buy a food compatible with your pet’s species and life-stage. Cats should never be fed dog food and preferably vice-versa too. Cat’s are carnivorous and are reliant almost solely on a good protein source, whereas Dog’s diets are more omnivorous – comparable to a humans with less protein and some carbohydrate.

Have you noticed how many cat food brands list a carbohydrate source as the main ingredient?

You may argue, that your cat loves the taste – but this is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” – made palatable by adding fish oils etc.!

A high quality protein source is essential to keep your kitty’s organs healthy.

There are certain supplements which are essential to cat’s in their diet e.g. amino acids like Thianine – this will never be in dog food! If the mineral balance isn’t just right, your cat might be prone to bladder stones – and so it goes on and on……….

Puppies and Kittens utilise more energy than adult pet’s, which in turn utilise more than mature pets.

Some dog breeds are fully grown at 9 months and some like Giant breeds only stop growing at 24 months – for these there should be a fine balance between growing too quickly or too slowly.

We, as consumer’s are very fortunate, that all this research and homework has already been done by the reputable companies, who supply us with diets specifically for your pet’s life-stage.

We are even fortunate enough to have veterinary brands, which have specifically been manufactured with additives and supplements to support certain diseases, such as arthritis, kidney and liver failure and even epilepsy and dementia.

The “take-home” message is: Read the label and if in doubt speak to your veterinarian!

Posted in Newsletters.