Should you share your bed with your doggy?

Dog bed

We’re a nation of animal lovers. Around 53% of pet owners consider their four-legged friends to be a member of the family so it’s not surprising that so many of us choose to share the duvet with our pets. Even Queen Victoria is reputed to have shared her death bed with her Pomeranian! They’re our best friends, and a little terrier or collie can make a great hot water bottle in the winter nights, so why wouldn’t we want to cuddle up with them at night time?

Whilst it’s tempting to think that the best option for our pets is to cosy up with us our beds are getting higher whilst our doggies, well, they’re still the same height. The frames are taller as they are increasingly being manufactured to include storage drawers, and cosy mattresses are getting larger to accommodate our human needs, but the longer jump off of them can potentially hurt your pet’s paws. What’s best for humans unfortunately isn’t always what is best for man’s best friend.

From a dog training perspective, a lot of trainers advise that owners choose to offer a separate bed for their pet. This is because as the owner, it is important to maintain your position as pack leader, but dogs can perceive sharing a sleeping area to indicate that you are their subordinate. Whilst this may not be problematic if you’ve established yourself as the “alpha” of the family pack, if your dog is feeling anxious or aggressive these behaviours may be exacerbated by your sleeping arrangement and could mean that you’re at risk of a nip or bite.

Thankfully it isn’t all doom and gloom as adjusting to sleeping separately from your pet doesn’t need to be difficult or disruptive for you or your pet. There are a wide variety of affordable cushions and blankets that can be a comfortable alternative for your pet. The key to making the transition is that your pet understands they’re not being punished and that this new arrangement is just as comfortable as the old. Thankfully there is a wealth of advice available at the click of a button to help owners with implementing this change in their sleeping arrangements.

Having a special sleeping area for your doggy means that your sheets and fabrics are less likely to become full of rogue hairs and germs your pet will have brought in from the garden or their walk. That King Size you splashed out on from BedStar won’t be monopolised by Lassie (and her hairs!) so there will be more space for you to stretch out. You can treat yourself to some new bed linen and throw cushions knowing that little Bruno won’t be chewing on them during the night or leaving them full of fur. Sleeping independently from your pet won’t mean that you love them any less; hopefully it will mean a good night’s sleep for both of you, and less wear and tear on your bedding.

What To Do If Your Cat Has Fleas

If you own a pet cat, you have a responsibility to make sure that your feline friend is living a happy and healthy life.

Whilst this includes ensuring that your cat is provided with comfortable and sufficient living conditions, it also applies to making sure that they are free from disease and infection.

So, let’s say you are playing with your cat one day and you notice that there are tiny reddish-brown coloured insects crawling over their fur. In this situation it’s highly likely that he or she has managed to catch fleas.

Hearing the word fleas is enough to drive any cat owner up the wall, although with regular spot checks and an understanding of the symptoms, your cat can be treated as soon as possible. So where do you start?

Symptoms
Before you can treat fleas, you need to establish if this is definitely what your cat has caught. If your pet is displaying any of the following signs, then there is a good chance that they may be suffering from fleas.

  • Your cat is constantly grooming itself
  • Has bald patches over its tail
  • Has small and scabby patches over its body
  • Is scratching itself more often than usual

On closer inspection, you should brush your cat’s fur and observe if there are any tiny moving dark specs scurrying about. Another way to do this is to place the fur that has stuck to the comb on a white surface, such as a piece of paper, as they will be easy to identify. You may also notice that you have a number of small bites on your ankles too from walking barefoot around the house.

If you do come across tiny, dark moving insects then your cat has fleas. If this is the case, don’t panic, it’s a step in the right direction that you have actually managed to discover them at this stage. If fleas are not treated then there is a chance that your cat can catch worms as a result of infected flea larvae.

Taking action against fleas
Now that you have discovered that your cat has fleas, you need to take appropriate action. The fleas won’t cause your cat any major harm and can be treated easily with the correct prescription.

However, there is a risk that your cat can become allergic to the substances found in flea saliva which can result in flea allergy dermatitis. To avoid this, you need to act straight away.

First of all, speak to your vet to see if they recommend a specific treatment for maximum impact that is more suited for cats and not dogs. Regardless of the product that has been prescribed, always make sure you read the instructions to avoid giving your cat too much medication. If at any stage you are unsure of what you should be doing, seek veterinary advice.

When speaking to your vet, always inform them of any cat flea treatments that you have already been using. Furthermore, check that the medication you are using is suitable if you will be using it for kittens or pregnant cats.

If your vet has told you to use a specific product, such as spot-on solutions, spray or shampoo, then these can be purchased from your vet or a pet supplies store.

Tips and advice
As mentioned above, never give your cat flea treatment that is suitable for dogs, as this could result in death. It is also advised that you keep your cat away from other dogs that have just been treated for fleas to avoid possible contact with these products.

Also, avoid exposing your cat to other insect killer sprays to prevent additive effects and to ensure that your pet can make a quicker flea-free recovery.

In rare cases where your cat suffers an allergic reaction, take them to the vet with the packaging for any flea treatment that you have been using.

Recovery and cleaning your home
With effective usage of the correct medication, your cat will make a swift recovery over a short period of time.

To avoid the spread of fleas, it’s not only your cat that needs to be checked, you also need to thoroughly clean your home.

Fleas will avoid the light and instead live in darker conditions, such as in your carpet. Therefore, as your cat is being treated, vacuum the floors, including all of the nooks and crannies where your cat has been and where the fleas could spread to.

Next, wash your cat’s bedding on a high heat to ensure that any fleas and larvae die out and obtain a household spray to use in areas of the home where your cat has been.

By continuing the flea treatment for the recommended time listed on the product, both your cat and your home should become flea-free and your cat can continue to live without itching and suffering any longer.

This guest post was written by GJW Titmuss, a leading online pet supplies, pet food, and pet accessories store.

How to do a Gram Stain… What a difference a wall makes! (Day 215)

Proteus Mirabilis on Blood Agar

Today’s Diary Entry is sponsored by Pet Hooligans

Well today was interesting as we are looking at Gram positive bacteria which are different to the Gram negative bacteria that we have been studying previously. The grouping into gram negative and gram positive bacteria is the most basic step in the identification of bacteria using a technique called Gram Staining (or Gram’s method). The gram stain technique was invented by Hans Christian Gram in the Berlin city hospital in 1984 whilst working in the morgue. Hans originally designed gram staining to make it easier to view bacteria in lung tissue, and noted that it did not stain all the types of bacteria.

Proteus Mirabilis on Blood Agar

This phenomenon is due to differences in the structure of the cell wall when exposed to different chemicals. There are four different chemicals used in the gram stain process; a basic dye, a mordant, decoloriser, and counterstain.

The basic dye is applied first before the mordant which is a substance that increases the bond between the dye and cell wall helping to fix the dye inside the cell. This makes it more difficult to wash off the dye and in the gram stain fixes the gram positive blue colour. A decoloriser is then used which is a substance that removes the dye from the stained cells, this ability varies between the cell wall type and so only gram negative cells lose their dye. The final counterstain is another dye that is applied and fills the cells that have just been cleaned by the decoloriser giving the gram negative red colour.

How to do a Gram Stain

Doing a gram stain is one of the most basic procedures in the microbiology laboratory, and so I wanted to make sure that I had covered it here. The video below demonstrates the steps that are outlined here:

  1. Apply bacteria to a slide, if using a culture plate add a drop of saline solution to the slide to allow the bacteria to be easily spread and then air dry this over a bunsen flame.
  2. Fix the bacteria to the slide by passing the slide back and forth through the bunsen flame.
  3. Apply crystal violet to the slide and let it react for 30 seconds.
  4. Rinse the slide thoroughly under running water
  5. Apply Grams Iodine (or Lugols solution) for 30 seconds
  6. Rinse the slide under running water and then apply 95% ethyl alcohol for 10 seconds
  7. Rinse the slide under running water.
  8. Apply the counterstain; in our case carbolfuchsin for 30 seconds
  9. Rinse the slide under running water and then allow to dry.
  10. Examine the slide under the microscope – I prefer the 100x Oil Immersion lens here!

The video demonstrating how to do a gram stain is here:

[youtube_sc url=”-BiH06Lddg0″ title=”How%20to%20do%20a%20gram%20stain%20video” rel=”0″]

The Chemistry of Life (Day 137)

The chemistry of life

Today’s Diary Entry is sponsored by Find Pet Boarding

So today I’ve been supposed to be revising milk hygiene and anatomy, however I got distracted by the new textbook I recieved at the weekend on medicinal chemistry. Now chemistry is something that I’ve had very little formal education in, and so have had to great pleasure of trying to teach myself. Today I am going to explain why chemistry is crucial to vet students, and to life itself.

The chemistry of life

In Biology we look at the cell, the smallest building block of the living body, yet this also has other structures inside which have other funtions. However this cell is composed of loads of different chemicals with varying structures that are made up of elements being connected in different ways. An element is where the chemical is in its pure form, and cannot be broken down any further without losing its structure and form. The easiest way to picture this is to think of the cell like a house, made from many different things with many different functions.

There are only 90 naturally occuring elements which doesn’t seem like a lot when thinking about how complex life is, however only a handful are actually vital to living things. Just 11 elements are vital to all living things…

  • Hydrogen – H
  • Nitrogen – N
  • Calcium – Ca
  • Sulfur – S
  • Oxygen – O
  • Sodium – Na
  • Magnesium – Mg
  • Chlorine – Cl
  • Carbon – C
  • Potassium – K
  • Phosphorus – P

Ok so just a handful, in addition to this another 10 are required for some living organisms and a further 8 elements are vital to some organisms and plants. As elements are so small it sometimes is difficult to imagine how they all link together, and in some cases it is extremely complex. Now vets need an understanding here because when it comes to medications, they are basically chemicals that are designed to act upon or modify the chemicals make up the body.

For example within the body the majority of cells have some kind of cell wall, this is so thin that it is rarely visible under the microscope, however it is composed of many different elements. The chemical structures that make up the cell wall are phosphoglycerides which have a hydrophobic (water hating) tail and a polar head group. These are usually arranged in two layers facing out from each other so the hydrophobic tails from each layer point towards each other (which forms a lipid layer).The polar heads of this have specific structures which are unique to certain cells which allow medicines to be developed to attach at these certain points (and so only affect certain things) through different chemical bonds.

Talking bonds there are different ways that chemicals can bind to each other, and each different method has differences in strength and the functionality. I am still only learning the basics here, however in September I do start studying Pharmacology so am hoping that by doing a bit of extra reading now I will be more comfortable studying in the so called “hell year” of Vet School!

For anyone interested in chemistry and how it relates to biology I would recommend two books which I keep handy on my shelf…

[amazon_enhanced asin=”0199570876″ container=”” container_class=”” price=”All” background_color=”FFFFFF” link_color=”000000″ text_color=”0000FF” /]  [amazon_enhanced asin=”0199697396″ container=”” container_class=”” price=”All” background_color=”FFFFFF” link_color=”000000″ text_color=”0000FF” /]

 

Strategies for dealing with obesity in small pets (Day 127)

Guinea Pig obesity and weight loss in small mammals

Today’s Diary Entry is sponsored by Supreme Pet Foods

Following on from last week where we looked at the problems of sugar and obesity in small animals today I want to look at strategies for dealing with obesity. To give a quick recap obesity is when an animal is more than 20% over their ideal body weight which is determined by using body condition scoring which takes into account the animals state of being (more on this later!).

Guinea Pig obesity and weight loss in small mammals

Anyways the first step is determining that your pet is overweight, generally with rabbits, guinea pigs and ferrets you should be able to feel the spine and ribs however these should not be visibly prominent. If you cannot feel these then your pet is probably overweight, depending on the amount it may be a good idea here to seek help from your vet. Lots of practices now run free “weight clinics” where you have a qualified nurse to talk you through nutrition and how best to manage your pets weight. Even if its not advertised for small animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, or ferrets if you talk to your practice most will actually accommodate your pet!

Now the golden rule to weight loss is that it should be slow and steady, if you decrease the amount of food too rapidly or skip a feeding then its possible for the animal to develop a life threatening condition known as hepatic lipidosis. This occurs when the body is forced to convert extreme amounts of body fat into energy causing a build up of fat cells in the liver preventing it from doing its normal functions (aka liver failure). If you suspect this you need to seek immediate emergency veterinary attention for your pet!

There are two factors in play here when it comes to nutrition; quantity and quality. As stated in the previous article you should be looking for foods which avoid high levels of sugar. Also consider what you are feeding, if it is a mix does your pet eat all of the food or are they just eating parts of it (known as selective feeding). It may be worth using different foods in combination to try and give a balanced diet. You should consider fruit to be a treat that is given once a week in tiny amounts as it contains loads of sugar. In addition you can also supplement this with daily fresh vegetables or herbs for example:

Rabbits: Look to feed leafy green veg and things like coriander or fresh mint

Guinea Pigs: As these are susceptible to bloat be cautious so dry hay or herbs and fibrous plants like dandelion leaves

As for quantity the first thing to do is look at how much you are feeding (weigh this!) and how much the instructions on the feed packaging says you should be feeding which can be an interesting comparison. If you are feeding more than you should start to reduce the amount gradually over 2 – 3 weeks.

Also consider how you give the food to your pet, things like using a feeding ball or scatter feeding can help increase activity and so burn more calories! I’ve got animal nutrition this coming semester so should be covering a lot more nutrition topics in more detail.

Why the urine is so important (aka Urinalysis)… (Day 122)

Urine Sample for Urinalysis

Todays Diary Entry is sponsored by Pet Webinars

One of the cheapest, quickest and most basic of tests used within veterinary practice is that of urinalysis, where the urine is examined and used to help diagnose disease. This test can be used as an indicator of disease in the kidneys, with digestion and within the urinary tract itself.

The first step in urinalysis is actually collecting the urine to examine, now unlike humans animals tend to have a problem with peeing in a cup. Now for certain parts of urinalysis such as culture in a microbiology laboratory a sterile sample is essential, and this is normally collected using cystocentesis which is where a needle is inserted directly into the bladder. For general tests however less invasive methods are used to collect the urine as it flows (takes practice) or with cats using a non-absorbing litter in their tray for example. If this fails when an animal is proving difficult to collect a sample from a catheter can be used instead and is passed along the urinary tract and into the bladder. It is important that urine is examined as soon as possible because it deteriorates with artifacts such as the pH changing and the formation of crystals.

Urine Sample for Urinalysis
Urine Sample

Now once a sample is collected the first thing to do is to examine the gross sample for the appearance and smell of the urine. Previously in history doctors actually even tasted the urine however luckily that is not done anymore (on purpose anyways!)! The colour of the urine should be slightly transparent and yellow or amber, it should not be cloudy and the odour should be faintly that of ammonia.

Next the urine’s specific gravity is tested, this can either be done with a refractometer or with a hydrometer (which is something new I learnt here). This tells us the concentration (the liquid:solid ratio) of the urine which is how many water soluble molecules (such as toxins, waste products, metabolic waste) there are in the urine. The reference (normal) values for the specific gravity depend on the species of the animal being tested. Though not a complete list some of the diseases that this points to include dehydration, renal failure, excessive drinking, diabetes insipidus, glycosuria, decreased kidney blood flow and many more.

A dipstick test is then carried out to check many different parameters at once, depending on the test stick used this can include pH, glucose, leukocytes, blood (hemoglobin) content, Nitrates, Ketones, Bilirubin and Protein. Some sticks contain specific gravity however its not as reliable as using one of the previous test methods. Something worth remembering here is that once urine is applied the stick should kept horizontal to prevent contamination between the tests. In fact some places actually pipette a drop of urine onto each test square instead of dipping the stick! All of these parameters point to different diseases and body systems.

Finally the urine is examined under the microscope for cells, crystals, parasite eggs, and fat all of which should not be present in urine. Cells can indicate problems physically with the tract and bladder, whilst crystals can indicate further problems with bladder stones. Parasite eggs obviously indicate parasites, whilst fat is an indicator for digestion and renal diseases.

This is just one piece of the diagnosis puzzle that a vet works with, and because of the relatively low cost of urinalysis and ability to perform the test instantly in house is one of the most valuable.

Sugar and Obesity in small pets, the problems… (Day 121)

Sugar and Obesity in Small Mammals

Todays Diary Entry is sponsored by: Find Pet Boarding

In the UK when your in school every child gets a free dental check and the yearly lecture on how sugar is bad for you, the question is how many of you have considered this when thinking about your pets?

Sugar and Obesity in Small Mammals

So now you are wondering how sugar affects animals lets start with the basics, what is sugar? Sugars are constructed from Hydrogen, Carbon and Oxygen atoms. They are rich in energy – this is because they have many Hydrogen:Carbon bonds which release energy when broken – and are used to power the body with roles in other functions such as the immune system, fertilization, blood clotting and development. The most basic type of a sugar is a monosaccharide (like glucose) which has one sugar molecule and is used as a building block for the more complex sugars known as polysaccharides (aka loads of glucose molecules joined together).When eaten by an animal sugars do not need digesting and are absorbed right from the gut into the blood.

Common sugars found in pet food include glucose, fructose, maltose and galactose which are all listed on the ingredients list. It is however important to be wary of “hidden sugars” which are contained in other ingredients such as mollasses with high sugar levels. Whilst in some species a little sugar is important, it is often used by pet food manufacturers to improve the palatability of their food or to help “hide” cheaper ingredients as pets can be discerning eaters.

There are several problems linked to sugar, however in some species such as ferrets which lack the capability to manage sugars it can in fact be deadly causing insulinomas. Other problems include obesity, diabetes mellitus, dental caries which are common across many species.

Obesity is being more than 20% over the maximum ideal body weight and in pets is caused by the body storing excess calories – the sugar that cannot be immediately used. This occurs when the blood sugar level reachs a trigger point sugar molecules are pushed into cells of the body by insulin for storage. Now this increases the size of the cells, and off course leads to weight gain. Within veterinary medicine the ideal weight is part of a larger picture or state of being for the animal and is determined using something called Body Condition Scoring. This is something I’ll cover in a lot more detail in a further article however for now with small mammals you should be able to feel the spine and ribs without them being too visibly prominant. The common problems associated with obesity in rabbits are not being able to groom themselves so leading to fly strike and becoming overrun with mites. In addition sores on the hocks are common, and the reduced movement of the animal also means that the animal will gain further weight faster.

Diabetes mellitus (otherwise known as sugar diabetes) is when the body can not produce enough insulin to deal with the amount of sugar in the diet. This is a chronic disease meaning that it will last for the rest of the animals life, has several severe complications including vision loss and requires very careful treatment in cooperation with your vet.

Dental caries are as much a problem for pets as they are for humans, I am planning to cover what pet dental care actually is at a later time and will discuss this then!

Hopefully you now have a better understand of how sugar and obesity affect pets, I will be writting more on the management and strageties for dealing with this later. In the meantime feel free to post any questions below in the comments box and talk to your vet if you have any concerns over your pets weight!

Click here for Part 2: Strageties for dealing with obesity in small pets

Animal Organ Donation, the facts behind being a Pet Donor! (Day 115)

Pet Donor - Animal Organ Donation

Todays diary entry is sponsored by YOUR BUSINESS HERE!

Someone asked me the other day about organ donation in animals, and then I just happened to attend a really cool lecture on pet donors so I’ve decided to share it with you today. When someone meantions organ donation most people tend to think about heart, lung and kidney transplants, however I think it is amazing that in humans the most commonly transplanted tissue is blood, followed by bone.

Pet Donor - Animal Organ Donation

Since April 2009 there has been a pet donor scheme in the UK, the scheme is run by the Veterinary Tissue Bank and is based on the human model however there are some big differences. First of all instead of giving consent themself, it is up to the owner to register the pet. Secondly only bone, tendon and ligament is currently used in transplant procedures. This is because organ transplantation is very complex both medically with the need to manage anti-rejection medication and logistically with getting organs to animals in need within hours of harvesting the organ from the donor.

Ethically as an animal is legally the “property” of the owner more complex organ transplantation scenarios are a ethical minefield as deciding that one animal should die so another can live is something that many vets would struggle with. To get a viable organ the body needs to be alive at the time of harvesting the organ, and many euthansia drugs have effects on different organs within the body. Currently bone, tendon and ligament can be harvested after the death of the animal, and are more robust and can in some cases with proper preparation have a shelf life up to 5 years.

Now its easy to wonder just how these are used to help other animals, this is suprisingly simple. After harvesting the tissues are processed to usable states and to allow them to be stored, when a vet has a patient which may benefit from this tissue they contact the VTB and order the tissue. With bone for example this may be in the form of bone chips for a animal that has been hit by a car and has a gap in the bone skeleton that needs to be filled. Previously this may have required the vet to harvest bone from another area of the animals body to use which causes more trauma (and in some cases is impossible as the animal is too small etc), and use it to fill the gap. In this case bone from a donor makes the surgery safer, decreases the pain the animal will experience, and speeds up recovery.

I know if I had a pet, I would consider adding them to Pet Donor register as if they needed surgery of this type I would want a donor graft. In addition the veterinary tissue bank also arranges for cremation of the remains and return of the ashes to you at no charge.

What are the steps of organ transplantation?

  1. The animal is registered as a Pet Donor at http://www.petdonor.co.uk
  2. Consent is collected and your vet is contacted to discuss this with you
  3. When the time comes for your pet to cross the rainbow bridge your vet examines and discusses the suitability of donation with the VTB – obviously some diseases may mean that your pet is not a suitable donor
  4. The VTB arranges collection of your pets body anywhere in the UK and transportation to their donor center where the tissue is harvested in a sterile and controlled environment
  5. The VTB arranges and pays for cremation of your pet and the return of the ashes to you
  6. The tissue collected is processed to be ready for use by veterinary surgeons across the country.

The truth about Chocolates being poisonous to dogs (Day 96)

Chocolate is poisonous to dogs

Todays diary entry is sponsored by Waggy Tail Dog Bakery

Most dogs owners will tell you that chocolate is poisonous, yet many can not tell you why, or how much is needed so hopefully I will clear up some of the myths here.

Chocolate is poisonous to dogs

The reason chocolate is poisonous to dogs is because it is produced using seeds from the Cocoa Tree (Theobroma cacao) which contains a chemical called theobromine.In addition many choclates contain other ingredients such as raisins or coffee beans which are also toxic to dogs.

Theobromine belongs to a class of drugs known as methylxanthines which act upon the central nervous system. In addition they also cause muscular contractility in the muscles of the heart and skeleton which can lead to irregular heart rhythms and heart attack.

Some people mistakingly believe that white chocolate is safe for dogs, however this is not the case. Whilst white chocolate has a lower concentration of theobromine than dark chocolate it still contains this toxic ingredient and so remains dangerous.

How much chocolate is poisonous to dogs?

Current research indicates that just 1.25 grams of dark chocolate per kilogram can be lethal to dogs and needs urgent veterinary treatment. This means that for a 20Kg dog, just 25grams of dark chocolate is enough to cause serious problems. Milk and White chocolate have a higher tolerance however veterinary advice is still urgently needed, and if there is extra ingredients in the chocolate such as raisins or coffee then its even more urgent.

Signs and Symptoms of Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs

The signs of chocolate poisoning in dogs commonly show within 4 hours from ingestion, however can take up to 24 hours to show in some cases. The signs including vomiting, increased salivation, increased drinking and urinating, exciteability, tremors, convulsions and muscles going rigid.

What should you do if your dog eats chocolate

If your dog has eaten chocolate you need to contact your vet immediately, try to work out how much they have eaten, and the type of chocolate it was. Also if it contains any other ingredients such as raisins or coffee you should tell your vet this. If you get your dog to the vet fast the prognosis is usually very good, however delaying seeking veterinary attention gives the chocolate time to enter the system and cause further problems.

Todays diary entry has been sponsored by Waggy Tail Dog Bakery, bakers of handmade dog cakes and cookies from the finest  human grade ingredients!
Waggy Tail Dog Bakery are dog bakers that produce handmade dog cakes and cookies in addition to the most stunning “theobromine free” dog chocolates I have come across! Their processes have been approved be DEFRA and they use only the finest human ingredients with no articifical colors, flavourings or preservatives!

Introduction to Animal Nutrition, the real facts behind the label…

Pet food for cats and dogs

Ok, several people have asked me to talk about nutrition so here goes, I’m lucky as I did cover nutrition as part of my BioVeterinary Science degree so do have a little knowledge here. However there is no way I can fit everything onto a single diary entry so I will be spreading this out over the next couple of weeks. Today is simply going be an introduction of sorts, I am going try and keep it general and just cover a few key points.

Pet food for cats and dogs
What is really in pet food?

There are many arguments into what is the best type of diet to feed animals, I don’t intendto get involved in this and will just cover the scientifics. Generally there are 6 main nutrients required by the body to function being protein, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, lipids and water. Understanding nutrition has taken food from allowing animals to “survive” through to improving their health, and increasing their life expectancy. Now food for animals is formulated to specific needs or requirements. Even within species there are now different feeds for ages, sizes, and even breeds. And thats before even looking at pregnancy or illness such as diabeties.

Different species eat different types of food, with Herbivores, Omnivores and Carnivores. These can be broken down even further which I will do another day, however lets keep it simple for now. Generally the approach to food preparation can either be nutritionally based or by ingredients. When nutritionally prepared exact combinations of the right amounts of nutritients are used. Where with the ingredient approach a simple ingredients list is used and mixed as a food with no consideration for amounts or nutritional content.

The recent advance of Health Nutrition has four objectives split between nutrition and health nutrition

Nutrition – Body Development and Maintenance: Amino acides, minerals, trace elements, vitamins and fatty acids are the basis of body development

Nutrition – Energy Provision: Lipids and carbohydrates are the main energy sources. However some species (such as cats) also require proteins for energy metabolism

Health Nutrition – Nourishing and Prevention: When nutrients (such as antioxidants, essential fatty acids, prebiotics, fibre etc) are used to reduce risks of diseases

Health Nutrition – Nourising and Caring: When nutrients are added or others limited to support the theraputic or recovery process, for example for diabeties

When you take all of these into account you start to realise how important nutrition is to an animals welfare. However labelling for feeds can be misleading which is disappointing. Basically it stems from the law that requires manufacturers to list food in descending order by weight before cooking. This means that water rich ingerdients such as meat ends up at the top of the list, but being a minority in the final product. Fresh meat for example contains up to 75% water, so a food containing 25% fresh meat will provide just 4-5% protein in the dry food. With the other labelling guidelines, its especially important to understand them.

Here’s what the labels means….

  • “contains…” – less than 4% of the ingredient mentioned
  • “with…” – 4-14% of the ingredient mentioned
  • “rich in…” – 14-26% of the ingredient mentioned
  • “…paste” – 26-100% of the ingredient mentioned
  • “full…” 100% of the ingredient mentioned (aka can’t be nutritionally balanced)

So what does this mean in real life?

Say a company makes a pet food formulated with 4% lamb, 4% chicken and 4% beef. They can simply package it in 3 different packs and label it as “with chicken”, “with beef” or “with lamb”.