How Not To Make A Dog’s Dinner Out Of Your Pooch’s Diet

Every pet owner wants to take good care of their pet. Whether it is a cold or fleas, it is essential to fix the problem so that your dog isn’t in pain. However, there is one area where dog owners are not up to scratch: their pooch’s diet. Pets are like humans and need a balanced and tailored diet. With that in mind, the following tips are here to help. This is how not to make a dog’s dinner out of their diet.

Take Them To The Vet If There Are Problems Like Itchy Skin

Yes, going to the vet is expensive and a lot of hassle, but it is the only way you will find out about allergies and deficiencies. Like people, dogs are allergic to certain foods, or their stomachs can’t digest them as well as others. Obviously, you need to avoid these foods, but it isn’t possible if you don’t know what they are in the first place. By visiting the vet and asking for a food trial, intradermal skin test or a blood test, they will be able to tell which items in foods are good and which are bad.

Go Au Naturel

If in doubt, opting for organic food is always a good option. Natural dog food doesn’t contain any chemicals or unnecessary additives. Therefore, it shouldn’t be hard to digest or cause them to be sick. Plus, the natural ingredients will boost everything from their mood to their stamina. The key is to find truly natural food because there are suppliers who fudge the facts. A good tip is to take the label test. This means forget about the packaging, reputation, and PR and focus on the ingredients. What you are looking for is a high percentage of meat as well as soy protein and corn.

Introduce Human Meats

If your dog has ever been sick bets are a vet has recommended chicken and rice. This bland diet is good to help “reset” the digestive tract when they are ill. To get the most nutrients out of their diet, a dog needs a balanced diet which can be commercially made however treats can be given. With this in mind, don’t be afraid to introduce meat you would eat, such as beef. Of course, the protein in meat is an essential nutrient. But always do your research first and avoid chocolate as it is poisonous to most dogs.

But Don’t Cook It

Every time you have a piece of red meat it will go in the frying pan or the oven. Humans have evolved to need cooked meat as a part of their diet, yet dogs aren’t the same. Pretty much every other animal species on the planet requires meat, and they should have it raw. When you cook it, the meat loses its nutritional value and your dog won’t get the same benefits. Also, chewing raw meat is good for their teeth. However, stick to beef because poultry and pork can cause salmonella.

Ultimately, your dog’s diet is down to you, so please take the responsibility seriously.

To feed or not to feed (Day -290)

There are many brands of different dog and cat foods out there, yet often it is Royal Canin that you see in a veterinary practice. After a random conversation with a friend I decided that I should share some of the reasons why it is Royal Canin you often see in vet practices.

Making a pet food is easy, there are no licenses required, and it takes very little to give a list of requirements to a food manufacturer along with the label you want on it. There are production lines that are available to rent out to run smaller batches so companies without their own factories can produce and sell food. There is possibility that food is also white label with the only difference between the two foods on the shelf being the container label and the price.

There are different types of formulation – you can have fixed formulation where the same ingredients are used every time the food is produced so it is the same each time you buy it. Or you can have dynamic formulation where the ingredients are calculated based on material price so the actual ingredients may be completely different each time. This is why sometimes a dog or cat will pass up food even if it is the “same” as normal.

Many of the larger companies have their own factories so that it only produces their food. This allows for strict quality control – for example Royal Canin does DNA analysis on key points within its production line.

Then there is the research that goes into a food – for example Royal Canin own laboratories and research centres. These look at things such as the shape of the food to the shape of the animals teeth, the hardness of the food and how much pressure is put onto teeth to break it up. Then there is extra research into the digestion and excretion of food – measuring how much is in the urine and faeces. There is also research into the growth and the nutrients needed at the different stages of life.

Research into disease to treat specific conditions is also a big part – just like in humans animals can have food sensitivity. There have been major breakthroughs with decreasing food allergies which can cause much distress for patients. Research by Royal Canin showed that the immune response is regulated by the size of the foreign protein particle. From this Royal Canin found the smallest usable and sustainable protein that was possible and used this to make a food that provides nutrition yet is small enough to hide from the immune system so does not have an immune response.

Education is also important – the successful larger companies that you tend to see advertised produce books, share research, and provide training for vets and vet nurses. They give the knowledge needed to know which food should be used and when in different stages of life, and in different disease processes.

This is why these foods end up on the shelfs in vet practices, because they are backed by research, they are trusted with the ingredients known, and they make the effort to educate the vets using them.

Food prep, nutrition and the secret of omelettes

A golden omelette

Something I really hate is that even though we get taught nutrition, is that it is difficult to put it into practice when at vet school. So often it is easier to just grab stuff from the vending machine or sandwiches or crisps when running between patients.

It is ironical to me that I know this yet still suffer from this and so this week I decided that it was enough when I saw my weight on the scales… This week I tried to do food prep and eat better especially as I knew I’d have a few days off later in the week because of easter.

Loads of Tupperware which was on special offer in Tesco made this easier for me – a weeks’ worth of salads and lunches made my week more enjoyable… And I feel better.

Something I’ve always been bad at is omelettes, however it is good protein and relatively healthy for breakfast so I was determined to get them right this time. Especially as it only takes 10 minutes to cook them.

This week however I finally think I cracked the secret – I am generally impatient and have electric plates to cook on so never let these really get warm. I normally just tried to do it as quick as possible. However I think this was the start of my problems….

So my first tip in getting the perfect omelette is to warm up the plate – if you are lucky enough to have a gas hob this is not necessary.

My second tip is to use more oil than you would think you used – I hate cooking with oil and normally just tried to use butter. However I have some olive oil so tried this instead – the first couple of times it stuck – however on my later attempts I used a lot more oil and it worked better.

And my final tip is to let the oil get hot before adding the batter.

Following these steps has resulted in going from charcoal to golden omelettes like mine in this picture….

When marine mammals need fresh water too…

Medical training of dolphins for temperature measurement

So today was all about nutrition, animal training and communication. When they say Wednesday is hump day this is exactly what they mean, I am sad the week is halfway over, yet I am exhausted as I struggled to sleep last night.

Anyways onto nutrition this morning we looked at the comparative anatomy between different marine species to start which was pretty amazing. I thought the differences between ruminants, equine and carnivores was crazy however the differences between seal species makes it seem like it was easy! We then moved onto nutrition with a very fast but comprehensive review of the different sources of nutrients and how preparation is also important before moving onto clinical nutrition. This was especially interesting as marine mammals suffer pretty similar diseases to terrestrial mammals in cases of low and insufficient minerals or vitamins, however too much can also be fatal through toxicity so it really is a balancing act.

What I think surprised me most was that marine mammals can suffer dehydration from not drinking enough! I guess I always thought as they live in water they are ok, however with dolphins for example their kidneys cannot desalinate (remove the salt from salt water) so without fresh water they suffer dehydration and the consequences of this. Now you may ask where they get fresh water from if they live in the sea, the majority of this actually comes from their food that is metabolised and broken down.

Something else that I also thought was very cool was that some seal and sealion species do not chew, when they are fed fish they swallow it headfirst. They even use their tongue to turn it around in their mouths if it is in the wrong direction! It has been suggested that in the wild dolphins will “chew” on a puffer fish to release the toxins which appear to be pleasurable for them.

Moving onto the afternoon session we started looking at training, now a lot of people still mistaking believe this is just for “circus tricks” when in reality it is so much more. In the zoo veterinary world medical training is used as an alternative to sedation, anaesthesia and immobilisation – it allows safe and stress free veterinary care of potentially deadly animals. For example have a look at this photo…

 Medical training of dolphins for temperature measurement

Here is a dolphin, the body is mainly muscle so it’s very strong, yet it is laying there on its back in the water to allow for the temperature to be checked. I believe this is pretty amazing, medical training is something that can be used anywhere but seems to mainly be used in zoos. Just imagine if all the dogs and cats that vets see could do this, just stand whilst the temperature was checked, many pets visiting the vets are so stressed and petrified just being in the building before anything is even started!

So going on from this we did a practical session of training each other, it was really interesting as without language it is very difficult to communicate exactly what you want an animal (or someone else) to do!

Arriving in France…

Arriving in Montpellier for Royal Canin

Well today i finished my journey around 3pm, over 24 hours after i originally set out. I am here to attend a Royal Canin Student Ambassador meeting and my flights and expenses are being covered by them during the time I am here. I will however as always continue writing uninfluenced by this and will be as factual and honest as I can. Without the support of Royal Canin to do this I would never be able to afford to do this myself and so I thank them for the opportunity!

There will be nearly 50 vet students from vet schools around the world (including Taiwan, Malaysia, most of Europe and South Africa) which is pretty cool and I am excited to meet so many new people. Royal Canin is one of the big brands of companion animal nutritional, yet I have no understanding at all of their products or company. The first day of the meeting will be consisting of lectures on different aspects of clinical nutrition before looking at the Royal Canin philosophy. This will be very interesting for me as so far in my studies as a vet student I have only done around 5 hours focused on dogs and cats!

This will be followed by a trip to the beach (it is the Mediterranean after all) which I am extremely excited about. It’s been a long time since I have been to a beach, and even longer since I have swam in the sea! Evening dinner will be a great chance to network and find out more about the world, and then on Wednesday we will be visiting the Royal Canin headquarters in Aimargues. We’re going behind the scenes through the research labs and the complete food production process (sadly for industrial security I cannot get photo’s of this) and also meeting the cats and dogs that help develop the food!

I will try and blog stuff from this as I get time! Its a very jam packed few days and I see myself very exhausted when it comes time to leave…

My second first day… (Day 371)

Today’s Diary Entry is sponsored by Pet Hair Remover

Well today was my second first day, that is my first day of my second year as a vet student. I left dorms around 6:30am this morning as I wanted to check in on the horses before I started lectures today (there’s been rumours over the past few weeks that there will be a umbilical hernia arriving in a foal yet its not arrived…).

So we started today with a Pharmacology lecture, this was interesting as it appears that the university has a “new” pharmacology and toxicology building round the corner outside of campus which has bigger lecture theatres (which are definitely needed). The lecture was pretty basic covering the different classes of drugs (Mass Produced vs. Magistral and officinal preparations) however did look into history a bit which was slightly interesting (I might write some of this up as a separate post)!

We then headed back to campus to start our second semester of Nutrition and Dietetics, this semester will we be looking more at the requirements of animals and how to formulate diets to the match their needs. Last semester we looked at the different properties of various foodstuffs to give us the understanding required to do this.

Next up was Pathological Physiology (or as I will be calling it from now on Pathophysiology) which is the study of disease processes and dysfunction within the body. This is rumoured to be probably the hardest exam of the year when I have to do it next summer however is also one of the most interesting subjects. After the introduction we started looking at the effect of fever on the body which is pretty interesting as whilst I know the basics I had not got anywhere near this much understanding. The practical then continued this, however was done in a question and answer session which really made us realise just how little we remembered from physiology last year.

Pharmacology practical was a little bit of a let down as instead of anything drug related we went straight back into Latin (which I hate!). Here in Slovakia at least all prescriptions have to be written in Latin. This is a double edged sword as whilst I can already write English, it opens up every other country where English is not used for (so vets leaving England may struggle).

For now I will leave it there! Here is to tomorrow which looks to be another packed day!

The end of Semester 2

Today’s Diary Entry is sponsored by CarPet Best Pet Hair Remover

Well I’ve just finished semester 2 of vet school, now its just for exams and then I’ll have finished my first year of vet school! It’s still not really sunk in though I am looking at the lists of stuff we should know for our exams and having a moment of “how did we manage to cover all that?”. I’ve also managed to get some part time work over the summer to help with my tuition costs which I am glad about, my only problem is that there are just 24 hours in a single day.

In the next week I’ve got to catch up on my missed anatomy & histology tests from where I attended BSAVA Congress, and then the Monday after I start my finals with Latin. This is something I am not looking forward to as I really struggle with written latin as I am dyslexic so am going just give it my best shot! After that I have my Anatomy 1 final which is on the musculoskeletal system (aka all the bones, muscles and ligaments of different animals) and all the interspecies differences… This is the massive pile that I need to memorise for it!

Luckily I just need the muscles, ligaments and bones from the two big books, however one of the biggest test questions is asking what the differences are between animals. This is especially true of the skull which is composed of 17 parts with each having differences between species some of which are obvious in the shape of the head and others not so obvious with differences in the canals that the nerves and vessels lie in. Then there are differences with the muscles as different animals have different lengths of neck etc.

After this I have my Veterinary Genetics exam scheduled for the 6th June which is another big exam where I will be random asked 3 questions from a possible 80 covering different topics from dog coat colors through to the legislation for selecting which males to breed from! Its something that I find interesting however the amount of information that needs to be memorised here is absolutely staggering with the amount of different genetic diseases!

Hopefully after this exam is done I will have a bit more free time and so can write more diary posts which have been suffering with my current workload!

Looking at crude fat (ether extract)… (Day 187)

Animal Nutrition Ether Extract Continuous Extraction of Crude Fat

Today’s Diary Entry is sponsored by Spikes World Wildlife Food

Another Friday, this one marking the end of week 5, its amazing how fast time is going and how little it feels I have achieved. Every spare moment I get is going into finishing Emergency First Aid for Animals, when I sat down and started this I had no clue how big the task would actually be. I am a perfectionist however I also realise that sometimes it’s is a case of balancing perfection with getting things done – in this instance however I am taking the route of caution to make sure that I can back up everything in the book with solid medical fact to ensure the best outcome for cases that follow it.

Anyways onto today, we spent nutrition today looking at the crude fat portion of feed, this is commonly thought of as the fat portion of the sample. This however is a gross simplification as in fact this portion contains organic acids (Essential Fatty Acids), oils, alcohols and the important fat soluble vitamins. Fats are important within the body as they act as electron carriers, substrate carriers in enzymatic reactions, components of biological membranes and as stores of energy.

In fact in obese animals around 97% of adipose tissue is composed of fat storing energy, lipids also help give structure to muscle and have an impact on cholesterol.

Animal Nutrition Ether Extract Continuous Extraction of Crude FatNow the fat potion of the sample is solvent soluble, so the sample is continuously extracted using diethyl ether which dissolves the fat in the sample. Using the apparatus in the image above the ether is in the bottom beaker (which is weighed when it is empty) which is heated, it then evaporates as gas before the condenser (at the top) cools it and it collects as liquid in the middle sample chamber. It stays in the sample chamber (in the middle with the paper sample filter) until it reaches a critical level it then it is returned to the bottom beaker. This process is repeated for around 6 hours or overnight to ensure all the fat is dissolved in the solvent. Once this is done the sample chamber is removed and the ether collected to be reused and removed by distillation – when a miniscule amount remains the bottom beaker is then dried in a vacuum oven and cooled in a desiccator. The bottom beaker is then weighed and the difference in the new weight – the starting weight is the amount of crude fat in the sample.

A parcel on Animal Nutrition (Day 141)

Royal Canin Nutrition Books

Today’s Diary Entry is sponsored by Spikes World Ltd

When talking about nutrition there is a phrase that commonly pops up – “You are what you eat”. This is something that has evolved over time from a statement by nutritionist Victor Lindlahr in the 1920s who said

“Ninety per cent of the diseases known to man are caused by cheap foodstuffs. You are what you eat.”

Today this phrase rings still rings true with countless studies and research to scientifically link nutrition and disease. This research doesn’t stop with humans though and there is constant evolution in the animal nutrition field, whether it is for health in companion animals or productivity within production animals. Some of the research is conflicting in what is good and what is bad, however it all agrees that food actually affects the health.

Today I recieved a parcel of textbooks from Royal Canin who generously offered them to me when hearing about my website. I have been pleasantly suprised flicking though them as unlike a lot of material produced by companies they focus on the science rather than products. With the Encyclopedias covering nutrition related diseases and illnesses in depth I will be using them across multiple different subjects here at vet school!

Royal Canin Nutrition BooksI am especially loving the encyclopedias which are broken down by disease into how nutrition affects it and can help benefit it. These books are sure to be invaluable to my education and I would like to extend my gratitude to Royal Canin for them!

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.