Nutrition in Dogs, Cats & Rabbits
Diet and nutrition are an important consideration for our beloved pets. Fresh water should be offered at all times to our companions.
Dogs require a balanced diet, this is often most easily achieved by providing a complete dog food. This can be tailored depending on the life stage of your animal. Puppies require a different balance of amino acids, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals to adult dogs, which require a different balance to geriatrics. So, it is important to pick a diet that is suited to the age, neutered status, size or breed and the activity level of your animal.
Feeding human food is not advisable in most circumstances, unless clinically prescribed as it can lead to problems with obesity, allergies and digestive tract problems. Some human foods can be toxic to dogs, such as chocolate, grapes, raisins, onions and garlic.
Treats should be fed in moderation, as over feeding can again cause problems with weight gain. It is interesting to note that a raw hide chew is the equivalent to a human eating six ring doughnuts!
If your animal has been diagnosed with a specific medical condition, they may be offered a specific diet tailored to help address some of the nutritional requirements associated with that disease. Such diets will be discussed with your vet and on a case by case basis. Interestingly, there are also diets that are specifically tailored to help with obesity.
Cats have a different balance of amino acids, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals to dogs. Complete feline diets are specifically tailored with cats in mind. Again for life stages of kittens, adult cats and geriatrics. The diet of house cats versus outdoor cats should also be considered as the daily calorie requirements may be different. Some indoor cats will have a tendency towards obesity, so it is important to bear this in mind when feeding your cat. Puzzles and games that make your pet work for their food can be a fun alternative.
Should I feed a different diet if my cat or dog has been neutered? Once a cat or a dog has been neutered their metabolic rate will decrease, this means they require less food and if maintained on their current diet can have a tendency to gain weight. This decrease has been seen in as little as 24 hours post neutering. Instead of reducing portion size, which will reduce fat content but in turn also reduce essential vitamin and minerals, carbohydrate and amino acids, place them on a complete neutered cat or dog food.
A rabbit’s digestive system is made in such a way that they need to constantly graze and constantly produce faeces. It is important to feed you rabbit the correct balance of nutrition in order help improve faecal consistency, prevent dental disease, combat obesity, and alleviate boredom. Rabbits should eat 80% of good quality hay and grass. Grass can be grazed or picked, but not from lawn mower clippings. Hay must consist of a mixture of long and short fibres to allow the teeth to work to their maximum. In addition, 10% should comprise of leaf greens, for example: cabbage, dandelion, rocket, mixed salad, parsley, basil, and coriander. Broccoli, kale, carrots tops and other greens which are higher in calcium should be given in moderation. Rabbits have a lower ability to utilise dietary calcium and too much can cause a build-up of calcium sludge in the bladder. The final 10% of the diet should consist of a good quality rabbit pellet. No more than one egg cup full for small-medium breeds should be fed. Too great a quantity of pellets can easily lead to obesity. Rabbits may also eat, pear, bananas, apple and strawberries in moderation as fruits have a higher sugar content which can cause dental disease. It is interesting to note that rabbits do not eat root vegetables, feeding carrots to your rabbit is not advisable despite many myths.