Our pets no longer eat what nature intended for them and they depend entirely on us to provide a well-balanced and nutritious diet for them. Diet can have an enormous impact on the wellbeing of your pet and poorly-formulated diets can have a serious impact on their quality of life. Dogs are omnivores and eat a range of foods including meat and vegetable materials whilst cats predominantly need a meat diet.
Obesity is becoming an increasingly important issue for domestic pets. One in three household pets are now thought to be overweight, which equates to a staggering seven million animals in the UK alone. Being overweight means that your pet is 15% heavier than it should be whilst obese animals are at least 30% too heavy. Overfeeding our pets, feeding them the wrong type of diet, giving them lots of treats combined with a lack of exercise can all lead to obesity. Obesity increases the risk or the consequences of:
– Orthopaedic problems such as arthritis and back problems.
– Endocrine disease such as diabetes – obese cats, for instance, are four times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes whilst dogs that develop diabetes can be much more difficult to treat effectively if they are obese.
– Urinary tract problems such as infection and stone formation.
– Cardiorespiratory problems such as heart disease and collapse of the windpipe.
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2. Dental Problems
Pets that are fed soft food diets experience less opportunity for the mechanical abrasion that is so important for scrubbing the surface of teeth which keeps them clean. This can lead to the accumulation of plaque which in turn leads to dental conditions such as periodontal disease (gum disease). Dry foods are harder and tend to have a more abrasive effect on the teeth of cats and dogs and provide for healthier teeth, so it may be wise to alternate between dry and wet food.
3. Skin and Coat Concerns
A poor diet can have a direct impact on your pet’s skin & coat. In order to keep your pet’s skin in good condition their diet should contain digestible protein, fats, carbohydrate, minerals and vitamins. Poor-quality commercial diets or improperly formulated homemade food often means that your pet isn’t getting enough of the essential nutrients and elements to keep their skin and coat healthy.
4. Allergies and Dietary Sensitivities
Allergic reactions are most commonly associated with protein sources – usually the meat in your pet’s diet but also foods that contain significant amounts of corn, soya, colourings and preservatives can be the reason your pet is suffering from irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. Make sure that the diet that you feed your pet is balanced and agrees with the individual pet. Diets that contain a protein source that is entirely new to your dog (e.g. duck, whitefish, salmon or lamb) may be a good option in cases of allergy but remember – what works for one pet may not work for another!
5. Low Immune System
Just as in humans, if your pet doesn’t have a healthy diet that contains the right vitamins and minerals this can impair their immune system. Diet has been shown to interact with the immune system at several points, beginning with basic nutrients and progressing to the provision of essential nutrients such as protein, vitamins, and minerals which lead to a more specific control of the immune system. Lowered immune function can result in an increased susceptibility to infections and an increase in the incidence of autoimmune disease and cancers.