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It may seem simple to give a pet human food, but dogs and cats are carnivores and humans are omnivores (ie they eat all sorts of foods). Dogs are easier to feed than cats as they are scavengers in the wild whereas cats eat whole animals they have caught.

Pet food manufacturers make batches of food in which it is possible to add and measure things like trace elements. All reputable food manufacturers will do quality checks on each batch of food. It is not possible to produce and check the accuracy of the diet in a home kitchen.

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Ingredients such as beef, cow's milk, pig meat (pork, bacon, ham, gammon, lard), chicken, eggs, turkey, rabbit, tuna, cod (different fish are DIFFERENT), wheat, rice...and so on.

In addition there are colouring agents, texturising agents, smells etc added to many of the supermarket type (advertised) foods which are ONLY THERE to make the humans thinks the food looks or smells nice!!!!! These can harm pets. The best quality foods do NOT use these, so may look less pleasant to a human.

It does not matter whether a pet with a milk intolerance gets milk out of a bottle, in a dog biscuit (skimmed milk powder), in batter from the fish and chip shop, in a cup of tea or by licking cereal bowls...IT WILL AFFECT THE PET.

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When a food label says something like 'Tuna and Cod' flavour, this means that about 15% of the food is these ingredients. The rest is a pet food base made of varuious things which should be listed in the small print on the label.

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The cheaper pet foods may include a variety of ingredients which may vary, and are included under 'meat products' or similar titles. It is very difficult to get details from the manufacturers regarding these items and one suspects they may include horse meat, whale meat etc. They will probably also VARY from batch to batch so you cannot know what you are getting and what your pet may react to.

The more expensive diets will generally guarantee not to vary their ingredients. You can rely on these diets and the manufacturers should be able to give full details.

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Food intolerances work like allergies. Sometimes a TINY bit of the ingredient is enough to cause a reaction. Think of hay-fever in humans and how little pollen will cause a severe reaction!

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It is very common to find that a pet's intolerance is, in part at least, to an ingredient of a small treat-type item. One patient was sensitive to beef, but when on a beef free diet was still showing symptoms occasionally. The owner repeatedly (over YEARS) denied giving the dog ANYTHING else to eat, but EVENTUALLY it was found that they were giving hide chews now and then: what are they made from???? beef hide!!!!

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Nutritional Advice:

Feeding of normal and ill animals is a complex subject and for almost all situations it is better to provide food made by a specialist animal feed company to ensure that the details of your pet's diet are as near perfect as current knowledge allows. Obesity is notoriously the commonest dietary disease in pets with some national surveys suggesting that about half of the pets in this country are overweight. (See weight-watching)

Cats are very complex in their dietary requirements if they are to look as smart as Tangletag Golden Girl. For information about cats like her, click here

Both nurses have pursued training in pet nutrition organised by Hill's, one of the leading pet food manufacturers in the world. We use a wide range of specialist diets made by several companies to assist pets with a variety of problems.

Pets with elderly kidneys are the second most common to receive great help for special diets which can as much as treble the life expectancy of such animals. The differences between these diets and normal pet food are many and very technical.

Special foods are also available to aid in dental health. The other prescription diets are designed to help animals cope with liver, pancreatic and intestinal disease and to remove or prevent bladder stones of various types. By feeding these diets, it is possible to minimise or eliminate drug treatment of many diseases.

Dogs come in many shapes and sizes. Good nutrition will keep them well. This is Zelda, a Victorian Bulldog, owned by Mr Phil Totty. The breed is much less troubled by breathing problems than the English Bulldog, but is not recognised by the Kennel Club! Click here for more information about this interesting breed.

Many individual animals can be upset by specific food ingredients. These reactions are occasionally true allergies, but more often are referred to as intolerances or sensitivities. As the food ingredient upsetting the animal is often one of the common ones (such as milk, beef or wheat) it can be difficult to feed animals with these problems. The nurses have detailed information about the ingredients of many diets and can help you find a diet which doesn't upset your pet.

James Wellbeloved diets currently (May 2003) have a promotion on their canine diets. Buy one 2kgm bag of any flavour Canine Kibble and get another half price. Available from the surgery - ask at reception,

is a site with detailed information about Pedigree/Whiskas special diets and has a wide variety of pet based information.

Hill's Pet Nutrition's site may also be of interest: click

Iams produce foods under two names: click either to find their site:

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