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.click here to close
Proteins are made of amino acids of which there are about 26 different types. These are essential for making protein to build body tissues. Dogs and humans are good at chemically changing amino acids they get in their diet to others needed by the body whereas cats are less able to do so. For example, it has been shown that the amino acid taurine must be present in a cat's diet or heart and/or eye disease will occur. Dogs and humans can make their own taurine.click here to close
There are chemical elements required by the body, some in very small amounts. Molybdenum, zinc and fluorine are three of these. The amount of fluorine, for example, in diet (including drink) should be 1-2 parts per million (which is less than a mustard grain in a tin of food); 5 parts per million can cause disease, so it is important to be accurate.click here to close
Because the liver is the main chemical factory of the body, and because all blood coming from the stomach and intestines, carrying the products of digestion goes through the liver before joining the general circulation, there are major consequences when the liver is not working correctly. Especially toxic chemicals produced (normally) in the intestine escape into the rest of the body if the liver fails to clear them: ammonia is the most significant of these. This is produced from proteins by gut bacteria and special diets can help to reduce its production.
The liver produces bile which is most important in fat digestion so the amount of fat in the diet should be restricted in animals with liver disease.click here to close
The pancreas is very important in digestion, producing enzymes which digest each of the main dietary constituents. If the pancreas is underactive, digestion is much reduced, but certain food ingredients are easier than others for the body to cope with. If the pancreas is inflamed, it needs to be rested and particularly dietary fat needs to be reduced to achieve this.click here to close
There are several diseases of the intestine which result in poor absorption of products of digestion. Dietary intolerance can cause chronic inflammation which results in malabsorption, for instance. Correct and careful feeding is essential in managing pets with such problems.click here to close
Stones in the bladder (urinary bladder, not gall bladder) are fairly common. They are due to crystallization of certain chemicals in the urine. Some, especially the commonest (struvite) can be dissolved by a special diet, thus avoiding surgery. Others which form due to failures in certain of the body's chemical processes can be prevented by dietary manipulation.click here to close
These reactions to food ingredients are very common. It is essential to understand a bit of detail to get them under control. The main facts are:
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.click here to close
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.click here to close
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.click here to close
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!click here to close
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!!!!click here to close
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)
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.
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:Go to top of page