Christmas is over and we entered 2013 having eaten, drunk and been very merry!
Then we all made our new year’s resolutions — I bet for many readers this will involve joining a gym and resolving to make 2013 a year in which our health and fitness will improve. But did you think about making the same effort for your pet?
It is estimated that in the UK 50% of pet dogs and 30% of pet cats are overweight. Like us, cats and dogs can suffer from obesity-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, joint and muscle pain, heart disease, breathing problems and cancers. As a responsible pet owner the onus is on you to keep your dog or cat in the best possible health. You, and you alone, decide what and how much your pet eats. Many pet food manufacturers are owned by large global companies who are largely profit-driven and have huge advertising budgets which they use to tug at our heart strings and play on our emotions. How hard is it to resist the TV adverts with the cute terrier or cat who loves his owner more when they provide the food he “prefers”?
As a result we are all guilty of buying treats (which are the equivalent of giving your children junk food loaded with E numbers) in the hope that our pets will give us more in return. Trust me, your dog does not really care what shape or colour his food is – if he is hungry he will eat whatever is placed in his bowl and the average overweight Labrador would much rather go out for a nice walk than be provided with ad-hoc treats. Don’t forget he is bred to be out retrieving pheasants all day.
Mental and physical stimulation will keep your pet healthier for longer than any amount of his favourite food. Cats, on the other hand, do express preferences for foods with certain textures so it is important to provide some variation in the diet. It can be harmful to feed fresh meat especially liver and a diet which is exclusively fish-based will result in your cat being deficient in some important nutrients. Toys can provide the opportunity for your cat to express his natural behaviour and provide important mental and physical exercise.
In summary, the best advice is to feed your dog or cat a prepared, balanced diet in wet and/or dry form — a huge amount of research goes in to producing premium diets and there are even some which are specifically formulated for individual breeds. Avoid the multi-coloured biscuits as these are more likely to contain additives and ingredients to encourage your pet to eat more than is good for him. Generally, the more expensive the diet the better the quality and consistency of the ingredients. Although some diets appear to be very expensive the daily feeding costs are often less than a diet of cheaper food, chews, pig’s ears, milk, biscuits etc. Most veterinary practices will provide advice about diet and exercise and many will have the dog or cat equivalent of a slimming club – take advantage as this advice is often free providing you are purchasing your food from your vet. Here’s to a happier and healthier year for you and your pet.