Feeding Pets

Pets become part of our family and our life, however it is important to remember that they are still animals and before domestication they roamed free in the wild. Over 10,000 years their appearance may have changed but the way their body works has not.

First of all, responsible pet owners should feed their pets a balanced pet food. They should not feed human food from the table.

Many of the food items found in human food are either poisonous or at the very least can cause vomiting. Whilst the list is long, here are some of the common products that should not be fed to our pets: avocados, chocolate, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, mushrooms, onions, garlic, persimmons, rhubarb leaves, and yeast dough.

Milk, eggs and dairy products are commonly fed food products, but all can cause specific health conditions. As with humans, too much of a good thing can be a problem; too much fat can cause pancreatitis, sugary food can cause diabetes mellitus, and whilst bones may seem a good idea they can easily get stuck so that a vet needs to remove them.

It is very common to find that the teeth of dogs that are fed from the table are very bad and need to be removed, and whilst no-one want to waste food, raw, old or moldy food can cause infections in our pets.

High quality pet food companies have produced balanced diets that satisfy the food requirements of your pets. Whilst home cooked food can be fed to our pets, it is very difficult to accurately satisfy your pet’s health needs.

Very significantly, it is also very hard to know how much food to feed to a dog; the commercial diets are calorie assessed and there is usually a feeding scale on the packet. Obesity is a very common problem and most commonly occurs because owners give their dog treats and snacks. If treats are to be fed please remember that the calories of that treat need to be taken away from the total calorie intake you pet is consuming.

A good policy is to take some of the dry food you are feeding from your dog’s normal diet, keep it in a bag and give this as the treat, Your dog will still be happy without gaining the extra weight.

In the wild our cats and dogs are designed to eat irregularly. Many dogs appear to always be hungry as their ancestors would hunt and scavenge, eating once a week, so they were conditioned to eat all the food they find when they find it.

At most, adult dogs should be fed twice daily, though once is best. Cats are a lot better at eating only what they need to, but some cats will eat out of boredom if the food is available, so it is best not to leave food out all the time.

For cats and dogs it is best to put the food out and take it away after 30 minutes. Medium to large breed dogs should not be walked within 1 hour of feeding as it is possible to get a twisted gut; walk them first.

Dogs can learn bad habits quickly; feeding dogs from the table teaches them that this is normal for their lifestyle, and if an owner starts doing this they will have to repeat this behavior in the future.

The owner is also teaching the dog that it is a very important member of the dog pack. In the wild the top dog will bite another dog if the other pack member acts badly. To live a happy family-dog life, the dog has to be taught that it is subordinate to all the family members. If the dog is firmly taught this message, and if it is unhappy with one of it’s pack members, i.e. you and your family, it will never bite a family member.

Remember a dog is not a human; it is an animal and will act like one when it needs to.

When owners are going on holiday, the lifestyle of their pet needs to be maintained. As long as the food will not go bad it is quite reasonable to have someone to feed your cat and clean their litter every other day.

However dogs need daily attention and feeding; they should not be left alone without daily visits. If unavoidable they should be sent on their own holiday to a professional kennel.

Keeping pets is a life long pleasure and a learning experience for both pets and owners alike. The pet and their owner both need treating and educating.

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The Contributor

Dr. Tony Beck has studied and practiced veterinary medicine for the past 23 years, and is a member of The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). Dr Beck graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in London in 1998, and has undertaken further studies within feline medicine, ophthalmology, ultrasonography and orthopaedic surgery. He practiced veterinary medicine in London and Hong Kong, and in 2006 he was invited to Beijing Guanshang Animal Hospital where he met Dr. Stone. Dr. Beck has served the community at a neuter clinic in Thailand, a bear station in Chengdu, China, a malaria screening post in Guyana, Africa, and a rhino game conservation project in Namibia, Africa.

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