By: Dr Julie Schell BSc(Hons), DVM, CVA, CVCHM, CVC
Halloween is an excellent time to consider treats for pets, however, healthy nutrition can and should be considered year round. Its exciting to help your pet develop optimal health with the use of food. In addition to veterinary care, outdoor exercise, grooming, tooth brushing, and the psychological attention and comforts (aka TLC or tender loving care), proper nutrition can help pets live longer, happier lives! Correct balance quality of nutrients as well quantity has been proven in scientific research to promote longevity. It has even been discovered that pets who are kept at normal to slightly below normal weights live much longer than pets who are overweight.
Lets discuss this important topic of healthy eating. The easiest way to ensure that your dog receives balanced and nutritious diet is by discussing your pet’s needs with your veterinarian and letting them help you chooses a commercially prepared veterinary diet. These companies, such as www.prescriptiondiet.com are dedicated to nutrigenomics, which is using food as therapy and optimal maintenance of pet’s health. So many times over I have witnesses the beneficial effects of improving pet’s nutrition.
For people who have the time and energy to home make their pet’s food from scratch, there are several very reputable resources to help guide you through this. These people are veterinary nutritionists who have studied and developed balanced recipes that you can use at home. One of my favourites is www.completeandbalanced.com and another is www.petdiets.com. Along with the help of your veterinarian, you can choose the best recipes for your pets. Most people will make the recipe in large batches once or twice per month and freeze it into individual feeding sizes for ease of use.
As for feeding raw meats, I do not recommend this as there are several documented dangers including salmonella poisonings. Did you know that Salmonella can survive a dishwashing cycle? I recommend cooking the meats, but raw fruits and vegetables are safe to feed.
Feeding treats to pets is fun and if in proper amounts and qualities, it will not cause obesity. On days that your pet is receiving more treats, then level of food should be decreased. There are commercially prepared healthy treats for pets such as http://www.royalcanin.ca/index.php/Veterinary-Exclusive-Diets/Veterinary-Exclusive-Cat-Diets/Medi-Treats and http://www.hillspet.com/products/pd-canine-treats-treats.html.
Other options are healthy, safe fruits and vegetables. Although cats are carnivores and cannot tolerate large volumes of vegetables, some enjoy eating treats like canned plain pumpkin or cooked squash. Dogs, being omnivores, can easily digest meats, grains, fruits and vegetables. It is important to avoid certain items however that can be dangerous including raisins, grapes, chocolate, coffee, alcoholic beverages, onions, avocados, macadamia nuts and walnuts, which can injure the kidneys, liver and red blood cells. Giving your dog a corn on the cob is extremely dangerous as it can be easily lodged in the intestines or stomach and cause death. Corn can be fed as long as it is first removed from the cob. Be certain to prevent access to garbage as dogs will definitely seek out and eat dangerous items. If you suspect that your pet has eaten something dangerous, call your veterinarian immediately.
Healthy options that dogs often enjoy include carrots, watermelon, cantaloupe, honey dew melon, apples, squash, yam, oranges, celery, Brussels sprouts, crushed almonds. Sometimes cooking the vegetable makes them more likely to want to eat it. I do not recommend feeding whole almonds as one patient of mine ate one and it needed surgical removal after it was trapped in the intestines. Bones should be avoided because they will break teeth.
For pets who are prone to developing calcium oxalate crystals or stones in their bladder, avoid feeding oxalate rich vegetables such as apples, carrots, spinach, broccoli as there is a theoretical suggestion that these types of oxalate-rich foods may contribute to stone or crystal formation in their bladder. There are also genetic and lifestyle predispositions however. Pets who are ‘stone and crystal formers’ should be encouraged to drink lots of water (add water to their food, offer ice cubes as treats, etc), and be let outside often and given lots of exercise to improve frequent urination and proper circulation. Feeding fruits and vegetables that are water rich but low in oxalate is recommended, such as plumbs, melons, cauliflower, and green peas.
According to TCVM (Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine) pets who are prone to ‘Dampness diseases’ such as obesity, bladder stones, moist skin eruptions and tumours should not be feed foods that can lead to ‘Dampening’ such as roasted peanuts (peanut butter), bananas, dairy products, concentrated fruit juices (like tomato juice, or frozen orange juice from concentrate), and beer (or any other alcoholic beverage).
Also according to TCVM (Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine), it is very healthy for pets to be given green tea. There are many anti-cancer, anti-oxidant, glucose levelling and so many other benefits known to humans who drink green tea (check out: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2855614/?tool=pmcentrez ) and now many of the TCVM traditionalists and veterinary herbalists recommend including this in your pet’s diet. Green tea comes in decaffeinated varieties, which is preferred for pets, however if you steep the green tea in cool water rather than hot, then not as much caffeine will be present. the usual recipe is to steep 1 green tea bag in 250ml water for 5 minutes, then let it cool. It can stay fresh in the fridge for 3 days. Large dogs can have up to 1 to 1.5 cups day, medium sized dogs 3/4 cup, and small dogs 1/2 cup and cats 1 to 3 tablespoons daily. It can be mixed into their regular food. Some animals like the taste so much they will drink it plain in a bowl!
For more information about healthy nutrition, definitely contact your veterinarian and check out resources such as www.hillspet.com and www.bowbottomvet.com