Pet Tips

Dogs are Extraordinary, Feed them Accordingly

Are you considering getting a puppy or do you already own a dog? You’ve done some research into diets and may be feeding a particular brand, but are you really up to speed the dietary requirements for your dog and why you should be reading labels more carefully? Let”s simplify your dog’s dietary needs…..

It is widely known that dogs do better if fed animal protein instead of vegetable protein. As such, when choosing a dog food, you should be looking for high quality, animal-based protein such as chicken or lamb making up an appropriate part of the diet. This is integral for every dog’s lifestyle and lifestage and is important for overall health, muscle development and joint support. What is important, is to feed a complete and balanced diet where all ingredients are combines to give optimal nutrition to your dog. This includes moderate fermentable fibre for intestinal health and high or low fats, depending on weight loss or high energy needs. This is the basic groundwork for an extraordinary dog, but be sure and read the ingredients list carefully in order to make informed decisions on the correct diet for your dog.

Compare labels…. When reading labels, the most important ingredient to look out for are proteins, fats and carbohydrates (see table for sources of these key nutrients). The label should always have protein listed near the top, as ingredients are listed from highest to lowest levels and it’s important to have more animal-based proteins listed high up and preferably first.

Did you know that up to 30% of daily dietary protein is used to maintain healthy skin and coat? We often see the quality of protein source in a dog food reflect in a shiny, healthy, soft coat. Fats are important energy sources and are also sources for good skin and coat quality.

High quality, animal protein diets also require a smaller daily intake (dependent on dog size) and better nutrient absorption by the body with smaller, firmer stools.

Sources of nutrients are tabled here for easy reference when you read your labels:

  • Animal proteins: Chicken, egg, fish and lamb
  • Fats: Omega-6 fats come from animal fats and plant oils. Omega-3 fats come from fish oil, fish meal and flax
  • Carbohydrates: Rice, wheat, barley, corn and sorghum

Remember that not all protein are the same and not all corn ingredients are used as a source of carbohydrates. Corn gluten is often seen on pet food labels and this is a common vegetable protein source.

In looking for value for money when it comes to pet food, always buy the best you can afford because your pets are what they eat.

(Courtesy of SA Pet Pages, Autumn 2015 #22)

Annual Health Checks

Because pets age so rapidly, major health changes can occur in a short amount of time. Minor problems can often go unnoticed at home, until they become more serious. Most problems can be treated more successfully (and more cheaply) if they are recognized early. The risk of cancer, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, heart disease and other serious conditions all increase with your pet’s age. Annual health checks can help your veterinarians diagnose, treat or even prevent problems before they become life-threatening.

Your vet will:

  • Check for early signs of disease.
  • Make sure teeth, skin, eyes and ears are healthy
  • Update life-saving vaccinations

The examination will generally cover the following areas:

  • Teeth & mouth
  • eyes
  • ears
  • skin
  • feet/nails
  • lymph nodes
  • bones/joints
  • heart & lungs
  • abdomen
  • genitals

They’re also a great opportunity to ask us about pet nutrition, pet behaviour and other issues.

Remember that older pets or those with chronic health problems will need to be checked more often!

Fleas in Winter

Fleas are active and reproduce year-round (contrary to popular belief) but all life processes are slowed by various degrees of cold weather. The cooler and drier fall weather brings a reduction in the number of household fleas. However, house pets usually maintain small flea populations throughout the winter, with the numbers increasing slowly in the spring and exploding in mid-to-late summer. You can treat the dog every 6-8 weeks with topical repellents instead of every 4 weeks in the middle of winter i.e. apply the flea product now and then only again in 6 weeks’ time.
Ask your veterinarian about the oral parasiticide that delivers up to 12 weeks of protection against ticks and fleas!

Early Detection of Cancer

If cancer is detected early it can be treated more effectively, so it’s important to check your pet regularly for the 10 Early Warning Signs as recommended by the Veterinary Cancer Society:

  1. Swollen lymph nodes
  2. An enlarging or changing lump
  3. Abdominal distension
  4. Chronic weight loss
  5. Chronic vomiting or diarrhoea
  6. Unexplained bleeding
  7. Cough
  8. Lameness
  9. Straining to urinate
  10. Oral odour

If your pet has any of these early warning signs, you should take him or her to your veterinarian as soon as possible for a more complete examination.