03.Pet diet: Q&A
Should cats and dogs eat the same food?
No. Cats are carnivores and dogs are generally thought to be omnivores. Cats need higher levels of protein and fat from meat than dogs do and can't use vegetable sources to make vitamin A, so must get it from meat. They're also sensitive to thiamine, taurine and arginine deficiencies. And cats are less able to process carbohydrates due to the shorter length of their long intestine.
Is milk bad for dogs and cats?
Dogs and cats don't need milk as they get their calcium from bones and pet food, but if your pet likes drinking milk, that's fine. Some pets (like some humans) can't tolerate milk and may suffer from diarrhoea. Special reduced-lactose cat and dog milks are available but they're expensive and usually unnecessary.
Why do dogs and cats eat grass?
Nobody knows for sure, but it's believed that some dogs and cats chew grass when they feel nauseous. Others may do it out of boredom or they may just like it. Eating grass isn't harmful and is no cause for alarm.
Do cats and dogs need a variety of foods?
Animals are mostly concerned about meeting their energy needs rather than variety. But if you do feed your pet the same thing every day you may find them reluctant to eat anything else. So variety could be the best approach to avoid creating problems for yourself.
Do older and younger pets need special foods?
In dietary terms, AAFCO recognises that animals go through three life stages. The first is growth: kittens and puppies have extra nutrient needs and special food is recommended. The second is when a mother is nursing: special foods are recommended for a lactating dog or cat. The third stage is simply adulthood: animals need to maintain their 'complete and balanced' nutrient intake. In most cases, older pets usually don't need special foods.
Should dogs and cats be fed once a day?
- Once a day is fine for most dogs and cats.
- Most cats can eat when they like but if you leave food out for dogs and greedy cats, they're likely to overeat.
- Puppies should be allowed to eat in a short time period until full, two or three times a day. If there's any sign of obesity in a pup, reduce it's food intake.
- Small breeds and working, pregnant or lactating dogs need to be fed smaller amounts, more often, as do kittens and lactating cats.
Does dry cat food cause urinary tract infection?
It used to, but manufacturers have altered the pH level of their formulations. Cats fed on a well-formulated dry-food diet don't run a higher risk of urinary tract disease if they're drinking enough water. If your cat doesn't, it's a good idea to feed it a canned-food diet, which has a higher water content.
Give 'em a bone
However, a link has been made between a soft-food diet and gum disease, which is common in dogs and cats. Most gum disease starts with a build-up of plaque on the teeth - the result of eating a soft-food diet. Before commercial pet foods were available though, dogs and cats developed tooth disease due to the low calcium-content of their meat-based diets.
Periodontal disease, the most common form of gum disease, destroys the gums and tissue that supports the teeth and has also been associated with liver, kidney and heart disease. While a study published in the Journal of Nutrition claims daily brushing of your pet's teeth is the most effective prevention, an easier way is to supplement your pet's diet with a regular supply of bones.
Bones require considerable gnawing and chewing, which scrapes their teeth and prevents the build-up of plaque. Giving your cat or small dog raw chicken wings and a bigger dog meaty bones several times a week will benefit their dental hygiene tremendously.
But never give pets cooked bones as they can splinter and get stuck either in the mouth or in the digestive system.
There are also some dry pet foods that make the claims to aid dental health, such as ROYAL CANIN Oral Sensitive range. It's packet says "kibble shape and flexible texture produce a mechanical brushing effect," but these specialised products are more expensive.