Provide your furry companion with the best possible care; try our nutritional tips for a healthy and happy pet
For hundreds of years, pets have steadily become the cornerstone of many family structures—particularly cats and dogs. We have allowed these furry critters into our homes and into our hearts.
When it comes to diet, pets require a similar framework to humans in order to stay healthy. Providing them with a nutritional regime will vastly benefit their strength and growth. Cats and dogs require food that is appropriate for their age, size and breed. Meals should consistently include a mixture of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water. In relation to the main food groups, cats and dogs will have differing requirements; read on for a full breakdown.
Protein is the core of all animal nutrition—both cats and dogs rely on it. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they are adapted to a diet of eating flesh from other animals. Consequently, they require a high-protein diet and cannot be vegetarian. Protein supplies essential amino acids, helping pets to manufacture antibodies, enzymes and restore tissues. It is recommended that dogs consume slightly less protein than cats—around 18 percent should contribute to their daily allowance. Pets can obtain protein from meat, fish, eggs and some vegetables.
Fat is extremely important in any pet’s nutritional regime and should be consumed in moderate proportions. It acts as a concentrated source of energy and aids in vitamin absorption and metabolic regulation. After protein, fat makes up a large percentage of a pet’s recommended daily diet. The majority of fat is obtained through meat, which contains important fatty acids such as omega 3 and omega 6. Fat provides all creatures with much-needed insulation and delivers a shiny coat. If fat levels are restricted in dogs, they can develop dry skin or a weak immune system. When buying pet food, check the label to make sure the fats included are being sourced from animal fat or oils from plants.
The feline diet should naturally be a low carbohydrate diet; cats don’t produce the adequate enzymes to digest this food group properly. Their lack of salivary amylase means that breaking down starchy compounds like rice or grains is difficult—these should therefore be excluded from their diet or only provided in small doses. Dogs do not have as much difficulty digesting carbohydrates, but there are opposing views as to whether or not dogs actually need them. While the pet community is divided, most sources report that some levels are useful for delivering fibre to the body. However, carbohydrates shouldn’t be your canine’s main source of energy—this should come from protein and fat.
Vitamins and minerals
Vitamins assist with an array of vital bodily functions. Each vitamin has its own part to play in the upkeep of your pet’s vision, healing capabilities and nervous system. Vital compounds include vitamin A, B, B1, B12, D, E and K. A sufficient supply of minerals will also ensure your cat or dog develops strong teeth and bones. Important minerals include calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and sodium. Liver, kidney, vegetables, fruit and yeast are all good sources of nutrients.
Along with providing hydration, water also transports nutrients throughout the body and aids in digestion. Cats obtain most of their hydration through their food and naturally have a low drive for thirst. Dry food products are notoriously lacking in water—steer away from making these their primary source of sustenance. Cats reared solely on dry food have been known to develop urinary problems. As a rule of thumb, dogs should consume one ounce of water per pound of body weight per day. Always keep a bowl of clean water accessible to your pet at all times.
Treat your pet
Treats should make up no more than 10 percent of your pet’s daily calories. While it can be tempting to give your cat or dog table scraps, try to avoid doing this. The seasonings and salt content of human meals are usually inappropriate and can upset your pet’s stomach. If you want to reward your furry companion with something special, why not make your own treats? Try our nutritious homemade liver snaps—for happy cats and dogs:
- Select a high quality liver; preferably organic—beef liver usually works well. Start by sautéing the liver in a tiny bit of oil.
- Cook through until there is no pink showing in the centre. Once cooked, allow the liver to cool and cut into thin slices (as thin as possible).
- Spread out the slices on a non-stick baking tray and cook for two to three hours—or until dry and crispy.