Well-meaning pet owners aren't paying attention to nutrition, vet warns

  • 05/04/2018
Golden Retriever and British cat lying on the floor to eat
Photo credit: Getty / File

Many Kiwi pet owners aren't feeding their furry pals the right food, and some of them don't even realise their pets are unhealthy, a vet warns.

Animates Vetcare Chief Veterinarian Dr Jonathan Robinson told Newshub many pet owners can't tell the difference between a healthy weight and too chunky or what they need to do to ensure their pets remain healthy inside and out.

"Some are [aware of nutrition issues], and some are very proactive... but a lot of people honestly think that food's food and it's not something that's high on their list of things to think about."

Approximately 30 percent of dogs and cats are overweight or obese. Any extra weight that our pets carry can also lead to health problems such as arthritis, diabetes and respiratory issues.

Food composition and texture have a direct influence on oral health and dental issues.

  • Animates Vetcare has clinics across the country who together with staff at Animates stores can help and advise on pet nutrition. All clinics and stores also have pet weighing stations.  Owners can also check out these helpful Pet Talk videos.

Dr Robinson said while many pet owners realise the importance of nutrition for a young pet, they tend to lose focus as an animal gets older, opting for supermarket specials or even worse, snacks and junk food from the table.

"We see animals in middle-age where people think they can go into cruise mode and feed them anything, then paying a price later on, as with you and I," said Dr Robinson.

"It's hard to correct an historic imbalance. If you put on weight, it's a lot harder to get rid of it than if you never put it on."

Not all food is made equal. Expensive doesn't always mean better and the product has to have the right type of nutrition for the animal, its age, breed and lifestyle.

It can even vary within the same breed. For example, a working German Shepherd needs different food to one that lazed around the house.

Well-meaning pet owners aren't paying attention to nutrition, vet warns
Photo credit: Getty / File

"With dogs you've got everything from a Chihuahua to an Irish wolfhound - and they have very specific and very different needs," Dr Robinson said.

"Cats are less diverse than dogs across the breeds, but still have some very specific needs, for instance Maine Coon are large (with the need to control body weight), furry (beware furballs), and can have gum and teeth problems – all of these issues can be addressed with the correct diet."

Dr Robinson said he has a large Maine Coon cat named Mr Fox, whose diet has made a great difference to the life he lives.

Anyone who isn't sure about whether their pet is getting the nutrition they need should talk to their vet, Dr Robinson said.

"Having your animal with you while you're getting that advice is ideal, so the person giving that advice can look at your pet," he said.

"Just like when we weigh ourselves we should also look in the mirror to get perspective as to what the weight means in relation to a body condition score - just as your doctor uses a BMI when discussing your weight.

"For me it's an integral part of any vet consultation. I always look at the pet then ask the owner what they're feeding."

However while he recommends an expert's advice, there are some warning signs people should look out for to make sure their pet is in top shape:

  • Monitor your pet's weight and body condition score
  • Keep an eye on your pet's activity levels - increased levels aren't always healthy, as are decreased levels
  • Watch your pet's appetite and if it increases or decreases
  • Check your pet has a soft and shiny coat, with healthy skin
  • Your pet's eyes should be bright and ears clean
  • Keep an eye on their stool quality and the amount your pet drinks and urinates

"One thing that I emphasise to my clients all the time - young animals should look like healthy teenagers, so they should grow up, before they grow out," Dr Robinson said.

"We get a lot of animals come in where the owners don't think they're over-conditioned, but they plainly are."

This article was created for Animates.