WORDS BY CATHERINE HARPER
BAROSSA VETERINARY CLINIC
PET ADVICE WITH CATHERINE
I hesitate to put words to a page to answer this question. It’s controversial and everyone has their opinion, but it is worth discussing.
The pet food industry in Australia has evolved considerably in the last 10 years with significantly more products available and more access through corporate pet stores and online platforms.
Opinions on pet food often mimic quite closely the choices of their human owners with a trend towards gluten or grain free diets, vegetarian diets or raw diets and a general move away from processed products.
These preferences for humans are valid and often necessary but can be dangerous in our furry friends.
Let me provide a few examples:
Recent research has shown that the domestic dog (aka our pets) is highly adapted to process grains as part of the diet due to their long association with humans and the research shows they have up-regulation of a gene that allows them to do this compared to their wolf counterparts. In dogs with food sensitivities, only a small portion of these are related to grains. Most commonly allergies arise to chicken and red meat proteins.
Vegetarian diets can be sustainable for dogs if they are carefully formulated and have enough protein. However, they are extremely dangerous for cats. Cats are obligate carnivores and due to various nuances in their metabolism, must have animal protein in the form of meat as part of their diet on a constant basis. If not provided, the cat will start to break down its own muscles and essentially start to eat itself, leading to significant health issues.
Raw diets, are advertised as being better for the pet and more close to their natural diet can be quite dangerous. It is difficult to formulate a diet that is balanced in all macro and micro nutrients and raw food can be deficient in some of these things, making a complete diet difficult to attain. Furthermore, raw meat carries with it risks associated with disease, including some disease that are zoonotic and can be passed to humans. There is regular research conducted that shows links to raw feeding of pets and disease outbreaks in humans.
So what is the answer? Everyone is entitled to make their own decision, but what I would recommend is that there needs to be a balance.
Commercially produced dry pet foods are not the devil.
The premium products like Royal Canin and Hills have a huge amount of scientific research behind them to support the benefits to pets receiving them.
They include a complete range of nutrients and are balanced to ensure your pet gets exactly what they need for their specific life stage: puppy, kitten, adolescent, ageing animal with specific medical condition.
In my opinion, a registered product from a reputable company should be fed as the main component (70-80%) of any pet’s diet to ensure complete nutrition.
This can then be supplemented with raw foods, mince, veggies to keep it interesting and help support your preferences.
Want to know more ? After some advice? You can reach Catherine via firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website for more information.