Pet Nutrition

Small Creatures Pet Clinic

Pet nutrition is of the utmost importance when caring for your animal. At Small Creatures Pet Clinic, your Langley animal care specialists, we want to make sure that your pet’s wellness is at the forefront of your mind! Some people might think the task of trimming down an animal’s weight is impossible, stressful, and just plain irritating. From the cat that won’t stop howling through the night for more food, to the one you are constantly tripping over because it will not let you out of its sight in hopes of a little extra treats—it’s a daunting task. At Small Creatures Pet Clinic, we always suggest cutting down the amount of food given, trying a lower calorie food, increasing exercise, and stopping all extra treats. Sometimes this approach works; sometimes not. Bringing weight down on a cat takes a lot of patience and dedication from the owners. When and what to feed is up to the owners. fatcat One of our successful inspirational stories is from cat Maddy Jones. She started coming to Small Creatures Pet Clinic in July of 2011 at a weight of 13.4 lbs. Throughout the years, Maddy continued to slowly creep up in weight and had reached 20 lbs by July of 2013. Her owners noticed that she would sleep more, play less, and was just not as happy. During a physical exam, we decided to take Maddy on, helping her and her owners bring her weight down. One of the staff members, along with a consultant at Medi-Cal/Royal Canin, put Maddy on a strict diet of Calorie Control Canned food, along with a minimal amount of dry food. Maddy’s owners brought her to the clinic every three weeks for weighing and to make sure she was always on track. Right away we saw results! Six months into the diet, Maddy had come down to 16 lbs! During this time, we didn’t want Maddy to lose weight too quickly, since it can cause some serious health issues in cats. For that reason, we occasionally added a bit more caloric intake, when needed. Fast forward to April 2014—Maddy was down to 13.8 lbs! Needless to say, Maddy’s owners say she’s a brand new cat; much more playful, energetic, and happy. Maddy still has a few more pounds to go, but in no time she will reach her goal weight and will be placed on a diet to maintain it.

Discover the answers to some commonly asked questions about pet nutrition:

Are diets available through veterinary hospitals essentially the same as pet food sold elsewhere?
No, and labels can be deceptive. The “Guaranteed Analysis” you may see on the label is a quantitative analysis performed in a laboratory—however, it tells us nothing about ingredient quality. Shoe leather, hair, feathers, beaks, and chicken feet would be high in crude protein but would not be healthful choices for your pet. An excellent example is poultry meal, a common ingredient. The cost of top-grade chicken meal is significantly higher than the cost of regular poultry meal—and the digestibility and nutrients provided to your pet are significantly better. You cannot determine the quality of an ingredient based solely on label information.

If I can’t compare food based on labels, how can I decide what’s best for my pet?
Talk to our Langley vet clinic! Nutrition is an important part of keeping your pet as healthy as possible. We can recommend what is most appropriate for your individual pet. To best evaluate the diet we have recommended, your pet needs to stick to it for about eight weeks. Transition your pet slowly onto the diet (over a week or so), and note how much your pet enjoys each meal. Measure the amount of food carefully, and be prepared to adjust the amount fed over three to four weeks (high quality = less food required). Note your animal’s attitude over two months—a happier and more playful pet is a typical comment that we hear. Watch for smaller stool volume, as well as improvements in skin and coat quality. Reduced dandruff, shinier, more lustrous coats, and fewer skin irritations are what you have to look forward to with excellent nutrition.

I’ve heard that the first ingredient in a diet should be meat. Is this true?
Not necessarily! Quality protein sources can have a significant benefit over quantity. Ingredients are listed in order of decreasing weight (prior to processing). So, for example, whole chicken may be first on the list, but that is by weight—and 70% of that weight is water, which evaporates in the cooking process for dry diets. In addition, the breakdown of the product groups can be misleading, i.e. corn starch, zea mays, corn bran, corn gluten, and corn. They might all be added as separate weights, lowering their order in the ingredient list. However, If you added them up (they’re all corn!), they would rise to the top of the ingredient list. Be careful about falling into the “more is better” trap. Higher amounts of poor-quality proteins are not as beneficial to your pet as the appropriate amounts of high-quality protein! Additionally, several different protein sources may actually result in a better variety of amino acids for your pet’s benefit. The diets we recommend focus on nutrient delivery, not simply ingredients.

Should I avoid diets with corn as the first ingredient?
This is a misperception. High-quality corn, properly cooked, provides a digestibility greater than 80%, while lower grade corn will be significantly less digestible. Corn is an excellent carbohydrate (energy) source in dry diets and helps form the kibble. What is important is the combination of high-quality ingredients that make up the TOTAL diet!

Why do veterinarians offer specific diets?
Veterinarians used to mainly treat disease. Now, our approach focuses much more on health care, a total approach that includes veterinary care, exercise, and nutrition. Working with our clients on the “circle of health” will help prevent disease and improve quality of life and longevity for pets. Nutrition plays a key role in our approach. It is our responsibility to assure our clients that the diets we recommend are extensively researched and monitored, incorporate unique ingredients, and are of exceptional quality. We see tremendous improvements with these diets. The regular interactions you have with our hospital staff allow us to monitor and ensure your pet’s optimal health and provide you with opportunities to ask questions. It is entirely probable that your pet may eat six or seven different diets over the course of his or her lifetime to best address different life stages and health needs. It is our goal to proactively address these changes and needs to help your pet achieve his or her peak potential.

What about price?
“Diets available through veterinary hospitals seem to be significantly higher in cost than other pet foods I can buy.” – pet owner We know it can certainly look that way. Veterinary diets use high-quality ingredients that provide exceptional nutrition. Typically, you will feed your pet a smaller amount of food, so your bag of veterinary diet will last longer, making the cost per day of a high-quality veterinary diet comparable to a grocery store brand.

Many commercially available cat foods now advertise that they will help prevent urinary tract problems. Why wouldn’t I use one of those?
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) continues to be a concern for cats. We now know, through ongoing research efforts, that FLUID is not a simple disease caused by a singular factor such as ash content. There are a number of disorders that make up this complex disease, including idiopathic cystitis (in 70% of cats with FLUTD), bacterial infections, and crystals and stones (struvite, oxalate, urate, etc.). It is increasingly important that Small Creatures Pet Clinic make dietary recommendations and changes on an individual cat basis. Physical exam findings, laboratory results, environmental considerations, age of cat and body condition all impact diet choice. As your pet’s health care provider, we can monitor diet influences and make appropriate changes and recommendations to best meet your cat’s needs.

What about raw food?
Raw foods (particularly meat and eggs) are not recommended. Food poisoning, parasitic infection, and nutrient deficiencies are all potential outcomes of feeding raw food. Many of the microorganisms present in raw meat can be passed on to people. These present a very real hazard to the health of your family. Bones, both raw and cooked, are not safe for your pet. They can damage teeth and cause obstruction in the mouth, throat, stomach and gastrointestinal tract in both dogs and cats. A raw food diet can result in improper bone development, where normal growth is not supported. The outcome can be pain, compromised mobility, and poor quality of life. There are simply too many risks associated with raw food diets for us to support their use.

Why choose dry vs. canned, and what about flavours?
Dry diets are more economical and are easier to store and keep fresh. Canned diets tend to be more palatable for the fussy eater. We may recommend canned diets to help increase water intake for pets with certain medical conditions. Combining a little bit of canned food with some dry food is a popular way to feed pets. Most pets, once accustomed to and thriving on an excellent diet, do not require change.

Are organic or natural foods safer?
Not necessarily. “Natural” is defined under AAFCO as “any ingredient which has not been chemically altered.” However, even added vitamins and minerals, which are essential to a balanced diet, would result in the diet no longer being considered “natural.” Organic food regulations are very vague at this time. The term “organic” may be put on the label even if only one ingredient is certified as organic. “Natural” or “organic” ingredients could still be subject to bacterial contamination or mycotoxins produced from moulds and yeasts. This has been documented numerous times, particularly in human foods (e.g. carrot juice, tomatoes, strawberries, beans, peppers, etc.).  

Can’t find the answer you’re looking for? For more frequently asked questions and answers, please contact Small Creatures Pet Clinic.

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