What you feed your pets impacts their health

What you feed your pets is not a decision to be made lightly, because what they put into their tummies now will impact their health in the future. The goal is to feed well so they live well.

We get that belts are tighter now more than ever and that pet food can take a significant chunk out of your monthly budget but abandoning your usual kibble in favour of cheaper, lower quality brands may not be the smartest option right now. Here’s why:

What you feed your pets: the health risks

Food plays a significant role in your pet’s immune system, his bones and growth, and the health of his organs. Feed him poor quality food and you increase the risk of diseases and ailments like skin allergies, bladder stones and growth abnormalities. Skin allergies, for example, are often food-related and the more your pet scratches the more susceptible he becomes to secondary bacterial infections which in turn, lead to a severe skin infection known as a ‘hot spot’. This can be very frustrating for an owner to treat.

Many of the cheaper animal foods save on manufacturing costs by using poorer quality proteins, too few vitamins and an incorrect balance of minerals. Too much of a particular mineral can lead to the formation of bladder stones, or excessive and irregular bone growth and joint disease. Animal protein, especially chicken, is always a better choice for pets yet many cheaper brands use plant-based proteins like soya. Low quality proteins contribute to poor muscle development, stunted growth and often play a role in kidney failure. Maize is less digestible than rice and can lead to obesity.

What you feed your pets is influenced by age and breed

Like humans, our pets’ nutritional needs change as they age. Puppies and kittens have very different nutritional needs from adult pets, and seniors who are at increased risk of arthritis need to protect their ageing bones. Food can help.

Puppies raised on low quality, incorrectly-formulated diets often suffer from abnormal growth, severe skin allergies and early organ failure and have a low life expectancy.

Cats are at risk of bladder and kidney stones due to incorrect mineral balances in cheaper foods, and also to food allergies.

Large breed dogs have their own special requirements. If you have a large breed puppy, for example, its food should not contain too much calcium as this may predispose him to excessive and irregular bone growth and joint disease.  That’s one of the reasons why large breed puppies should not be fed on small to medium breed puppy food. Conversely, large breed puppies need more high-quality proteins to ensure the development of strong and healthy muscles with the minimum of excessive body fat.

What’s in a quality diet?

The quality of pet food is essentially determined by the formulation, the raw materials used, the additives included and by the quality and reliability of manufacture. How much and what kind of protein, starch and fat is included in a food are the main determinants when it comes to quality. The quality and number of vitamins, minerals and trace elements is also very important.

Nutraceuticals are an added health bonus, aiding in the prevention of certain diseases and health-related conditions and are especially important in large breed puppies for healthy joint development and to stimulate the immune system to prevent juvenile viral diseases.

What you put in is what you get out

Nobody enjoys a lawn covered in large mounds of poop and one of the biggest advantages of premium quality food is the size and frequency of stools. Your pooch absorbs more so he poops less. Cheaper brands mean larger volume of stool containing large amounts of undigested material.

Weigh your options

More than half of South Africa’s pets are overweight and much of that is attributed to what they eat. Overweight pets are at higher risk of arthritis, bladder problems, cancer, skin ailments and heart disease but pets that are the correct weight live 2,5 years longer on average than overweight pets.

The higher the quality of food, the smaller the portions needed to satisfy your pet’s appetite and his health needs.

We know it’s really tough to keep a healthy household budget right now but if you can’t afford the best food indefinitely, try at least for the first year of your pet’s life as the solid foundation good food builds in a growing pet will help to prevent illness in later years. And with illness, comes pain and heartache and vet’s bills.