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What is Good Nutrition for Domestic Animals?
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Animals which are fed a healthy balanced diet will generally retain optimum health. Those that are not are more likely to succumb to diseases such as arthritis and diabetes amongst many others. Improved health is maintained by a healthy and active immune system, protecting the animal from disease. In nature, animals feed from a variety of fresh food sources, unfortunately we cannot replicate this diet for our domestic animals and therefore we need to supply the next best thing.
Avoid sugar in your pet’s diet. It not only leads to teeth decay and obesity but reduces the lime minerals in the body. Be careful when giving bones to dogs. Some experts recommend giving raw marrow bones to dogs, however, even these have been known to cause punctures to the digestive tract of small dogs.
The major components of animal (and human) diets are carbohydrates and protein. Other components include fats and vitamins and minerals. In an ideal situation, foods would retain their vitamins and minerals, however, due to the nature of current agricultural practices and the heat treatment of processed animal foods this is not the case.
Carbohydrates provide energy for physical activity and help to maintain healthy organ function.
Animals that are fed low-carbohydrate diets tend to suffer the short-term effects of constipation. More significantly in the long-term it is thought that a deficiency in carbohydrates can lead to heart disease, a higher chance of cancer and increased pressure on the kidneys.
Carbohydrates are best provided through whole grains in the diet. According to standards in the United States, carbohydrates can constitute over half of the diet of a dog or cat (based on dry weight). This standard may vary between countries.
Excellent sources of carbohydrates in the diet include:
- Rolled Barley
- Fresh wheatgerm
- Cooked brown rice
Avoid empty-calorie sources of carbohydrates such as sugar, propylene glycol and corn syrup.
Protein is essential for the growth and development of body tissue.
For many pets, meat is a natural and major component of their diet. It is highest in protein and is also rich in other nutrients. Fresh meat is the best for dogs and cats as it retains its protein and nutrients. Protein is also available to animals through legumes, some grains and dairy products. However, protein does not necessarily have to constitute a major part of an animal’s diet. When grains are combined, the effectiveness of the protein contained can be greatly enhanced due to the greater balance of amino acids.
Protein cannot be stored in the body, therefore, providing high quality protein in the diet is important
Good sources of protein include:
- Meat – especially rabbit
- Fish – avoid larger predatory fish as the flesh can be high in heavy metals
- Cheese, Yoghurt or Sour Cream – avoid cow’s milk
- Goats Milk for puppies
- Eggs – yolk. Excessive amounts of egg white can inhibit trypsin in the gut (which is responsible for breaking down protein).
Functions of Protein:
- Production of meat, milk and eggs
- Build up of muscle tissue
- Formation of internal secretions, hair, horns
These are the most concentrated source of energy in the diet. Fats carry fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E and K. Fats make calcium more readily-available to the body by helping with the absorption of vitamin D. They also assist to convert carotene to vitamin A. Fats insulate the major organs and assist with maintaining body heat. They are also believed to help treat atopic dermatitis, kidney disease, high cholesterol and arthritis. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are the most beneficial fats to pet health.
Good sources of Fats and Lipids include:
- Fish oil – provides both EPA and DHA which can be given as a supplement for pets with atopic dermatitis
- Vegetable oil – very good source of linoleic acid and unsaturated fatty acids, and
- Poultry fat
Minerals are essential to the health of animals and assist with the absorption of vitamins. It is important to consult a veterinary expert before supplementing an animal’s diet to ensure that the maximum concentration is not exceeded. If the required amount is exceeded, toxic poisoning may occur.
If the mineral intake of an animal is correct, there should be little need for vitamin supplements. The most common reason for a vitamin deficiency is a lack of iodine in the diet. Iodine helps the thyroid gland to function properly which allows the body to properly synthesise vitamins.
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