It is important to cater to our pets' nutritional needs, but have you ever wondered what each of the materials listed in nutritional lists are needed for? We here at Pet Food Plus More are here with an article to help you understand these and what they do for your pet.
Firstly, let's take a look at proteins. Proteins are one of the most essential nutritional needs for any animal, especially when they are young, working animals, pregnant, or a lactating mother. Proteins are the essential 'building blocks' of the body - they make up muscle tissue and contain another set of materials named amino acids, which are important for the development of some cells and other important parts of the body, such as the eyes or heart. Herbivorous animals, such as Rabbits, can make their own proteins and amino acids out of the plants they digest, whereas carnivorous animals, such as cats, must consume protein by eating meats, as their bodies do not have the ability to turn plant material into proteins. For example, cats need to consume a protein called Taurine from meat or meat derivatives (all complete cat foods will also contain this), or else they can get serious medical problems, such as a weakened heart or blindness. Dog foods specifically formulated for animals that are young, working, pregnant, or lactating (Such as Master's Eclipse Orange) will pretty much always have a higher amount of protein included, but some foods will include higher protein anyway for those who may be concerned that their pet is not receiving enough.
The next nutrient to consider is fat. Fat gets a bad name due to how an excess of it can cause obesity, but it is a much needed nutrient. Animals need to have some level of body fat for two main reasons - firstly because fat is used as an energy source, and without it animals won't have a lot of energy to keep them going, and secondly to keep them warm when it is cold. Additionally, fat is also important as it is used to make healthy skin and hair, meaning animals that do not get a lot of fat can have unhealthy skin and a poor coat. This means that it is important to get the right balance of fat in your pets diet - not too much or your pet will become obese, but not too little or your pet may suffer from the problems mentioned above. Most pet foods have an adequate amount of fat included, so generally you will not have to worry about supplying it. It is far more likely that your pet may end up getting too much fat and becoming obese. In this situation, it is best to consider why - is your pet getting enough opportunities to exercise? Are you feeding them too much? Maybe they are old and their joints are hurting? If you have tried to address a possible behavioral problem that is causing the obesity and still have not had any success, it is often a good idea to change to a low-fat or obesity management food, such as Hills Digestive Care.
Turning to fiber, this substance is an important facilitator for an animal's health. It isn't technically considered a nutrient, as it is not a substance that is absorbed by the body, but rather fiber is a name for a range of natural indigestible by-products that are present in every type of food. These are important for two reasons; firstly, fiber acts on the intestines of an animal to help insure that all of the nutrients from the digestible parts of the food gets properly absorbed, and secondly because fiber speeds up the rate at which food passes through an animal's digestive system. Animals that do not have enough fiber in their diet may not properly absorb enough of the nutrients that they are consuming, and will absorb these nutrients in unequal amounts. This means that a lack of fiber can lead to a lot of the problems that are present from a lack of any other kind of nutrient! Additionally, animals who do not consume enough fiber will have trouble passing stools or may suffer from diarrhoea. Most foods naturally contain a sufficient amount of fiber, and if the animal is suffering from any symptom explained above it is often best to investigate other possible causes before considering a lack of fiber. However, if you still suspect that your pet may not be getting the fiber it needs, it is best to supplement their food by mixing something with high levels of fiber into their food (we suggest using wheat bran!)
The next important piece of dog nutrition is omega 3 Oil. This nutrient is important to a lot of pets - it is like Taurine with cats as explained in the paragraph about proteins - most pets are unable to produce the nutrients that are contained within omega 3 (known as EPA and DHA) for themselves, and instead need to consume it directly within their diet. These nutrients play an influential role within many aspects of a pet's health, including hair and skin quality, heart conditioning, and joint health. As such, pets suffering from one or more of problems related to these aspects of their health can often be benefited by having a greater amount of omega 3 within their diet. Most reputable complete pet foods will include a sufficient amount of omega 3 to mean that most pets will not need any additional supplements. However, as every pet is different and may suffer from different ailments, it may sometimes be beneficial to add more omega 3 to their diet through the usage of foods with a higher omega 3 content (Such as Fish4dogs dog food) or additional supplements (such as fish4dogs Salmon Oil). Be aware, however, that if your pet is generally fine in regards to the parts of their health mentioned within this paragraph, that it is not advised that you provide any extra Omega 3 for them, as any pet that receives too much of an excess of omega 3 will begin to suffer other health complications, such as thin blood and excessive bleeding.
Next up are vitamins and minerals. Now, both of these, like fiber, are not necessarily their own nutrients, but rather vitamins and minerals are the labels for a large number and variety of nutrients. Each vitamin and mineral is essential for the proper functioning of your pet's body, but they are generally only needed in very small quantities. As has been a trend in this article, you generally won't need to worry about your pet's intake of vitamins and minerals if they are on a complete food diet, but if they are not, or if you have been advised by your vet to feed your pet more of a specific vitamin or mineral, it is often best to seek professional advice, as the types of supplement you will have to give, as well as in what form you should give it, depends a lot upon that specific vitamin or mineral. To give one example, Calcium is a mineral that is important to an animal's bones, keeping them healthy and strong. If your pet doesn't get enough calcium, it can cause a lot of problems in terms of brittle bones or a variety of other possible health problems. One solution would be to seek food, treats, or supplements that would provide extra calcium, such as meat-filled bones.
The final major nutrient your pet may need is carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are essentially sugar molecules that have been joined up to make much bigger molecules, and like fats can provide a lot of energy, though typically spread over a longer period of time. This nutrient is one of the most important ones for us humans, but a typical pet will not actually need to receive too much of them. Typically us humans will have to take in carbohydrates from our diets, however most pets are able to create their own carbohydrates using the proteins they consume from their diet. This means that as long as your pet is receiving enough protein in their diet, you generally do not need to be concerned about their carbohydrate intake. If your pet does need extra carbohydrates for whatever reason, it is often best to feed them on a diet with either dog foods containing starchy vegetables, such as goods high in potato or sweet potato (such as Healthy Paws Adult Wild Rabbit & Pheasant), or by feeding these vegetables directly to them raw.
And that concludes this article into pet nutrition. We hope that you feel that you now have a better understanding of your pet's needs and how to fulfill them, and have found the information useful. If there is anything that you are confused about or have any unanswered questions, feel free to contact us by clicking here and our friendly staff will be more than happy to help you.
Hope to see you in-store again soon.
Henry Jackson, Head of IT at Pet Food Plus More.