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dog eating from bowl

Uncovering the top 10 myths about feeding your pet

1.    If my pet doesn’t eat their food it means they’re bored of it

Pets don’t get bored of food in the same way that we might as they have fewer taste buds and so do not crave variety.  Some pets are fussier than others though so you may need to try different foods to find one that they prefer.  Cats can be particularly fussy especially as they get older.  Sometimes this is actually due to an underlying health problem affecting their appetite or sense of smell.

If your pets appetite suddenly changes then get them checked by your vet.  Sometimes we make our pets fussy.  If they don’t eat their food we give them something nicer.  They then learn that if they don’t eat their dry food something better will normally come along.  If your healthy pet doesn’t eat then it normally means they are not hungry so just take up their food and offer it again later.

2.    It’s good to feed dogs bones

Cooked bones can be very harmful to your dog.  Once bones are cooked they become very brittle, meaning sharp fragments will often break off. If your dog swallows one of these fragments they can become lodged in the intestines causing obstruction.  In severe cases they can pierce the intestines and this can lead to the death of your pet if left untreated.

3.    It’s ok to give my pet all kinds of left overs

Left overs are ok as long as you know what you are feeding your pet and you are closely watching their weight. Giving your pet the left over stew will certainly save on food waste and most dogs and cats will be very happy to eat it.  However if you use a lot of garlic or onions in your cooking then beware as this can lead to a life threatening anaemia. As a result we recommend that you do not feed garlic and onion heavy food to your pets. Food containing grapes and raisins should also be avoided as they can cause kidney failure.  High fat foods can cause pancreatitis in dogs and lots of milk based products can cause diarrhoea in cats.

4.    My pet is begging they must be hungry

Begging is actually a conditioned reflex that we have inadvertently trained our pets to do.  If your dog stares up at you and drools while you are eating, or your cat constantly rubs against your legs and meows then they have likely learned that this behaviour will result in something tasty coming their way.  Although it’s hard, ignoring this behaviour will mean that it will stop as your pet is no longer being rewarded for it.  This will require a lot of will power on your part as animals generally don’t give up easily!  Feeding our pets human food between meals vastly increases the likelihood that they will become over weight and fat. These pets live on average 2 years less than their healthy counterparts.

5.    A food is labelled as hypoallergenic so it must be healthier for my pet

Food companies will often call a food ‘hypoallergenic’ if it does not contain wheat.  Some pets can certainly be allergic to wheat but it is not the only thing.  Dogs and cats that have food allergies or intolerances can be allergic to a range of ingredients, including chicken, which a lot of hypoallergenic diets contain. 

6.    I have to feed my pet exactly what it says on the label

The recommended daily feeding requirements stated on packaging are based on an average for the weight of the animal and the animal having an average activity level. If you have a very lazy pet or one that does not get much exercise then you will likely have to feed them less.  Just like humans, animals differ in how quickly they can metabolise their food.  Labradors in particular tend to have a slow metabolic weight meaning that they will need to eat a lot less than another dog weighing the same.  This coupled with the fact that Labradors are always hungry means that they have an increased chance of becoming overweight.

7.    Dry food is better for my pets teeth

Our pet’s teeth are pointed and are designed to bite, tear and chew meat.  If they eat dry kibble they will either swallow it whole or the kibble will shatter, so if there is plaque on the teeth it will be unaffected.  Some pets are just prone to plaque build-up and the best way to reduce it is by giving regular chews and by brushing their teeth.  Some pets will require regular dental treatment to remove excess plaque.  The exception to this is that there are dry diets which have been specially formulated so that the biscuit doesn’t shatter when your pet eats them and instead the tooth sinks into the biscuit and will scrape off any soft plaque.

8.    I’m feeding a complete food because that’s all my pet needs

It is not true that one diet suits all.  All our pets are different and some will have different dietary requirements.  If your pets coat is dull and dry, or they are itchy or suffer from chronic diarrhoea it may be because their diet does not suit them.  Scurfy skin (e.g. dandruff) can often be improved by adding in an essential fatty acid supplement such as Yumega Itchy Dog Plus.  Try a change of diet with animals that have chronic diarrhoea, but check the ingredients and try a food that has different ingredients to the one that your pet is already on.

9.    Feeding dry food can cause kidney problems in cats

Kidney disease is very common in older cats.  This is because they are living longer and their genetics predispose them to it.  Feeding dry food will not result in kidney failure.  However if your cat does start showing signs of reduced kidney function your vet will recommend a change of diet.  Feeding cats on special kidney diets which are lower in phosphorous and protein can prolong their life by up to two years.  These can be wet or dry.

10.    The food I buy is very expensive it must be good quality

This is often true but is not necessarily the case.  The best way to know if a food is good quality is to look at the ingredients list.  Cheaper food often contain more cereals, which unfortunately are contributing to the high level of obesity in our pets.  The ingredients on the back of a food packet are listed in order of quantity.  Higher quality foods will have meat listed first and this would ideally be 100% meat rather than ‘meal’.  Some diets market themselves as good for joints and will have glucosamine added to them.  Again look at the quantities.  Often the levels are too low to make a therapeutic difference.

If you are at all worried about what to feed your cat or dog, then please ask our expert vet for free vet advice.