DIETS

Trust us for impartial and honest advice – we do not profit from our food sales and know that every owner and every animal is different

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Dogs and cats

A healthy pet starts with a healthy diet and the choice of diets is bewilderingly large. We are happy to help you to select the right diet for your pet and indeed many health problems can be managed with diet alone.

There are a lot of strong opinions about what we should be feeding our pets and we have the benefit of seeing animals fed all manner of different diets and are proud to offer our thoughts from a neutral and unbiased perspective.  The key message really is that there is no one diet or regime that suits every animal and every owner. We are totally independent of any suppliers leaving us free to advise in the best interest of your pet and can can also advise on home cooked or raw diets for those wanting to adopt this approach (see below).

We can supply most ranges of diets including Purina, Hills, Royal Canin, Lily’s Kitchen, Barking Heads, Eukanuba, Burns, James Wellbeloved, Arden Grange, Wafcol plus more and as we sell at cost price we can usually match internet prices so please phone or email to see if we can help.

 

Complete diets

Complete diets (both tinned and dry) are a safe, convenient and practical way to feed your pet.  However they vary greatly in quality and therefore price.  Some of the brands found on the supermarket shelves contain poor quality, highly cooked protein sources (such as ‘meat and animal derivatives’) and a large amount of cheap carbohydrate fillers which are not particularly digestible and can lead to skin and digestive problems.   Generally speaking, the first ingredient by volume should always be whole meat or fish and the higher the percentage the better.  You tend to get what you pay for with complete diets and you can pay anything from £10 to £100 for a 15kg bag of dog food.  With the cheaper diets expect to have a lot more mess to clear up in the garden (or litter tray) and the volume that has to be fed is often a lot greater too so that there is often no real cost difference in the end between the so-called ‘ultra-premium’ diets and the budget ranges.

We now stock the Barking Heads range of natural dog foods as our primary ‘complete’ dog food.  Produced in the UK from only the highest quality ingredients and with bright colours to match our practice we cannot recommend them highly enough. We carry the whole range at heavily discounted prices and if we don’t have the size or variety you want we can have them ordered to the practice for next day delivery.

There are of course many other good quality dry diets available and we are obviously more than happy to advise on these whether they are sourced from us, online or the supermarket.  We can usually supply any make or range and usually at extremely competitive prices so please ask and we will be happy to help.

For animals requiring a ‘prescription diet’ due to specific medical problems we often use the Purina Veterinary Diet range as the diets seem to be both effective and highly palatable.  However we can also obtain diets made by Royal Canin, Hills and Eukanuba as well.  These rather boring-looking veterinary diets may not seem very illustrious but they are the only ones that have been proven to alter the course of potentially life threatening diseases such as kidney failure, diabetes, kidney stones, liver disease etc.

We strongly discourage the feeding of cereal based dry ‘mixers’ as these are nutritionally very poor and can lead to obesity.

Raw diets and home prepared diets

There has been increasing recognition of the fact that many complete tinned and dry diets are not particularly healthy, with too many manufacturers filling their foods with low quality ingredients to keep prices down.  Many ‘meat and animal derivatives’ are not very digestible and some carbohydrates used as ‘fillers’, though not harmful per se, are fattening if given in excess and can give rise to allergies.  Some manufacturers will try to compensate for the poor palatability of cheaper dried diets by adding a higher salt content.  As a consequence there has been a growing interest in preparing diets at home.

The feeding of raw diets (Biologically Appropriate Raw Feeding/Bones And Raw Food or ‘BARF’ diets for short) has become popular and there are potential health benefits for some animals – particularly if your dog has skin or digestive issues on their existing diet.  As they are more completely digested than some complete diets there is often less waste to clear up and crunching on bones can be be good for dental hygiene.  However it does not suit every animal or every household in view of the implications for hygiene, storage and preparation time.  It is also important to ensure that you feed a balanced diet with the correct proportions of protein, fat, fibre and carbohydrate to suit your dog as well as adequate vitamins and minerals.

There are some excellent local companies who specialise in the provision of raw diets and will happily advise you on their ranges:

It is very important to seek advice on getting the right balance of micro-nutrients such as vitamins and minerals when feeding home prepared diets as small deficiencies can have serious repercussions.  We have seen cases of rickets in dogs for the first time in many years which results from a lack of calcium in the diet and results in a wide range of bone, jaw, skeletal and dental problems.  We have also had deaths of cats fed raw fish which leads to a deficiency in thiamin (vitamin B1) leading to brain damage.

Therefore when looking at the meat/protein component of the diet, including raw bones in the diet (e.g. ‘freeflow’ minced meat of all kinds, whole chicken wings/carcases or whole fish) is important to provide calcium.  Filleted meat does not contain calcium and must only be given alongside a good Calcium supplement or with additional bones.

Any meat should be fed as soon as defrosted and only human-grade meat should be fed as levels of spoilage bacteria such as E.Coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter  are present in higher amounts in lower quality meat that may have not been handled or stored correctly at some stage in the food production chain.  E.Coli toxins from spoiled raw meat have been linked to cases of Alabama Rot in the US though no association of this kind has been made in the more recent UK cases.

Vegetables should also only be fed raw as cooking destroys a lot of the vitamin content.  Vegetables such as spinach, green beans, cabbage, spring greens, green beans, peas, sweetcorn and carrots can all be fed.  Suitable carbohydrate sources include rice, potato (always cooked), sweet potato and pasta.  Wholegrain cereals can also very nutritious for those dogs that do not have intolerances which is much less than actually reported or publicised!

It is worth proving a variety of protein sources (unless your pet has specific allergies or intolerances) and offal, eggs, cottage cheese and chick peas can all be added to the mix. We can supply recipe sheets for raw or home prepared diets if requested though a rough guide by volume is 50% meat/fish, 30% vegetables and 20% carbohydrate.  If your dog is underweight the amount of carbohydrate can be increased and should be reduced (or eliminated entirely) if they are overweight.  For cats the meat/fish content should be increased to 70-80%.  We can also supply you with a powdered vitamin and mineral balancer which can be added to home prepared diets to ensure that deficiencies are avoided – a good commercially available one is Intervet SF-50 powder.  Additional supplements can be added as well for specific conditions e.g. Salmon oil for skin problems.

It is often said that raw and complete diets cannot be fed together but this is not necessarily the case at all. They require the same digestive and absorptive processes and are completely interchangeable – however as with any new diet it is important to make any changes slowly and gradually. For very young and older animals the better quality complete diets are often a little easier to digest and assimilate and there are some dogs with very sensitive stomachs who struggle with raw diets on their own.  Some dogs also lose too much weight on the raw diets in spite of increasing carbohydrate levels.  We have therefore found through experience that many such patients do very well on a combination of raw food with a handful of high-quality kibble as a compromise arrangement to resolve any such issues.  Keeping a little bit of dried kibble in the diet can be useful if you might have to put your dog on a complete diet from time to time due to circumstances or in an emergency situation where raw food may not be available – it will be less of a shock to their digestive system if they are used to a little bit of kibble already.

Remember that animals with specific medical problems e.g.kidney disease, bladder problems are usually better served by complete ‘prescription’ diets designed to meet their needs.

It is also worth mentioning that cooked meat can be fed and it is a good and highly digestible source of protein – cooked chicken breast, egg and white fish fillets are especially good for stomach upsets.  However you would need to give extra calcium and other vitamins and minerals to your pet if fed regularly as filleted meat is lacking in these essential nutrients.  Remember that cooked bone must never as it becomes hardened in the cooking process and can potentially puncture the gastrointestinal tract.

A widely available source of convenient, pre-prepared raw diets made by Natures Menu can be found in many larger outlets and these can make a good introduction to raw feeding for many.

 

 

Rabbits:

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A complete, all-in-one pelleted diet (e.g. Burgess Supa Excel) with plenty of good quality hay (not cheap, dusty supermarket hay) is all rabbits need. Avoid mixed muesli type diets as they encourage ‘selective feeding’ which is where rabbits eat only the tasty, sugary cereal grains and avoid the healthier pellets and fibrous ingredients resulting in severe dental and gut problems. Some additional leafy green veg is fine but avoid fruit and watch for diarrhoea as this can have fatal consequences in rabbits. Branches and chew sticks are useful to keep their teeth worn down as these grow continuously and can become overgrown.

Please phone for more advice and a comprehensive free care sheet provided by the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF), the UK’s largest organisation for rabbit lovers.  We are proud members of RWAF and are one of few local veterinary practices to meet their stringent criteria for inclusion on their rabbit friendly vet list.

Diets made by Burgess and Supreme are amongst the best diets for rabbits as well as other herbivores.

Guinea Pigs:

Guinea Pigs, like most rodents, are less particular in their needs but pelleted diets are still preferable and they have a unique requirement for extra vitamin C in their diet; this will be included in any complete pelleted diet designed for guinea pigs.

Rodents, ferrets, birds, reptiles, exotics, wildlife and other small mammals:

Please phone or email for specific advice – we have expertise in the husbandry and veterinary aspects of ALL species and our vets have personal experience of keeping many birds, reptiles and other exotics so please free to pick our brains!



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