Why what your pet eats is incredibly important

As a Wahroonga small animal vet clinic, we see a lot of lifestyle illness and disease associated with pet eating habits and diet.

While our dogs seem to have a ceaseless appetite for food and our cats are always on the leg rubbing scrounge, they are not designed to eat everything. Like humans, our family pets need to stick to what is good for them.

Sadly, there is a lot of misinformation about nutrition and what are good food products on the market. Pet owners often think they are doing the right thing when the food they are giving is high in fat, salt and low on nutrients.

So today, we’re going to take a look at some of the ways food influences your pet’s health and what you can do to be more vigilant about what your pet eats.

Don’t believe the hype

Marketing in pet food is difficult to unravel at best. We know from our own basic nutrition that chocolate coated breakfast cereals attempting to claim they are low GI seems problematic. What we don’t often know is how to spot the same under the radar claims in pet food products. But you don’t have to be a pet health specialist or small animal vet to realise that a lot of food marketing is BS.

We are bombarded by over 60 brands of pet food, all claiming to be nutritious with pretty packaging and clever placement in supermarket aisles. Of those sixty plus brands, only three have actually done and are committed to ongoing proper scientific nutritional research. It can be very hard to make a sound choice for your family pet with so much misinformation.


In a study conducted by the University of Sydney in 2016, it was found that 9 out of the 20 brands tested in the cat food range had poor nutrient value. They contained too little or too much of key ingredients such as fat and protein. From the findings, these products may place the average house cat in a high risk category for obesity, diabetes and anaemia.


When choosing your pet foods, check that it complies with the Australian Standard: Manufacturing and Marketing Pet Food AS 5812:2011.


Fox Valley Animal Hospital’s approach to pet food

As a dedicated small animal vet who looks for ways for pets to avoid pain and health issues, Dr Alex is a leader in preventative action when it comes to pet health in Wahroonga. He’s made it his business to review the foods, treats and diets on the market to ensure he’s informed.

When a food company comes knocking on this small animal vet clinic front door, it takes Alex weeks and months to complete independent research on that product before we stock it at Fox Valley Animal Hospital. Dr Alex also involves Dr Katie and the vet nurses in the process to ensure the company is easy to deal with and is supportive of giving our pet patients and their pet parents the best advice.


Not all diets are the same

Just like genetics, disease, palate, blood type and heritage can influence our health, so too can it influence a family pet. In turn, the food we eat can have an impact on our overall wellness. This is the exact same situation for our pets.


For example, kittens and puppies have much different nutritional needs to cats and dogs. A more active family pet is going to burn calories and create muscle more than one that is happy camping on the couch. Add things such as age, health conditions and breeds and it soon becomes obvious that pet food diets are tailored for a reason.


Feeding a pet raw mince might seem like a no brainer, but there are a lot of things to consider. Supermarket grade pet mince often contains preservatives that can negatively impact your pet’s health. Tinned meats for pets often have too high a fat content and may create upset stomaches, changes in toileting habits, gas and even lead to far more serious illness.


Sausage style pet meat products for example often contain sulphites. The presence of sulphite preservatives can lower the thiamine in your pet’s body, making them seriously ill. It may be also be fatal.


No matter the age, specific health issues or kind of family pet you have, the Fox Valley Animal Hospital team are all trained in providing the best possible advice on your pet’s diet. We stock only high quality, nutritious treats, snacks and pet food. And we work with you and your family pet to create an approach to maintaining your pet’s health between visits through diet and exercise plans.

As our small animal vet and animal health preventative specialist, Dr Alex, on how you can encourage your pet to eat their way to good health.

One size does not fit all

Your cat and dog have a different diet. Dogs are omnivorous, so they need vegetables and fruit mixed in with their meats and proteins. Cats are carnivores and they have shorter intestines that don’t cope with carbohydrates as well as your dogs.


Nutrient needs are also different. Cats need more protein, fat and can’t digest vitamin A from vegetables so need to get this from other sources. Cats are also sensitive to things such as taurine and thiamine deficiencies so need these elements within their food.


Like humans, family pets can have food allergies. These allergies can cause digestive problems, skin ailments and strong reactions in our pets. They may also need to recover from illness and disease in their lifetime that will influence their diet. Their capacity to exercise, the risk for common issues found within the breed and their risk of obesity all factor into dietary choices.


It is always best to have a frank and open discussion about your family pet with your veterinary health team to find out what sorts of things they can and cannot eat.


The way you feed helps too

As a small animal vet clinic, we see cases where the difference between good pet health and bad can be in the feeding patterns, not just the food served. How we feed influences pet health.

A few things that even the most well versed pet owners don’t know about feeding include:

  • Feeding your dog twice daily is better as it helps your pet avoid bloat and not get too hungry between feeding sessions
  • You shouldn’t exercise your dog straight after a meal and instead, allow the food to settle. This helps with bloat and also reduces the chance of vomiting
  • If you opt for lunchbox feeding during training, you don’t have to keep to a meals schedule on top of it. Or if you do, reduce the treat and meal sizes to even out how much food is consumed
  • Dogs love grazing on grass and this is a healthy part of their omnivorous diet. It’s important to ensure the grass they eat is free of chemicals and doesn’t contain plants that may be toxic
  • Bones are not as great for your dog as you have been lead to believe. They can cause blockages in the gut, splinters in the teeth and even crack teeth and jaws. Find out why we don’t suggest feeding your pets bones and what you can use instead
  • Some commonly found foods such as onion, garlic and chocolate can make your pet seriously ill. Check out the list of no-go foods on the nutrition page
  • Apple slices and carrots make great healthy treats for your dog
  • Cats shouldn’t live on a diet of tinned fish alone. In fact, some cats may be better off having this as an occasional treat as opposed to the every day. Tailor your cat’s diet to suit

Why feeding your pet appropriately is important

We are we eat. Food is our fuel for muscles, bone, skin, eyes, blood and more. The same is true for our pets. If you continually put bad fuel into a young, healthy pet, it will catch up with them. It’ll become things such as diabetes and obesity. It’ll impact their recovery from injury and accident.


Poor diet can lead to skin damage, tooth loss and mouth issues. The internal organs will find it harder to work. Poor diet produces things such as heart disease, kidney failure and liver problems. Life expectancy can be shortened by a lack of good nutrition.


As a small animal vet clinic, we stock a wide variety of healthy, nutritious pet food. We carry food that helps with weight issues, arthritis support and more. We also make sure we’re well versed in food related matters so you can ask the questions you need. We want to work with you to help you make the best possible dietary choices for your pet’s needs.


So what are you waiting for? Come and talk turkey (and other food types) with the Fox Valley small animal vet and vet nurse team today.


Call our small animal vet surgery on (02) 9489 4805 and discover how the right food can influence your pet’s health in a positive way today.

About the Author
Owner and Vet Alex Brittan, Vet Katie Syms and the team of Fox Valley Animal Hospital pride themselves on quality service. Fox Valley Animal Hospital is the one you choose for your family pet when the care your animal receives really matters.