We all understand the benefits of good nutritional habits. Sometimes what we know in principal and what we do in our everyday life can be two different things. The following are the five most common nutritional mistakes we make as pet owners.
Not measuring the food: One of the most common mistakes owners make is measuring their pet’s food. While there are a very few pets that will just eat the number of calories that their body requires, this is uncommon. Most pets, if given the choice of free feeding, will tend to overeat. Some do this out of boredom, like their human counterparts, while for others it is an evolutionary hold over; eating when food is available because it may become scarce in the future. Too much food means too many calories leading to obesity. Obesity can lead to joint and spine problems, inflammatory diseases, diabetes, and cancer. A better option is to count calories and dole out the daily amount of food with a measuring cup, not a large coffee cup, a can or your hand.
Sudden change of food: Sometimes in our eagerness to feed a better-quality diet or make a change to a prescription diet to help treat a medical issue, we make a diet change too quickly. Dogs are not like people and this can lead to digestive upset such as vomiting, diarrhea or pancreatitis. When making a diet change it is better to add 20-25% of the new diet into the old each day, making a total change over 4-5 days. For dogs with a particularly sensitive digestive tract or for cats that are typically slow to accept a new diet, it may take 10 days to 2 weeks to make a gradual change.
Feeding table scraps: While it's easy to give into those big brown eyes, there will be consequences. People's food, especially scraps, can be high in fat, sugar or sodium and can lead to the same digestive problems as a sudden change in diet. Some people's food can also be toxic to pets. This includes chocolate, onions, grapes, raisins, currents, avocado, macadamia nuts, and xylitol. Once a pet is rewarded for begging it is unlikely to stop. We all know from personal experience that bad habits are easier to prevent than to break. Additionally, when given choices many pets will be finicky and may choose to ignore their pet food and “guilt” you into feeding them more people food.
Trying the newest fad diet: Every other month there seems to be a new diet on the market or a new specialty pet food company that purports to be the best nutrition for your pet. In reality, most pets with a healthy digestive tract will do well on the balanced, AAFCO certified diet you are currently feeding. Despite advertising, some small, specialty pet food companies, so called boutique diets, may not be complete and balanced, have not done feeding trials to become AAFCO certified, and may not have good quality control procedures in place. Seek the facts before switching your pet’s diet.
Not seeking veterinary care: Your pet’s veterinarian is trained in nutrition and is your best source of information. He or she is best able to guide you on appropriate diet choices for your pet based on stage of life, medical condition, or breed potential for health issues that can be nutritionally managed.