ForPaws Blog

Thoughts on Food for Pets

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What Not To Feed?

Being that I have both of our cats insured with Petplan, I receive their quarterly magazine, 'Pet People'.  I do like having a nosey through it and one article in particular caught my eye, '10 Foods Not to Give your Pet'.  The article highlighted a few surprising foods that are not safe for our pets:

  • Avocado - this was a new one for me!  Apparently avocados contain 'persin' which can affect heart lungs and other tissues, causing vomiting and diarrhoea (and worse).  When I googled further, it seems that avocados can cause varying degrees of stomach upset in cats and dogs but can be especially toxic to birds and rodents.
  • Ham, Fatty Meats or Raw Meat - "Can lead to an inflamed pancreas.  The high salt contect can cause stomach upsets.  Raw meat has been linked to toxoplasmosis in cats." Whilst BARF (Bones And Raw Food/Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) fans may disagree with some of this, it's worth thinking about what meats you are feeding your pets and doing a bit of research for yourself.  Salty foods are never good for pets who cannot tolerate large quantities of salt and raw meat can carry a risk of illness from e.coli or similar bacteria.
  • Chocolate - Chocolate contains the substance theobromine, which 'causes increased heart rate and construction of arteries'.  More googling shoes that theobromine is a similar type of 'drug' to caffeine and can stimulate the heart rate, central nervous system and cause nausea and vomiting.  Dark chocolate contains higher quantities of theobromine than milk or white chocolate.  I have heard so many people say that their pets have eaten tiny bits of chocolate and been okay, I'd put money on it being a very small amount of milk chocolate!
  • Grapes/Raisins - the exact substance that is toxic is unknown, but consumption of grapes or raisins can cause kidney failure.
Other foods that are reportedly not good for pets are onions, garlic, bones (particularly cooked bones which can splinter), milk, cheese, walnuts, alcohol, spicy food, mushrooms, sweets containing xylitol sweetener, uncooked yeast dough, high quantities of fish and fruit pits (such as cherry, peach, apricot).  I'm sure there are a lot more, just as I'm sure there are a lot of people who have fed some of these foods to their pets with no consequences. Still, why risk it?  Over Christmas friends of Pete's parents had to rush a nursing miniature poodle bitch to the vets who had stolen and eaten a ridiculous amount of chocolate from the christmas tree.  The poor girl essentially had her stomach pumped and had to be kept from nursing her 4 week old puppies for 48 hours until the remaining chocolate pass through her system.  Thankfully all were fine, but she was touch and go for a while.
Thoughts on Diets
I really admire pet owners who make the effort to feed their pets a BARF diet, or who create their own balanced diets for their pets.  For me though, I'd always worry that  I wouldn't get the balance right - for example, cats NEED taurine in their diet, which requires offal and bone (which I couldn't stomach!) or a supplement (too fiddley!).  On the 2 day dog training course I recently attended, Steve Mann (famous dog trainer and our course instructor) gave us his thoughts on BARF for dogs.  Interestingly, he explained that dogs essentially use protein for energy in much the same way we use our carbs, but unlike us with carbs, they cannot store protein as fat, it has to be burnt, so potentially the BARF diet can cause hyperactivity in dogs.  I'm sure a vet could correct what is likely my own oversimplified interpretation of Steve's thoughts, but it certainly is something to be aware of.  
I just feed a mix of good quality dry (Royal Canin Maine Coon and Indoor Longhair) and wet foods (our favourites are Applaws/Encore, which are the same brand and the new James Wellbeloved wet).  I feel that the dry food has the correct balance of nutrients that they need (plus the indoor food helps with hairballs!) and the wet food just helps ensure they are getting enough liquid in their diets, as I've read that boy cats in particular can struggle with drinking enough water to prevent crystals building up in their urine.  For me, this keeps me happy, as I feel like I am doing the best I can for my two cats based on my own research and opinions.  If you are sat on the fence about the best choices of food for your pets and don't know where to start, I urge you to get googling and talking to other pet owners, perhaps your pet's breeder or your vet to help you formulate the best diet for your pet.  Oh, and maybe steer clear of the chocolate!

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