Did you know our dogs and cats need 40 different nutrients a day to stay healthy?
It’s certainly food for thought as a pet owner. Enabling our animals to live their best lives is something we all strive to do.
And the building blocks of this is a healthy diet. Claire Miller, head vet at Natures Menu explains why what our pets eat is so important to mark National Dog Day on August 26th.
We want our pets to be healthy and happy and to share our lives for as long as possible, so how can their diet help?
The number one thing I would say is don’t ever underestimate nutrition. It’s the building blocks of our body and the key to everything from kinds of chronic diseases to our general health so it can make drastic changes if you get it right.
The way we approach nutrition as humans compared to the way we approach it in pets is quite different, just in terms of the practicality of it.
With us we tend to achieve balance over time, so we add a variety of foods, such as fruit and veg, and over a week or so, we’ll get all the nutrients we need.
With dogs we tend to try to achieve balance in a bowl, so it’s done in a very different way and that’s how it’s always been. It makes it simpler for pet owners so they don’t have to worry about achieving balance over time.
There’s a lot – just over 40 – essential nutrients for cats and dogs every day. So it’s a lot to expect the average pet owner to comprehend, to have enough nutritional knowledge to know that they’re going to get just enough, and not too much, of all these.
Wow – 40 nutrients a day is a lot isn’t it? I used to home cook for my dog Daisy at the end of her life and it would literally be chicken, rice and vegetables
Some dogs do really well on home cooked diets but it can be very labour intensive. I don’t know if I’d trust myself to cook my own dog a home-made diet that would be completely balanced in terms of the essential nutrients being at the right levels.
To make it simple, we balance every bowl so you don’t have to worry or think, ‘I need a bit of this ingredient and a bit of that ingredient’, and you get that in any food that’s labelled ‘complete’.
‘Complete’ in terms of pet food is a legal term so if you provide a complete pet food, it will provide all of the essential nutrients needed in a day.
What would your advice be for any owners who might be reading this and thinking, ‘Well I’ve tried raw and I want my dog to enjoy the benefits but they won’t eat it.’
If you are going to make changes, make them very slowly and gradually and do it as gently as you can. For instance if you’re already feeding a wet food, I’d suggest moving to a high meat pouch, which is sort of the first step towards a raw food.
You’re not changing the presentation of the food, you’re just changing the nutritional content of it so you can get the benefits but still keep what feels normal for them.
Although we’re primarily a raw company we do understand that raw isn’t going to suit every dog on every occasion and every owner, depending on lifestyles.
You need to find what works for the individual. We strive to deliver those nutrients in a way that’s going to be best for the dog in a way that’s biologically appropriate.
We’re not humanising them, we’re not trying to feed them what would be good for us, we’re trying to do it in a very specific way.
Natures Menu was the first company to make raw food back in the 1980s, and now you have a range of different raw options?
Yes, there’s dried food, which we call ‘extruded’, which is the process they go through to make them into little kibbles. Then you’ve got foods that are made in a couple of different ways; you’ve got the chunks in gravy, chunks in jelly types.
There’s the more ‘loaf’ types, like a loaf of meat. Then there’s raw, which is very simple – it’s raw meat and fruit and veg mixed up and shaped and then frozen so it’s very, very natural.
One of the newer types is freeze dried which we have in the True Instinct and Country Hunter range. We’re the first raw company in the UK to invest in our own freeze-dry machinery, it really is a technique for the future because it’s a way to be able to make feeding raw convenient.
It’s a bit of a pay off in feeding our pets; we want to do what’s best for them but we also want to do what fits in with our lives as well and what’s convenient for us to use on a daily basis.
You also have a steamed range too?
Yes, we use the same high-quality ingredients that go into our raw foods but we seal them into the pouch instead and then they’re steamed.
We find the steam cooking both retains the quality of the nutrients and also retains the flavours a little bit better as well.
We process them as minimally as possible, so it’s good in terms of flavour and nutrition. Also, when you take the food out of the packet and look at the ingredients, it looks exactly as it’s described.
You can see the pieces of carrot and the meat and it looks like real food because that’s what it is – and it has more of a fresh smell too.
My own dog Daisy had arthritis and dementia in the later stages of her life, so what would your advice be for caring for senior dogs?
Make sure you’re feeding a food that is good quality, balanced, and particularly in terms of Omega 3s and 6s, and nicely digestible.
In terms of arthritis you’re going to see more of a difference with things like supplements and YuMove is a fantastic example of that. Arthritis is such a complex condition so there’s a lot of factors to consider as well as nutrition such as environment and weight.
For every half kilo they’re overweight, that will aggravate the arthritis significantly so you want to make sure that your diet is going to maintain an ideal body conditioning score and a good muscle mass because those muscles are going to support them in their older life.
Often you see muscle wastage in older dogs, particularly arthritic ones, because they can’t exercise so much. Having those good quality proteins will help maintain the muscle but maintain good body condition so they don’t have too much weight to carry around on degenerative joints.
With regards to dementia, having a food that smells attractive is important because as dogs age, their hearing and sight decline but their sense of smell is one of the last senses to go.
So, as cognitive function declines, having that sense of smell will still drive them to maintain a healthy appetite as well.
Learning about the importance of the 40 key nutrients in our pet’s diet has been fascinating. We’re now as focused on ‘clean eating’ and understanding the provenance of food for our pets as we are ourselves aren’t we?
We’re making huge strides forward.
I think the whole raw revolution is evidence that people have said, ‘It’s not good enough, what you’ve given us before. We want something better and we want something natural and a bit more transparent, where you can see and understand how the food’s been made, what it’s been made from, where it’s come from, how it’s balanced and everything else.’
It stems from human nutrition; we want to understand what our food is made from and we think about if for our children so inevitably we’re going to think about it and ask the same questions about our pet food.
Find out more about the full range of raw, steamed and freeze dried raw food at www.naturesmenu.co.uk
To celebrate National Dog Day on 26th August, we’ve teamed up with Natures Menu to offer one lucky winner and their dog £30 in website vouchers*
The pet food company carried out a survey and found 47 per cent of owners class their dog as their best friend – more than their partners, siblings and human friends!
To be in with a chance to win, share a photo of you and your pet on our Facebook page and tell us why they are your best friends. The winner will be picked at random on 7th September. Find us on Facebook here www.facebook.com/ThePawPostUK/
*T&Cs apply. The voucher is to be used online upon opening an online account and not to be exchanged for any other type of voucher.