High quality nutrition is an investment in pet health

Dog licking.

High quality nutrition is an investment in pet health

Dr Heidi Ward-McGrath

As both a veterinarian and pet parent, finding the right nutrition for your dog, cat or bird is the cornerstone of health.

Pets are cherished family members that deserve high-quality health care and nutrition. Good nutrition provides the energy, health and wellness that your pet needs to survive and thrive.

Pet parents should focus on quality nutrition not quantity

Animals can’t advocate for themselves so they need us to be informed and choose a healthy diet for them.

Most pets in New Zealand are actually over fed

An obese pet is not a healthy pet. Choosing high quality food, supplemented with fresh food, can be affordable. We advocate for 20% fresh, healthy food in their bowl daily.

Vegetables provide the majority of the antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals that your pet needs and deserves. Even better it’s probably growing in your backyard right now. Start with adding parsley, dill, cilantro, fennel, carrots, broccoli and parsnips.

When it comes to food - especially pet food - you get what you pay for

Choosing good nutrition is choosing to keep your dog or cat healthy. As a rule, I see far less pets that suffer from gastro upsets, vomiting, diarrhoea, weight issues and chronic ill health when they have access to great nutrition. Good nutrition also boosts their immune system.

Choose a species appropriate food for your pet

Cats are carnivores. Meat protein drives their cat engine and the fats contained in real meat deliver much needed and necessary lubrication for the carnivore joints, brain function and skin health.

Dull food is boring

Fresh healthy food is exciting and interesting to eat. Great nutrition results in increased happiness. Our pets show emotions, they relax, they rest , chill out and sleep much better when they have enjoyed their food.

Add some crunch

Fresh food that Improves dental health is a great idea! Poor diet choices contribute to poor health - ending in vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Soft sticky fake food sticks to gums causing the dreaded dental disease. Save on vet visits by adding some natural abrasion foods onto the pet plate. 

Add veggies

Veggies provide many antibacterial AND anti-fungal benefits for your pet. Without them they are highly likely to suffer from poor health.

Avoid nasties

Avoid fake food laden with sugar, high salt, high fat, additives and preservatives, colouring agents and GMO ingredients. 

As vets we seek to avoid increasing the risk for your pet developing cancer in their lifetime. In recent times with the addition of many additives in pet food and spoilers such as mycotoxins, we are losing this battle. Current studies show that cats and many New Zealand dogs are developing cancer.

With poor nutritional choices, a chain of events is set in motion that ultimately leads to the development of cancer in pets.

Microbiome magic

The key to great health lies in the microbiome. Their gut microbiome is a delicate ecosystem that can be imbalanced by everything from poor diet to stress. 90% of the whole immune system resource is thought to reside in the gut. This gut army provides the magical resilience we see in so many healthy pets who are well fed. As pets age, key strategies to delay the loss of microbiome diversity in the elderly could also increase longevity.

Problem pets

I always review a pet's diet as part of my workup to see what changes might promote healing and prevent a recurrence in their ill-health. Sometimes an improvement in the quality and type of food being fed is all that’s needed to resolve their problem. Pets with itchy skin should be fed an anti-inflammatory, minimally processed diet.

Since diets that are high in carbohydrates increase inflammation. 

  • Remove unnecessary grains and carbs
  • Remove seafood, beef and poultry as protein sources.
  • Avoiding allergenic foods, food dyes, flavourings, synthetic nutrients and AGEs (by-products from the extrusion and canning process) may radically improve your pet’s irritated, itchy skin.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids help decrease inflammation throughout the body. Adding them into the diet of a pet with a skin disorder can be very beneficial.
  • I also recommend coconut oil because it contains lauric acid, which helps decrease the body's production of yeast. Using fish body oil with MCT coconut oil can help moderate or the inflammatory response.

Offer the most nutritious food you can afford to feed, including living foods and as much variety as possible.

Helpful herbs

Fresh, or dried herbs can be a bonus for your dog, and some have helpful properties.

  • Fresh dill acts as an antispasmodic. It can help to calm the gastrointestinal tract in general. 
  • Mint helps to firm stool, and also acts as an antispasmodic. The fresh herb can be used and added to warmed food, or broth.
  • Parsley helps digestion, pancreatitis and gastritis

“Let thy food be thy medicine”

In summary, when animals are able to eat species appropriate fresh foods, they enjoy a physically and mentally fulfilling lifestyle. The pet’s body is able to perform better, they live longer and they require fewer “vet repairs” along the way.

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