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As a loving and concerned pet owner you want to offer the best possible care (that you can afford) for your pet so that your pet lives a healthy life. But sometimes due to lack of proper knowledge about the physiological, emotional and mental needs of your pet, you may not be able to take the level of care it needs.
Here we have tried to give pet owners an overview of the nutritional needs of a few common pets, something owners can refer to for ensuring a more wholesome food for their pets. A wholesome diet is one which ensures fulfillment of all the bodily needs; as a result the organism becomes healthier, content and full of energy.
Birds, normally, are tough creatures. But any undesirable changes in their nutritional intake may cause malnourishment, which would make them susceptible to various diseases and may even lead death. The emotional or mental aspect also needs proper attention; fear, stress and anxiety are deterrents to a healthy life. Hence, a balanced diet and a stress-free environment, both are needed for the birds to live healthier and longer lives.
Birds have a very high rate of metabolism as compared to other pets, so their nutritional needs are also greater. Most of the seed mixtures don’t ensure complete nutrition; more often than not they lack certain nutrients. Recent researches in the field of bird nutrition have brought awareness and consciousness towards the health of your feathered friend. It has lead to the production of wholesome foods which come in the form of pellets, granules and crumbles, pellet/seed bars and cakes.
Birds are naturally attracted to seeds and some of them may not prefer eating anything else. In such cases the diet of seed mixture should be supplemented by other nutrient backed foods. One can find health supplements (having minerals, proteins and vitamins) for birds in the market and feed it along with the regular seed diet.
Like everyone else, fish also require a complete and balanced diet to live a long, healthy and active life. The essential nutrients, combined in the right proportions, suiting the physiology of the creature, constitute a healthy diet.
The diet of a fish should have all the main nutrients. The most significant element responsible for the health and growth of the fish is protein. It should constitute 15-30% of the diet of a carnivorous fish (meat eating) and at least 45% of a herbivorous fish (plant eating). A young and growing fish would require at least 50% of protein in the diet.
Carbohydrates are not needed in large amounts, but the tolerable amount of carbohydrate is an issue which is greatly debated. Broadly speaking, an adult fish can have more carbohydrates (up to 40%) without suffering any adverse effects, and a young fish would be better off with more proteins and less of carbohydrates. Likewise a proportionate amount of fat, fiber, vitamins and proteins must also be included in the diet.
Fish food mainly constitutes of dry, frozen and live foods that help the fish get a balanced and complete diet. There are many brands selling quality fish foods in the market, like Sera, tropical and Hikari Fish Food.
Dogs and Cats
The market of pet food is filled with different brands, offering various combinations of nutrition, each vying for your attention, and promising the best possible blend of nutritional ingredients to satisfy the needs of your pet. Then, food products from these brands also provide food specific to specific stages of their lives (like puppy/kitten food, adult food and senior food). There are also foods supporting the health of certain vital organs, like kidney, heart, digestive system, skin; and medical conditions like diabetes, to make the upkeep of your dog/cat a little easier for you.
Moreover, there are brands which have developed special diet to suit the distinct needs of specific breeds, like Royal Canin dog food which offers food for various dog breeds like Golden Retriever, German shepherd and Boxer. Breed specific food helps to address the issues which otherwise would affect that particular breed. Like the Golden Retriever is at risk of developing enlarged heart, so the food meant for this breed would include the ingredients which besides providing for the complete health of the canine also supply nutrients to take special care of the heart.
But there are concerns related to the authenticity of the promises made by the makers of the pet food, as the rules guiding them are not as stringent as those which regulate food products meant for the human consumption. Then on what criteria should one choose the right meal for one’s beloved pet?
There is hope in the form of organizations like Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). The first criteria to determine the efficiency of the food is to check whether the food meets the minimum nutritional level as specified by the AAFCO. This ensures that the food has all the basic and essential nutrients and can be considered a complete meal good enough for the normal upkeep of your pet. Another yardstick to decide the quality of a specific food is by reviewing its performance in feeding trials. AAFCO or any other authority conducts the feeding trials on real animals and certifies a product after observing the effects of the food on these animals.
The ingredients are listed in the food label in their decreasing order of predominance by weight. The first ingredient forms the majority in terms of quantity, in a packaged food product; and the quantity keeps on decreasing as one reaches the last ingredient. Belonging to the carnivorous species, both dog and cat flourish on meat based diets. They don’t really need carbohydrates; carbohydrates are added to the food because they are cheaper; they also help to keep the dry food bits together.
A very important point to check is that the top most ingredients should relate to a meat source and preferably mentioned in one word, clearly specifying the species from which it has been sourced, like, chicken, beef, lamb or turkey. The sources from which protein have been acquired is important; besides being highly digestible food like meat, fish, egg or poultry are much better than the by-products or grains.
Avoid dietary formulas showing ambiguous words like, animal, meat, poultry, hiding the real source. What the words like natural, holistic and organic, written on the food package, actually mean can only be defined by the manufacturers. No organization like AFFCO describes or verifies it. So don’t go for a product on the merit of only these terms, you need to look deeper.
Dogs, cats and fish need food which is high on protein content to enjoy good health. But being an obligate carnivore the cat is critically dependent on animal meat for the realization of certain vital nutrients like amino acids taurine and arginine, lack of which can lead to serious diseases and even fatality. AAFCO has declared a minimum protein level of 26% (on a dry matter basis) for an adult cat and 30% for a kitten and reproductively active cats.
Apart from the comprehensive diet, your sweetheart pet also needs a loving and affectionate environment around it to feel good. Most of the pets (like dogs and cats) also need some degree of physical activity to keep their bodies fit, live jovially, and burn excess calories. Caring for a pet is not very different from caring for a family member. Hence it is very important to be well informed about their needs and the ways through which these can be best satisfied.