Choosing the Right Food for Your Pet – Part 1

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Clients often ask me for advice on what to feed their pets. Or on the flip side, they will tell me their pet eats a great food – grain-free, holistic, first ingredient is meat, and so on.

When I assess a diet for a particular patient I consider a few key factors:

1. Pet age/life stage Puppies/kittens/pregnancy (growth phase), adults and seniors all have different nutritional requirements. Feeding an “all life stages” diet is effectively feeding a “growth” diet because pets in the growth phase have the highest nutritional requirements and an “all life stages” diet provides the nutritional requirements for growth. Therefore, they tend to be excessive when pets are no longer growing. So what do pets do with all the extra nutrition? They bulk up for winter. Put a little junk in the trunk. However you want to phrase it, adult and senior pets on an “all life stages” diet are almost always overweight which can take years off their lives.

2. Pet Size (with respect to dogs), Breed Predispositions Small dogs need small kibble and are generally at higher risk of bladder stones, pancreatitis, periodontal disease, to name just a few. Large breeds need slower growth during their puppy years and have a higher risk of arthritis and other orthopaedic conditions as they age. Not that either food would hurt the other, but it makes sense to customize if we can tailor their nutrition to benefit their overall health.

3. Activity Level Indoor cats do not need the same number of calories as the cat that patrols the neighbourhood. A couch pug-tato or a weekend warrior cottage dog won’t have the same calorie requirements as an agility dog. Be realistic when assessing your pet’s average activity level and also the intensity of that activity.

4. Are there pre-existing conditions? In periodontal disease, inflammatory bowel disease, bladder stones, kidney disease, diabetes, arthritis, obesity, and other conditions, nutrition can play a role, and in many cases a HUGE role! Whatever ails your pet, we can work with you to optimize their nutrition. Depending on their problems it might require adjustment to the quantity of their diet, a prescription diet for a specific problem, or perhaps a consultation with a veterinary nutritionist for a balanced homemade diet. It gets trickier when trying to manage multiple issues but we can consult with nutritionists about this too. There are so many options!

We all want what is best for our pets, me included, for both my patients and my own pets, Brigs and Chase. As pet owners we make the best decision we can with the information available to us. The problem is, most of the information available is marketing material designed to pull at our heart strings. There is a lot of misinformation to sift through. Often what sounds like the best can be more termed “trendy” and comes with a hefty price tag too. More on the evaluation of pet foods and trends next time.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer for pet nutrition, especially in Canada where there is very little regulation of the industry. Through a series of blog posts, we’ll continue to provide more information about pet nutrition to assist in selecting your pet’s best nutrition plan. As always, feel free to reach out to us at South Peel to discuss your pet’s current nutrition plan in more detail and any goals you may have for making adjustments.

Til next time,

Dr. Elaine Williams

Ticks in Mississauga

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Ticks are skin parasites that feed on the blood of their hosts.  They are not insects but belong to the spider family because nymphs and adults have eight legs.

Ticks are a growing problem in the Mississauga area.  The black-legged (deer) tick which transmits Lyme disease has expanded its range from its original habitat in the northeastern United States and north shore of Lake Erie to fully encircle Lake Ontario and include Mississauga.  Consequently, we need to be more aware of ticks and tick-borne diseases.

Ticks go through 3 life stages, larva, nymph and adult before laying eggs.  At each stage the tick must attach to the host and take a blood meal before it can develop into the next stage.  This life cycle can take 1-2 years.  Ticks like motion, warm temperatures from body heat and carbon dioxide exhaled by mammals which is why they are attracted to hosts such as dogs, cats, rodents, rabbits, cattle, small mammals and humans.

When the tick attaches to the host to feed, in addition to the disgusting nature of a parasite attached to your pet and engorging itself with blood to lay eggs, it can transmit diseases.

When some ticks attach to dogs they can cause paralysis known as ‘tick paralysis’.  This usually requires several ticks to be attached to a susceptible dog so it is not a common occurrence and will resolve if all the ticks are removed.

The best known disease transmitted by ticks is Lyme disease.  It is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi a bacteria which is transmitted by the deer tick.  Not all deer ticks carry this bacteria and only a small percentage of dogs who get the bacteria will get the disease.  So while it is not a huge risk it in important to be aware if your dog is exposed to ticks.

Humans are also at risk for Lyme disease and a higher percentage of humans bitten by a tick will develop Lyme disease than will animals bitten by a tick. Lyme disease is only transmitted to humans by a tick bite.

The most common sign of Lyme disease in pets is lameness which occurs 1-4 months after the tick has bitten.  In more serious cases there can be kidney or heart disease.  Lyme disease generally responds well to antibiotics.