3 Ways Humans Are Better Than Dogs

dog catching frisbee

It must seem strange for a vet to compare humans and dogs and find humans better. Well let me tell you, that’s not normally the case. Just read ‘Why Dogs Are Better Than Humans‘ and you’ll agree.

However, our inferiority tends to mask the fact that there are a few special areas in which we do better. And because we don’t recognise them, we tend to make bad assumptions and harm our dogs. So here they are…

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Is It OK To Give A Cat Only Dry Food?

cat eating

Listen to this rubbish.

If your cat only eats dry food, she is likely to be getting less nutrition than a cat eating wet food. Many low-quality dry foods contain a lot of fillers.

https://www.catster.com/cat-food/wet-cat-food-vs-dry-cat-food 13/6/2020

Throwaway lines like these are typical of the overly simplistic advice you find online about feline nutrition. The truth takes a deeper look. To know whether wet, dry or both are best for your cat, we need to talk about:

  • nutritional adequacy & completeness
  • fillers in wet & dry cat food
  • the risk of obesity
  • diseases associated with wet & dry foods
  • other alternative cat diets

Let’s dive in!

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Chronic Diarrhoea In Dogs

So your dog has had diarrhoea for more than two weeks, and you’ve ruled out all the more common causes of diarrhoea found here.
You’ve even run a basal cortisol level to rule out the 4% of these dogs that have Addison’s disease.

What do you do now?

The answer is to consider the possibility that your dog has chronic enteropathy, or CE. This is a poorly understood group of related disorders that often respond to dietary, antibiotic or immunosuppressive treatment. Sometimes the solution is more than one of these approaches.

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Do Dogs Need Senior or Mature Foods?

commercial dog diet

A few years ago, a sales rep for one of the major dog food companies came to me. The serious expression told me that there was something wrong.

“Andrew, you’re not making enough senior dog food sales.”

This wasn’t a surprise to me. Instead I said what I always say: “bring me the evidence that senior diets improve the health of dogs and I’ll use them.”

See also: Do Cats Need Senior Foods?

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Getting Cats To Eat Raw Chicken Necks

cat raw chicken

Let me tell you a story that shows what we’re up against.

I met a very perplexed feral cat researcher recently. In his study area the cats generally hunt and eat one common mammal. However, suddenly the population of that species crashed.

There were lots of other tasty critters still hopping around, some of which look nearly the same. Despite this, the cats began to starve.

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Help! My Puppy Won’t Eat Dry Food

unbalanced puppy food

I’m deeply concerned by a fast-growing trend in puppy diets. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that puppy owners are being badly let down. It makes me angry and it should make them angry too.

New puppies at our Adelaide clinic are being set up to fail in numbers that I haven’t seen since the 1990’s. The consequences can be the permanent leg deformities you see in the picture.

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Making A Wild Food For Your Cat

wild cat diet

There are four key differences between most commercial cat foods and the diets that cats have adapted to eat in the wild:

  1. High carbohydrate levels: cats eat almost no carbs in the wild
  2. Low moisture content: wild cats get most of their water from prey
  3. Plant-based proteins: proteins from animal sources have a higher value to the body
  4. Lack of texture: only physical cleaning seems to work on cats’ teeth

Depending on who you believe, you could add a fifth: Safety. That’s what we’re hopefully going to fix with the pet food senate inquiry.

Right now you might be thinking, “if these cat foods are so bad, why does my cat seem healthy?” Our page on What’s wrong with cat diets covers what we know about the link between cat foods and diseases like diabetes and cystitis.

Good Nutrition For Cats

So maybe you want to start a homemade diet for your cat, or maybe you just want to improve what your cat currently eats. Either way, you’ve come to the right place.

Making A Homemade Cat Diet

Getting cat nutrition right is harder than people think. Read here why it’s not just a matter of giving them meat and offal. Cats are highly specialised feeders and that comes with very specific requirements.

If you really want to make a balanced home made diet, you need the help of a genuine animal nutritionist. We can put you in touch with some who will, for a fee, construct a suitable diet based on your needs.

For most cat owners, the diet below should tick all the boxes.

A Practical Compromise Diet

Here’s what I do recommend for normal, healthy cats & kittens. I’m going to take the best ideas, add practicality, and make a good diet that anyone can do.

Step 1: Choose a low carb tinned food

The closest foods you can buy to what a cat needs are inside some, but not all tins. The idea is to find some quality ones with low carbohydrate levels. These are usually loaf-style without gravy or sauces.

Click here for a calculator & table of carbohydrate levels in Australian cat & kitten foods. You’ll see that there’s a tremendous variation between wet foods from very low to very high. There’s also a calculator so you can do it yourself. 

It’s probably more important to be low in total carbohydrate than grain free. With a bit of searching it should be possible to be both.

There is also a dry food option. Ziwi Peak have developed an air-dried complete and balanced food that manages to be both grain free and low carb. It seems a bit pricey to be a cat’s only food, but could be a good add-on.

Step 2: Add texture

Tins alone are bad for the teeth. Plaque removal is needed via either raw bones, dental biscuits or tooth brushing. You can read more about feline dental care here.

The ideal dental cleaning option for a grain free diet is a raw chicken neck every day.

I’ve written a guide to getting cats to eat chicken necks. However, for many adults it’s very hard, and often impossible.

For cats that won’t eat chicken necks, I advise a cat dental biscuit, especially if you can’t feed chicken necks. This is optional, as these diets are neither low carb or grain free. However, without dental foods, your cat will need frequent dental cleans.

Step 3: Add grass

I keep two pots of grass on the go. One in the house and one in ‘grass hospital’ where it recovers from being chewed. Cats have a strong drive to eat grass so it makes sense that we offer it.

That’s the diet! Now, remember those four problems? Let’s tick them off:

  1. Carbohydrate levels are kept low by a carefully selected tinned food and chicken necks
  2. Moisture content is moderate (with dry) or high without
  3. Animal-based proteins come from chicken necks
  4. Texture is in the necks

All while keeping the diet balanced and safe.

But let me say this in conclusion. There is clearly no feeding mistake as great as allowing obesity. If you can be strong enough to keep your cat at an ideal weight, you’re heading for an above-average lifespan. That’s almost regardless of the diet you choose.

Even though current diets aren’t ideal, it isn’t a disaster. Kittens and cats are far better off than before balanced diets were introduced and living longer than they ever did. Just talk to any retired vets, like my parents.

What would be a disaster is if cat owners are made to feel like they have to make their cats’ food instead of buying it. As I hope you can now see, it’s quite possible to feed your cat a biologically appropriate diet without reinventing the wheel.

Related: the unbalanced cat foods you’re not being warned about.

By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These blogs are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story!
Have something to add? Comments are welcome below and will appear within 24 hours.

The Senate Pet Food Safety Inquiry & You

pet safety hearings

For all of you who followed the Senate inquiry I instigated on pet food safety, or who’ve had concerns over pet food quality, here’s an update: I’m happy to report there is solid progress to improve pet food standards. Reforms now under serious consideration include mandatory manufacturing standards, improved and mandatory labelling, and an improved consumer complaints system. The proposed reforms are expected to formally go to state and federal governments for final consideration in July this year.

Senator Stirling Griff April 22, 2020

I provided evidence at the public hearings into the safety of pet food on Tuesday the 28th of August, 2018 in Sydney. Here you can read my oral and written submissions.

You might also like:

I went there to put forward the demands of ordinary pet owners. You can be sure that industry was well-represented but what about you? We needed the opinions of ordinary consumers and average Australian pet owners.

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5 Myths About Food Allergy In Dogs

dog wheat field

If you have an itchy dog, it doesn’t take long before someone tells you it’s due to the food. Usually that someone also offers an alternative.

It’s not a case of people trying to pull a fast one; they just believe in what they use. Who doesn’t? If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

The trouble is, though, most owners of dogs with skin problems aren’t getting the advice they need. Or they’re getting it far too late.

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Pet Food Allergy Testing | Elimination Diets

food allergy dog

Elsewhere on this site we’ve published the evidence for which foods dogs and cats are allergic to. Now we’ll show you how to figure it out for your own pet. This even works for a mouse!

Diagnosis of Food Allergies

The bad news is that there is no simple test. Popular IgG and IgE test kits sold online are not reliable.

The good news is that you can do it at home. It’s called an elimination diet. You have two choices:

  1. Buy one off-the-shelf
  2. Make it yourself (this is preferred if possible, see below)
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Vegan Dog & Cat Diets In 2020: Are They Safe?

apple fennel with eyes

Three years ago when I first investigated vegan diets for dogs and cats, my response was a bit simplistic. I said that as long as you use a complete and balanced diet, your pet can be vegan.

Since then, we’ve learned more and I have too. I still think you can have a vegan dog, but there are important warnings. And vegan cats? Probably not, but I can show you how to feed them without any guilt.

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How You CAN Get Overweight Cats To Lose Weight

Imagine the outrage if a character called Fat Dog (or fat anything for that matter) was created today. Yet, there we were in Adelaide in the 1980s watching Fat Cat tell us to go to bed at 7:30 every night.

The fact is that an overweight cat is taken less seriously than an overweight dog. We see fat cats as fun and loveable, and somehow beyond our control. Like Garfield and his lasagne.

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How You CAN Get Your Dog To Lose Weight

Overweight dog stuck
prevalence overweight dogs
The rising rate of overweight dogs

Have a look at this chart: are you as surprised as I was when I put this together?

It shows the results of the last five studies where vets have taken percentages of overweight dogs in the US, UK, and Australia.

How can you make sure your best mate doesn’t end up as another statistic in the dog obesity epidemic?

Answer: read on. It’s positive, 100% judgement-free and based on 25 years of successfully helping dog owners like yourself.

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Skin Allergies In Dogs | Atopy

collie in grass

Every Springtime my little Loki starts to show the signs of his allergies. From then until after Christmas I have to work hard to keep him comfortable.

He’s not alone; every day we see dogs like Loki. We call this condition atopic dermatitis or atopy.

Allergies look so different in dogs that most of the time their owners aren’t aware what the problem is.

Signs Of Atopic Dermatitis

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Feeding Bones To Dogs

dog bone advice

For feeding bones to CATS click here.

Whether you feed your dog bones is without a doubt the most controversial and highly debated topic in dog ownership.

Passions are high. In our guide to where to buy bones last week I mentioned how most vets in the UK (and many in the USA) strongly oppose you giving your dog a bone to chew. At all.
The internet is full of horror stories about bones splintering or getting stuck and many of these stories are true.

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