The final installment on nutrients for your pets’ centers around vitamins, additives and the energy content of your pet’s food.
VITAMINS FOR PETS
Like minerals, vitamins function as enzymes or coenzymes. Pure vitamin deficiencies or toxicities are rarely encountered in pets fed quality processed diets, as pet food manufacturers overcompensate and make sure the food contains more than enough of these compounds. There are a few rare exceptions: vitamin K deficiency that can occur rarely as a result of chronic diarrhea, acute poisoning by warfarin-type rat poisons, poor-quality diets that contain an insufficient amount of fat, and antibiotic therapies (antibiotics can kill the intestinal bacteria which manufacture vitamin K). Also, large amounts of ingested raw egg whites can result in a biotin deficiency, though this is also rare.
Vitamin toxicities can occur if owners supplement their pets’ diets with excessive amounts of human or animal vitamin preparations.
ADDITIVES IN PET FOOD
Additives can include a number of substances, such as chemical preservatives, artificial coloring, and artificial flavors.
Preservatives are essential in preventing spoilage of food. As people learned more about food and as chemicals were developed to prevent spoilage, the incidence of food poisoning drastically decreased. However, chemicals also have a bad side. Long-term ingestion of certain chemicals might be harmful and may be linked to chronic diseases including cancers. Purists try to avoid man- wmade chemicals in diets fed to pets. However, it is important that owners not totally abandon preservatives or they risk causing illness in pets due to food poisoning. Some manufacturers of pet foods have responded to the preference to move away from chemicals and include more natural preservatives. When choosing commercially prepared diets, antioxidants such as vitamin E and vitamin C have replaced chemicals such as ethoxyquin, BHA, and BHT. Careful reading of the label will inform owners what chemicals, if any, are added to the pet’s food. For pet owners who choose to prepare diets at home, it is almost impossible to formulate diets that are resistant to spoiling. Therefore, owners should refrigerate or freeze small amounts of prepared food when making a homemade diet. The food can be defrosted and fed to the pet as needed.
Artificial colors and flavors are really not necessary in pet foods. Because dogs and cats don’t have the color vision of people, they don’t care about the color of the food you choose. Colors are added to be more attractive to owners who must make purchase decisions regarding the large number of foods available to them. Artificial flavors should not be needed if the food is palatable. Whenever artificial flavors are added to foods, owners should question whether the pet would eat the food without the flavors. If the pet wouldn’t one has to wonder why the owner would choose to purchase that food!
FOOD ENERGY FOR PETS
While not a nutrient in the true sense of the word, the energy content of a food is important, as food must provide energy not only for survival of the pet, but also for processes including normal metabolism, healing, reproduction, lactation for nursing animals, growth, and everyday activity. For simplicity sake, energy is provided in food by fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. The energy content of food is defined in kilocalories, which is 1000 calories (in nutrition language, the word calorie usually means kilocalorie). If the food is a premium food and correctly balanced, as a rule, feeding the amount needed to meet the pet’s energy requirement provides the proper amount of all needed nutrients. The amount to feed can be calculated by dividing the animal’s energy requirement by the energy density of the food. In practice, most owners don’t wish to do this. Pet food companies have already done this and offer suggested feeding amounts that vary with pet weights on the food package.
Shawn Messonnier, DVM
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Shawn Messonnier DVM Past Supporting Member, Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians Author, the award-winning The Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats, The Natural Vet’s Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs, and Breast Choices for the Best Chances: Your Breasts, Your Life, and How YOU Can Win The Battle!
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