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Does your pet need a specialised diet

Approx. 6 minutes read

The most rewarding part of pet ownership is providing a home for your pet where they can feel loved and cared for, and live a long and happy life. Consistent meal times, a daily walk and/or play session, snuggles on the couch, their very own bed and toys, as well as routine professional veterinary care (teeth cleaning, vaccination, and annual check-ups) can ensure a happy and healthy pet. If you are doing all of this, but your furry or purry friend is experiencing troubling symptoms, it can be quite distressing. Symptoms like stiffness or limping; red, itchy and/or flaky skin; or a persistent upset tummy or low appetite can indicate a range of underlying problems, but sometimes these troubles can be resolved by changing your pet’s diet. *

Symptoms of allergies

Your pet’s immune system works in a similar way to yours. When the immune system detects an ‘intruder’ (dust, toxins, viruses and bacteria, any foreign substance), it sends out antibodies and a range of responses (heat, inflammation, sneezing, etc.) to fight off these intruders. Sometimes, pets’ immune systems misinterpret fairly harmless substances as intruders, which then trigger an allergic reaction that becomes tricky to resolve because it’s not an obvious toxin.

For example, your dog or cat eats chicken, dairy, beef or soy and their immune system is triggered by certain proteins in these foods. It could result in an upset tummy or an incredibly itchy skin, hives or itchy ears. Sometimes that scratching is seasonal and your pet is reacting to an environmental allergen – pollen, dust, grass, etc.

Allergy symptoms

  • warm, red skin
  • inflammation
  • itchiness (lots of excessive scratching)
  • itchy ears
  • diarrhoea
  • vomiting

How to treat pet allergies

The vet will look at your pet’s symptoms and general health and may suggest a process of elimination to determine what your furry or purry friend is reacting to. This can take a long time, although once the allergen is identified, the fix is pretty simple: make sure your pet avoids the allergen. If it’s a food-based allergen such as chicken, beef or grain, this means simply avoiding pet food that contains the triggering ingredient.

If your pet is reacting to an environmental allergen, this may be more difficult to eliminate and would require limiting your pet’s exposure to the allergen. For example, if your dog is allergic to pollen, keep him inside from late afternoon, through the night to late morning, which is when the most pollen can be found in the air. If your cat is allergic to dust, keep your house spotlessly clean and use an ioniser to remove floating dust particles.

In these instances, feeding your pet a food for their sensitive constitution is their best bet. ‘Sensitive’ dog foods or cat foods contain ingredients that help your pet’s body to better digest and process nutrients without triggering an immune reaction. These foods promote skin and gut health and are softer on your pet’s sensitive, reactive system.

Symptoms of sensitive tummies

Read more about identifying and treating sensitive tummies here.

Symptoms of joint pain

Our pets are active and playful at the best of times and need a healthy diet to fuel their energetic lifestyles. Some pets, however, are susceptible to joint deterioration (specifically, degenerative joint disease or DJD) as a result of their genetics, age or from overworking their joints (especially in working dogs). Since it’s impossible for our pets to tell us when they are in pain, some of the symptoms of joint degeneration can look like:

  • stiffness
  • limping
  • hesitation when lying down
  • difficulty getting up
  • muscle atrophy around the back legs
  • pain reaction when touched near the affected joints
  • reluctance to play or jump
  • weight gain

How to treat joint degeneration

Unfortunately, joint degeneration is progressive, so when the cartilage in our pets’ joints begins to break down, it cannot be reversed. The good news is that this degenerative process can be slowed and the resulting pain and inflammation can be managed. With proactive and consistent treatment, dogs and cats can go on to live relatively active and pain-free lives, although not at the same intensity as a pet with strong, healthy joints.

The first treatment area is, of course, your pet’s food. There are many pet foods on the market specifically aimed at meeting the needs of pets with DJD (or osteoarthritis). These foods contain ingredients that help to protect the joint, reduce inflammation, assist with the healing process and reduce the pain of joint degeneration.

These same ingredients can be found in supplements targeting DJD and include glucosamine, chondroitin, green-lipped mussel extract and MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) which, when combined, target inflammation and pain as well as promote healing. In the advanced stages of joint degeneration, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) are the key medication in managing pain.

One of the priorities of pet owners with pets that have degenerative joint disease is to keep those pets healthy and fit. If a pet with DJD is overweight, it places a lot more strain on those joints, creating a lot more unnecessary pain. First and foremost, keep pets with joint problems at a healthy weight.

Symptoms of obesity

Pet obesity is a very sensitive yet important topic for pet owners to address. There is a lot of guilt around fat cats and pudgy pooches, which can cause pet owners to remain in a state of denial while their pets suffer under the excess weight. But rest assured, we’re not here to make you feel guilty, rather to help you to help your pets. For more information on the causes of pet obesity, read our article here.

Obese pet symptoms:

  • visibly overweight
  • may have difficulty breathing
  • no waistline
  • no visible ribcage
  • in the Serious Risk category in the Body Fat Index
  • lethargic
  • lack mobility
  • painful movement

How to treat obesity

As with humans, the strategy for weight loss should focus on more calories used than calories eaten; eat less, move more; eat a healthy diet and get a moderate amount of exercise. For pets, this means changing their diet to a weight loss or weight management pet food. Once you’ve found a food that your pudgy precious enjoys, start with one or two short yet moderately paced walks a day for your dog, and more playing and movement for your cat. When they begin to lose some weight, go for longer walks and vary the speed to ensure enough of a workout.

If you must treat your dog, do so with their kibble – the snacks can wait. Don’t feed your pets any human food and don’t reward begging or staring. If you can’t take your dog for their weight loss walk, don’t ‘apologise’ and feed them a guilty snack. Show your love and care in other ways and rather spend some time on training – a little activity is better than none.

In conclusion

As you can see, good pet health starts with food. The nutritional requirements of our pets can all be met with the food you pour or scoop into their food bowl. If your pretty purry or friendly furry has a sensitive tummy, environmental allergens, joint problems, is overweight or is experiencing any form of health imbalance, it can be treated or supported with the appropriate pet food. Ask your vet for a recommendation and be sure to support your beloved pet through the healing process. Their quality of life and your joy depend on it!

* This article does not constitute medical advice for your individual pet. Always get your pet’s symptoms checked out and properly diagnosed by a veterinarian. Ask for your vet’s recommendation on the right food to feed your pet to relieve their symptoms.

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