What really is the correct diet for a dog or cat? Pet owners usually ask themselves this question when receiving their pet, but they often do not get many expert answers. Dr.med.vet. Karin Furrer, veterinarian and owner of the Kreis 2, a small animal practice in Zurich, shares five interesting tips on the subject of healthy nutrition for dogs and cats.
Not only do we follow trends to optimize our own diets, but many pet owners also think about the best breed-appropriate nutrition for their beloved pets. «In my experience, pet owners are often overwhelmed with the variety of products in stores,» says Dr. Karin Furrer, «There are also questions like: Organic or not? Can dogs and cats be vegetarian or vegan? Should I try a barf diet and how does that even work?» As a vet, Dr. Furrer is asked about these topics and product recommendations more and more often.
You can’t go wrong with these five essential nutritional tips for dogs and cats:
1. It is important that your animal is doing well. As banal as that may sound, the guidelines are clear. If your animal is doing well, i.e. is healthy, has a shiny coat, shows no digestive problems and is in good general conditions, you can trust that you are doing a lot of things right.
2. Don’t be afraid of monotony. The wide range and variety of pet food and flavors offered by wholesalers and pet shops are more geared towards the demands of the owners than towards the needs of the animals themselves. Animals need a variety of vitamins, minerals and amino acids and good quality pet food contains these already. Karin Furrer explains that too many food changes can even have a negative effect. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should never change the food, but too much variety often leads to digestive problems, skin changes or uncontrolled weight gain; a problem that the animals are also increasingly confronted with. And once the animals are overweight, it is very difficult for them to lose weight again and they become more susceptible to various diseases.
3. Choose a healthy alternative for biscuits.Treats or biscuits are often used to pamper our pets, during training or to reward good behavior. Such treats should be included in the daily energy intake. As a healthy alternative, Dr. Furrer recommends Loonawell’s treats without reservation. Not only because these are sustainably and locally produced, without preservatives, but also because they have a wide variety of minerals, amino acids and vitamins and are certified organic. At the core of Loonawell is the fact that every ingredient used has a positive nutritional impact on your dog’s health and that alone sets them apart. Dr. Furrer is convinced of the well thought-out products and gives samples of the various Loonawell products to interested customers in her practice. So far, she has always received positive feedback.
4. Basic knowledge on how you will care for your pet, especially regarding nutrition, Dr. Karin Furrer recommends knowing this even before getting your pet. You may be able to share your own eating habits with your pet but to a very limited extend, since your needs only partially match. Much of what humans like is harmful to animals. Chocolate, for example, is very poisonous for animals, as well as garlic and onions. Grapes and raisins, some types of nuts and especially xylitol (birch sugar) are all very toxic.
Recently, Dr. Karin Furrer has been increasingly questioned about the topic of vegan nutrition for dogs and cats. She generally advises against a vegetarian diet for cats. Cats depend on meat. Otherwise they get heart problems, eye problems and reproductive disorders. They absolutely need taurine, an amino acid which cats cannot produce themselves and which is mostly found in meat products. You could add it synthetically, but the question arises as to whether that makes sense.
Regarding «Barf» – meaning a raw diet – Dr. Karin Furrer determines that it basically makes sense, provided the raw food ideally is organic and breed-appropriate. However, putting together a Barf diet yourself requires specific knowledge. For those who want to try this diet, she recommends nutritional advice, which is given, for example, at the Tierspital Zurich by Prof. Dr. Annette Liesegang. There you have access to verified nutritional content of food portions and to receive expert advice on the optimal composition of the food regarding the age and size of the dog. Such nutritional advice is valuable for all dog owners who care deeply about the well-being of their pet.
5. Make sure your pet does not become overweight before it’s too late. Obesity is often due to overfeeding and under exercising. Portion control, feeding multiple animals separately and exercising your pet are the well-known basic rules. Easier said than done. Dogs need a lot of exercise in the form of long walks and training activities. With cats – and specifically indoor cats – it gets more difficult. But there are options as well. You can make it a challenge for them to earn their food in a playful way and offer activities. They love to hunt, scratch and are very curious. A twig or thread is enough to engage any house cat. There are good tips, information and a film on the subject of activity feeding on the website of the Swiss Veterinary Association for Behavioral Medicine.