Just like ourselves, our pets need a regular
supply of food in order to stay healthy. The foods that we
eat contain components which are involved in the very complex
processes that take place in the body's cells, provide the
building blocks for growth and supply energy to keep the body
Our pets have several requirements that have
to be met by the diet that we provide:
Like a torch needs batteries to supply the
energy to keep the bulb lit, every cell in the body needs
energy, providing the power for each cell to function. Energy
is used up every time the body performs muscular work, such
as moving or even breathing. The most efficient source of
energy in the diet is fat, which is quickly converted by the
body into usable energy. Carbohydrates and proteins are also
sources of energy, but to a smaller extent.
The body can usefully store energy as fatty
tissue, and in times of shortage these will be used up - hence
the weight loss when on a diet.
Proteins are composed of amino acids, which
are the basic building blocks of life. Proteins are essential
components of all living cells, both in structure and function,
and animals require protein in their diet to provide amino
acids that their bodies cannot synthesise in sufficient quantity.
An increased intake of protein is required
during periods of growth, pregnancy and lactation. Consideration
should also be given to the quality of protein and its digestibility.
Too much protein in the diet can lead to its
conversion by the body into fat, or in a growing animal in
too swift a growth of muscle structure, which may lead to
problems later in life.
Carbohydrates provide the body with a source
of energy, which may be converted into body fat. This food
group includes both simple sugars (such as glucose) as well
as complex sugars (e.g. starch) which consist of chains of
Dietary fats are composed of combinations
of fatty acids, which are involved in many aspects of health,
from the cellular level upwards. They also provide the easiest
form of concentrated energy in the diet, as well as giving
an acceptable texture and 'mouthfeel' to the food.
An animal cannot survive for longer than a
few days, or even hours without water. There is a continual
loss of water through skin, urine, faeces and breathing, and
this must be replaced either as fluid or through the breakdown
of food ingested. Daily water requirement will depend on many
factors, including temperature, activity and type of food
given as part of the diet. It is important therefore, that
adequate water is provided in the diet.
Fibre or Roughage
These materials generally pass through the
gut without providing specific nutrients, merely helping to
regularise bowel movements and managing
constipation or diarrhoea. Fibre in the diet is usually of
plant origin - indigestible polysaccharides such as cellulose,
lignin and pectin
Minerals and Vitamins
A number of minerals have been discovered
to play a part in the regulation of body processes, the requirements
for some being greater than others. Only very small amounts
are needed however, and excess can sometimes result in ill
health, as these can be toxic in high doses.
Vitamins help to regulate the body processes.
Most cannot be synthesised and therefore must be provided
in the diet. Interestingly, unlike humans there is no dietary
requirement for vitamin C in most pets, as they can synthesise
it from glucose.
To view a table of minerals and vitamins CLICK
As long as an animal is being fed a balanced
and complete diet, and a good quality feed should provide
for this, then there should be no need for dietary supplements,
unless prescribed by a veterinary surgeon for a particular
medical purpose. Where the animal's food is cooked at home
from raw ingredients, then care should be taken to ensure
that the diet is balanced with regard to the major and minor
nutrient requirements of the animal.