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Basic Nutrition

see also Vitamins & Minerals

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 warm.

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 simple sugars.


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 HERE

Dietary supplements

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.




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©2006 Burns Pet Nutrition Ltd. No part of this website can be reproduced in any form without the express permission of Burns Pet Nutrition Ltd. The advice of Burns Pet Nutrition or a qualified veterinary surgeon should always be sought before changes are made to the diet in the nutritional management of health problems.

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