April is National Pet Month and the perfect time to examine and consider your pet's nutrition and health. Here's some of the most common complaints we hear about, what to look out for and how you can help.
Gum disease is usually but not always related to the formation of tooth tartar. Many people mistakenly believe that feeding dry pet food keeps the teeth clean. Although hard chews may help to clean the teeth the real cause of tartar is an accumulation of waste matter in the saliva.
The most common symptoms you need to look out for are bad breath, loss of appetite and red or inflamed gums. The gums may also appear yellow, brown or black with staining of the teeth.
Correct nutrition can help promote dental health in your pet. This prevents excess waste in the system and in turn the formulation of tartar. There are also now specialist diets available which are intended to prevent tartar by creating a cleansing eﬀect.
If your dog is suﬀering from ﬂatulence, loose or frequent bowel motions, occasional sickness or is straining to go to the toilet then they are displaying symptoms of digestive discomfort.
An upset digestion can be caused by a food allergy or a reaction to unsuitable ingredients such as colourings or artiﬁcial preservatives in their diet. Too much fat and overfeeding can produce more harmful waste products/toxins. Loose stools and vomiting can occur as the body tries to rid itself of these toxins.
Try a highly digestible diet instead that is easier for your pet to digest. The digestive organs don't have to work so hard and less waste products are produced. Diet oﬀers a long-term solution to upset digestion unlike drugs which will only temporarily suppress symptoms.
Adverse reactions to ingredients in diet may well be one of the most common causes of ill health, yet it is the least recognised. Any dietary ingredient can cause an intolerance.
In dogs, dietary intolerance most commonly affects the skin or digestive system. Symptoms to look out for are itchy skin, ear inflammation, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal discomfort.
Any symptom of ill-health which persists despite treatment or which recurs after treatment should arouse suspicion of food intolerance. Eliminating the existing food from the diet and replacing it with food new to the animal is the best way to determine what is causing the reaction. Home-made food allows you more control over ingredients but a commercial food with a high meat content (80%) and is free from additives, chemicals and artificial flavourings may also work and be easier to maintain long term.
A shiny healthy coat is a sign of a healthy dog. If a dog's coat starts to lose its shine, it could be a sign that they aren't receiving sufficient levels of nutrition. If this is the case, it is best to feed them foods or a supplement that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. You can add these to your dog's existing meals and should not receive any complaints, dogs find them delicious!
Joint problems are a very common problem for dogs, particularly in larger breeds. One of the ways the problem is exacerbated is by dogs being overweight. This causes excess strain and pressure on the joints which causes real discomfort. The main symptom of arthritis in dogs is pain in the joints which causes tension in the muscles. Muscle tension is also a result of over-eating due to the accumulation of waste metabolic products that are produced. It is therefore vitally important to carefully measure the amounts a dog is being fed.
Though you may think it more beneficial to rest the joints, controlled exercise is encouraged as it increases circulation which supplies joints with nutrients and oxygen whilst removing metabolic waste and toxins which cause pain. We would recommend 3-4 times a day in small amounts, activities like swimming, under water walking and physical therapy.