Nutrients are substances obtained from food and used by an animal as a source of energy and as part of the metabolic machinery necessary for maintenance and growth. Barring any special needs, illness-related deficiencies or instructions from your vet, your pets should be able to get all the nutrients they need from high-quality commercial pet foods, which are formulated with these special standards in mind. If you would like to learn about what your pet’s body needs, and why, here are the six essential classes of nutrients fundamental for healthy living:
Water is the most important nutrient. Essential to life, water accounts for between 60 to 70 percent of an adult pet’s body weight. While food may help meet some of your pet's water needs (dry food has up to 10 percent moisture, while canned food has up to 78 percent moisture), pets need to have fresh clean water available to them at all times. A deficiency of water may have serious repercussions for pets: a 10-percent decrease in body water can cause serious illness, while a 15-percent loss can result in death.
Proteins are the basic building blocks for cells, tissues, organs, enzymes, hormones and antibodies, and are essential for growth, maintenance, reproduction and repair. Proteins can be obtained from a number of sources. Animal-based proteins such as chicken, lamb, turkey, beef, fish and egg have complete amino acid profiles. (Please note: Do not give your pet raw eggs. Raw egg white contains avidin, an anti-vitamin that interferes with the metabolism of fats, glucose, amino acids and energy.) Protein is also found in vegetables, cereals and soy, but these are considered incomplete proteins.
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and are divided into essential and non-essential amino acids. - Essential amino acids cannot be synthesized by the animal in sufficient quantities and MUST be supplied in the diet. Essential amino acids include arginine, methionine, histidine, phenylalanine, isoleucine, threonine, leucine, tryptophan, lysine, and valine. -Non-essential amino acids can be synthesized by your pet and are not needed in the diet.
Fats are the most concentrated form of food energy, providing your pet with more than twice the energy of proteins or carbohydrates. Fats are essential in the structure of cells and are needed for the production of some hormones. They are required for absorption and utilization of fat-soluble vitamins. Fats provide the body insulation and protection for internal organs. Essential fatty acids must be provided in a pet’s diet because they cannot be synthesized by a dog in sufficient amounts. A deficiency of essential fatty acids may result in reduced growth or increased skin problems. Linoleic acid is an essential fatty acid for dogs. -Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids play a vital role in healing inflammation. Replacing some omega-6 with omega-3 fatty acids can lessen an inflammatory reaction—whether it is in the skin (due to allergies), the joints (from arthritis), the intestines (from inflammatory bowel disease) or even in the kidneys (from progressive renal failure).The optimal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids for dogs is between 5 and 10 to 1.
Please note: It is impossible to accurately determine the fatty acid ratio of a diet if the owner prepares home-cooked foods. If a dog is to benefit from the effects of these fatty acid ratios, he must be fed a fixed-formula food that guarantees these ratios.
Carbohydrates provide energy for the body’s tissues, play a vital role in the health of the intestine, and are likely to be important for reproduction. While there is no minimum carbohydrate requirement, there is a minimum glucose requirement necessary to supply energy to critical organs (i.e. the brain). Fibers are kinds of carbohydrates that modify the mix of the bacterial population in the small intestine, which can help manage chronic diarrhea. For dogs to obtain the most benefit from fiber, the fiber source must be moderately fermentable. Fiber sources that have low fermentability (e.g. cellulose) result in poor development and less surface area of the intestinal mucosa. Highly fermentable fibers can produce gases and by-products that can lead to flatulence and excess mucus. Moderately fermentable fibers—including beet pulp, which is commonly used in both dog foods—are best, as they promote a healthy gut while avoiding the undesirable side effects. Other examples of moderately fermentable fibers include brans (corn, rice and wheat) and wheat middlings. Foods that are high in fiber are not good for dogs with high energy requirements, such as those who are young and growing.
Vitamins are catalysts for enzyme reactions. Tiny amounts of vitamins are essential to dogs for normal metabolic functioning. Most vitamins cannot be synthesized in the body, and therefore are essential in the diet. -When feeding a complete and balanced diet, it is unnecessary to give a vitamin supplement unless a specific vitamin deficiency is diagnosed by a veterinarian. Due to the practice of over supplementation, hypervitaminosis—poisoning due to excess vitamins—is more common these days than hypovitaminosis, or vitamin deficiency! Excess vitamin A may result in bone and joint pain, brittle bones and dry skin. Excess vitamin D may result in very dense bones, soft tissue calcification and joint calcification.
Minerals: These nutrients cannot be synthesized by animals and must be provided in the diet. In general, minerals are most important as structural constituents of bones and teeth, for maintaining fluid balance and for their involvement in many metabolic reactions.
Clipping Kitty's Nails
Make manicures enjoyable and easy for both you and your cat.
Does your kitty disappear when the clippers come out? Do you have to wrap her in a towel to give her a manicure? According to our behavior experts, calm, enjoyable nail-trimming sessions are not only possible—that’s how they should always be! Check out the following tips for getting kitty to relax while you trim, turning nail-clipping sessions into enjoyable together time.
Setting the Mood
Ideally you should introduce your cat to nail clipping when she’s a kitten. Choose a chair in a quiet room where you can comfortably sit your cat on your lap. Get her when she’s relaxed and even sleepy, like in her groggy, after-meal state. Take care that she isn’t able to spy any birds, wild animals or action outside nearby windows—and make sure no other pets are around.
Make Friends with the Paw
Gently take one of your cat’s paws between your fingers and massage for no longer than the count of three. If your cat pulls her paw away, don’t squeeze or pinch, just follow her gesture, keeping in gentle contact. When she’s still again, give her pad a little press so that the nail extends out, then release her paw and immediately give her a treat. Do this every other day on a different toe until you’ve gotten to know all ten.
Get Acquainted with the Clipper
Your cat should be at ease with the sound of the clippers before you attempt to trim her nails. Sit her on your lap, put a piece of uncooked spaghetti into the clippers and hold them near your cat. (If she sniffs the clippers, set a treat on top of them for her to eat.) Next, while massaging one of your cat’s toes, gently press her toe pad. When the nail extends, clip the spaghetti with the clippers while still holding your cat’s paw gently. Now release her toe and quickly give her a treat.
Never Cut to the Quick
The pink part of a cat’s nail, called the quick, is where the nerves and blood vessels are. Do NOT cut this sensitive area. Snip only the white part of the claw. It’s better to be cautious and cut less of the nail rather than risk cutting this area. If you do accidentally cut the quick, any bleeding can be stopped with a styptic powder or stick. It’s a good idea to keep it nearby while you trim.
Time to Clip
With your cat in your lap facing away from you, take one of her toes in your hand, massage and press the pad until the nail extends. Check to see how much of a trim her nails need and notice where the quick begins. Now trim only the sharp tip of one nail, release your cat’s toe and quickly give her a treat. If your cat didn’t notice, clip another nail, but don’t trim more than two claws in one sitting until your cat is comfortable. Be sure to reward her with a special treat afterward. Please note, you may want to do just one paw at a time for the first couple of sessions.
A nail-trimming every ten days to two weeks is a nice routine to settle into. If your cat refuses to let you clip her claws, ask your vet or a groomer for help.
What Not to Do
If your cat resists, don’t raise your voice or punish her.
Never attempt a clipping when your cat is agitated or you’re upset. And don’t rush—you may cut into the quick.
Don’t try to trim all of your cat’s claws at one time.
Do NOT declaw. This surgery involves amputating the end of a cat’s toes and is highly discouraged by the ASPCA. Instead, trim regularly, provide your cat with appropriate scratching posts and ask your veterinarian about soft plastic covers for your cat’s claws.
The mission of the Greater Derry Humane Society is to promote the humane care and treatment of all animals. Our goal is to reduce the suffering of animals through education, rescue, and support, and to work collaboratively with other organizations.