According to the PDSA, more than five million cats in the UK are overweight. Vets are now reporting that 40% of all the cats that they treat are obese or overweight. With 48% of owners feeding them treats more than twice a day one way of tackling this feline obesity epidemic is with puzzle feeding.
Puzzle feeding is simply a way of feeding your cat in a more rewarding and stimulating manner than the ordinary bowl method. Your cat has to figure out what movement of a toy is required to get the food out, creating a game!
Many owners wish to keep their cats indoors due to safety or health reasons, however, it is important to remember supply them with enough environmental enrichment to keep them mentally stimulated and physically fit. Using a puzzle feeder can provide this enhancement into their daily life.
Cats are natural born hunters and they normally get their meals by stalking, pouncing and capturing prey. In the domesticated lifestyle, we are simply serving beautifully prepared birds and mice in a ceramic bowl, usually two times a day, which causes them to become lazy and bored. For this species, a successful meal requires mental and physical stimulation.
Puzzle feeders come in many shapes, sizes and complexity. If you’re just starting out using them then consider a simpler puzzle and then move onto more complex designs.
You can choose from stationary puzzles where the cat has to use his/her paws to knock, push or pull the food to where they can eat it, or a moving puzzle they have to chase or bash around to get the tasty reward out.
You can make your own inexpensive, homemade puzzle feeders easily using toilet rolls and bottles making them as simple or complex as suited to your cat.
November is a time of year to raise awareness for men’s health, and we must not forget our furry friends! Our dogs can also suffer from specific health issues associated with being male, one of these being prostate disorders.
The prostate is a small gland found at the neck of the bladder in male dogs. It is an essential part of the male reproductive system and is responsible for producing some of the fluids found in semen needed to protect sperm. Unfortunately, male dogs can suffer from a range of prostate disorders, some of which are incredibly common – especially in entire (non-castrated) dogs.
Below are some of the basics to identifying and understanding prostatic disease in dogs.
There are a range of disorders which can affect the prostate – some are ‘acute’ and so will have a rapid onset of clinical signs, while others are more chronic and one may only see a slow progression of signs appearing over months to years. All of these conditions however produce a similar range of clinical signs, which you can look out for at home:
As the name suggests this is a non-cancerous (benign) enlargement of the prostate. It is very commonly seen in entire male dogs as it is associated with the hormones released from the testicles. It can be treated very effectively with castration, and signs should begin to improve within a few weeks. If the dog is required for breeding or is too unwell to undergo surgery there are medical alternatives which can be used, but the treatment of choice by most veterinarians will be castration. Another similar benign enlargement of the prostate also under hormonal influence is called squamous cell metaplasia – it is most commonly caused by an oestrogen producing tumour in the testicles and is also treated by castration.
Chronic kidney disease is unfortunately a problem in cats and dogs we see all too frequently and at our Vet’s Klinic we help many pets and their owners to manage this difficult news. The kidneys are essential for filtering waste products into urine and for water and electrolyte (essential salt) balance along with the regulation of certain hormones. This article touches on the causes, diagnosis and treatment options available to you and your canine or feline friend.
Kidney disease (also known as renal disease or renal failure) comes in two forms, acute or chronic. Acute kidney disease is often due to toxins, usually accidental poisoning by ingestion of antifreeze/medications, or from diseases, such as leptospirosis (which can be vaccinated against). The symptoms will appear suddenly, over a couple of days. These can sometimes be treated, although the effects on the kidneys may not be fully reversed, depending on how quickly treatment is sought.
Chronic kidney disease (CRF) is fairly common, and mostly seen in older/senior animals, which we class as animals over 8 years of age. Chronic Kidney disease is more common in cats than dogs and is often secondary to other conditions, such as hyperthyroidism. However, it is estimated that 1 in 10 dogs will also suffer from this disease. It has a slower progression than acute kidney disease, and builds up over time. There are several possible causes, and signs are often hard to spot initially, as they are not visible until 75% of the kidney function has already been lost.
The main signs of chronic kidney disease are:
If your pet is showing any of these symptoms, you should go and see your vet.
There are many different causes for the loss of kidney function and often it is impossible to tell the original causative factor. To simplify into three categories there are causes before, in, and after the kidneys which can lead to damage to the kidneys:
Dental disease can also have an impact on the kidneys, as bacteria in the mouth can enter the bloodstream and attack the kidneys. The vet can have a look at your pet’s teeth and gums and assess if they will require a dental procedure called a scale and polish, and possible extractions of rotten teeth. However, this does have risks if the pet does already have kidney problems, as the anaesthetic and drugs used in the procedure could worsen the problem.
Like us, our pets have an immune system. The immune system consists of the lymphatic system (lymph nodes, lymph vessels & tonsils), thymus, spleen, bone marrow, liver, intestines and white blood cells. These structures all help to defend the body and help it to fight off illnesses and infections caused by things it does not recognise and thinks could be dangerous e.g. viruses, parasites and bacteria.
With the immune system being such an important part of our pets health, it is important we look after it as best as we can. The phrase ‘you are what you eat’ comes to mind as most owners would agree that eating healthy food can help you stay in the best shape. It’s the same for our pets, healthy food without any chemical preservatives, colourings or artificial flavourings is a great start but getting the right balance of ingredients is also important. For example, it has been proven in both humans and animals that a deficiency in energy, protein, essential fatty acids and some minerals and vitamins can be detrimental to the immune system. On top of this, studies have shown that as our pets age there are changes to the immune system and they are more likely to develop tumours and infectious disease. However, it’s never too late to start supporting their immune system and alongside a healthy, balanced diet there are some ingredients/supplements that have shown promising results for immune health. This article will explore some of the more important nutrients including:
Beta-Glucans are naturally occurring carbohydrate molecules found in the wall of Brewer’s Yeast; which is alsov an excellent source of B Vitamins and additional prebiotics.
Beta-1,3/1,6- glucans have been shown to reduce chemical messages that stimulate inflammation and increase the anti-inflammatory messages to white blood cells. These types of chemical changes are thought to be beneficial to the control of allergic skin disease in some dogs.
Nucleotides are the building blocks of DNA. DNA is present in every cell and provides genetic instructions for the cells’ function. Every time a cell divides it must replicate the strands of DNA for each new cell. The tissues in our body that produce new cells the most frequently are the cells that provide our natural defences, the gut wall and immune cells.
We naturally make nucleotides from the food we eat. However, in the cells that are dividing the quickest and most frequently (the gut and immune cells) it has been proven that by supplementing the building blocks (nucleotides) for cell replication when the defences are challenged, that the response is quicker and greater. Supplementing your dog’s food with nucleotides enables them to respond more quickly and efficiently to what life throws at them.
During normal cell metabolism the body produces unstable molecules called free radicals. These are responsible for normal ageing, but if they are able to increase in numbers they can cause disease and illness too. Contaminants such as pollution and damage from sunlight (sun burn) can increase the amount of free radicals the body produces. Due to their structure, immune cells are particularly vulnerable to damage from free radicals, however, antioxidants including Vitamins C and E help to neutralise free radicals and reduce the destruction caused by them. Vitamins C and E are found widely in foods, however plant oils and seeds are a rich source of Vitamin E and whilst citrus fruits are a well-known source of Vitamin C, but it is also it is found in other foods including green leafy veg such as kale and broccoli. Other rich sources of antioxidants include curcumin – the active ingredient in turmeric, grape seed extract (which is safe for dogs, unlike grapes) and spinach which contains the antioxidant lutein. Minerals including selenium, which contains an antioxidant enzyme and zinc also have very important roles in the immune system. The richest sources of zinc include meat, fish and nuts and selenium fish, meat and spinach.
Fatty acids are ‘good’ fats that can be beneficial to health. In fact, some of them are vital for health and without them your pet would not survive. The essential ones cannot be produced by dogs or cats and must be obtained from their food. There are different types of Omega fatty acids, but the most well-known are Omega 6 Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) and Omega 3 EFAs.
The correct balance of Omega 6 to Omega 3 is important as an imbalance can actually produce inflammation; the amount and type of essential fatty acid can also affect the activity of immune cells. It is thought that there are other ways that EFAs help the immune system and current research is looking into this.
Marine sources such as algae or fish oil are generally the best sources of Omega 3’s. Omega 6 fatty acids are found in plant and seed oils such as flaxseed, borage, sunflower and rapeseed but it is also smaller amounts in meat and cereals.
Amino acids can be described as the building blocks of protein. Many amino acids are essential meaning that your dog or cat has to get them from their food. Three amino acids that have important roles in the immune system are arginine, cysteine and glutamine. Any complete dog food should contain all of these amino acids if it has a high enough meat content as they are mostly found in meat, fish, eggs and dairy. Arginine is also found in several types of nuts and glutamine in parsley and spinach.
Your dog’s diet affects the type and number of bacteria (and other microbes such as fungus) in their gut. This collection of microbes is known as the gut microbiome. Bacteria in the microbiome is essential for digestion and also affects the immune system. Some types of bacteria are seen as invaders and can trigger the immune system, whereas others are thought to be beneficial, this is an area of research which is of great interest and clinical studies are on-going. In dogs, the type and number of bacteria changes depending on whether the diet is high protein, low carbohydrate or vice versa. However, additional natural ingredients such as prebiotics or sources of prebiotics like inulin from chicory or Brewer’s yeast can also be important. Prebiotics help to feed the ‘good’ bacteria in the gut supporting overall gut health.
There are many foods that are thought to help support the immune system including citrus fruits (high in antioxidants), ginger, garlic and green tea extract. However, some of these are not suitable for pets. For example, green tea extract research has shown it has some very promising health benefits but if taken in high doses or on an empty stomach it can be lethal and garlic (and onions) can lead to anaemia if too much is eaten. Therefore, you might prefer to look for a complete food with added ingredients to maintain the immune system, or a vet recommended supplement so you can be sure the dose and ingredients are suitable for your pet.