Food Facts from Anicare Dublin Vet Practice

Dogs are wolves, so should be fed like them, right? 

Yes & No. Although dogs share many characteristics with them, it is wrong to presume that they are the same. Dogs are better able to digest carbohydrates than wolves and what scientists think is that, as dogs have evolved to live alongside man, so too they have evolved to eat a diet more closely resembling our own.

But cats and dogs are still carnivores? 

Nutritionally speaking, however, an animal that eats both animal and plant food is an omnivore, and a dog can survive (though not necessarily thrive – see below) either on an entirely animal- or vegetable-based diet, so is best classified in this way.

People sometimes are surprised that commercial cat food contains vegetables – as you don’t see cats hunting carrots, right? What you have to remember is that cats naturally DO consume a small amount of carbohydrates – although it is mainly inside the animals that they eat! But too much carbohydrate is a bad for them.

So is it ok for me to have a vegetarian dog or cat? FullSizeRender

Cats have evolved to eat lots of meat, they have an absolute requirement for it to provide Taurine, arachidonic acid, vitamin A and nicotinic acid. If cats do not get these by eating meat they can become seriously ill, with heart and eye problems especially.

Up until a decade or two ago, nutritionists thought that it was ok to feed a dog on a vegetarian diet, and you will find various information on the internet that says this. However, dogs have more recently been shown to require a high amount of taurine and other ingredients found mainly in meat too. Although it is theoretically possible to supplement a vegetarian diet with these ingredients, I would not advise it.

So is it ok to just give my pet meat? 

Earlier I mentioned that it is important that our pets are fed the correct ratio of calcium to phosphorus. Meat (muscle) is high in phosphorus, bone is high in calcium. If we just feed our pets meat they will have too much phosphorus and not enough calcium, leading to weak bones.

A “natural” diet for a cat could be a whole mouse – this contains meat, bones, carbohydrates (including within the mouse – what the mouse has eaten!), and all of the other components of a mouse! Feeding just meat (muscle) is far too restricted.

Feeding too much protein makes puppies hyperexcitable too, right? 

It’s amazing how much information there is on the internet advising puppy owners to find a diet with as little protein as possible as this makes puppies hyperactive. However, I am not aware of any evidence to support this idea and have never come across a qualified behaviourist who supports this theory. Commercial puppy diets are formulated to support correct growth of puppies with the correct amount of protein and the correct calcium to phosphorus ratio to support growing bones. If you think your puppy may be hyperactive, seek advice from your vet, who can refer you to a suitably qualified behaviourist if necessary.

How much should I feed my pet and how often? 

Adult dogs and cats should be fed between 1-3 times per day. Puppies and kittens need to be fed more often. It can be useful to feed animals on a weight loss diet more often to help them feel fuller for longer.

WEIGH the food every time you feed it to your pet with kitchen scales – measuring cups have been shown to be very inaccurate.iStock_000019276687XSmall


Next time you visit us in Clontarf Veterinary Hospitlal  ask a vet or nurse to check the body condition score (BCS) of your pet. This will tell you how fat or thin your pet is. Do NOT consult tables and charts about the ideal weight for your breed  – these can be VERY inaccurate due to the wide variation seen in many breeds. One 4kg adult Yorkshire Terrier may be overweight, another may be underweight – it all depends on the size of the skeleton. In humans we use BMI; in pets we use BCS.


Can’t I feed my pet a natural diet? 

The difficult with this question is – what is a natural diet? Domestic cats and dogs are not “natural” animals – they have evolved over generations to live alongside people.


Feeding commercial pet food is easy and inexpensive, and you know that you are feeding all of the nutrients that your pet needs according to current knowledge. Of course we don’t know everything, so we may discover a new essential nutrient in the future that may or may not be present in ideal levels in current pet food. But at least you can be sure you are feeding your pet as best you can according to current scientific knowledge.


Feeding home-made diets is absolutely fine, as long as you also make it up to be correctly balanced according to current knowledge too!  You also should bear in mind that it may be expensive and involve a fair amount of effort sourcing and preparing the various ingredients required.


If you are to feed a homemade diet, make sure you get hold of a good book from a reputable source so that you feed a safe, well-balanced diet to your pet.

  As part of Clontarf Vet’s 20th Anniversary celebrations we are giving away



For details of this and other offers and promotions this month check out our facebook page

For any more advice on feeding your pet just contact us





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