Feeding your pet can be a walk in the park, unless you have a fusser eater on your hands. Some pets will hoover up anything you put in front of them while others will pick uninterestedly or completely turn their nose up at what you offer them. It can take a little while for you to get to know the ins and outs of your pet’s individual quirks when it comes to eating. Some might only eat from a specific bowl, some might prefer one brand of food to another and some might take no notice at all and eat whatever you put out.
Although it might seem as simple as chucking some food from a can into a bowl and leaving them to it, there are plenty of dos and don’ts that you need to think about when it comes to feeding your pets.
Firstly, let’s talk about the bowl itself. Choose ceramic or stainless steel over plastic as these won’t absorb bacteria and are easier to keep clean. It goes without saying that as with human bowls, your pet’s bowl needs regular washing. You should also make sure that you provide plenty of fresh, clean water for your pet to drink at all times to avoid dehydration. Once your pet is settled and eating happily, it’s best if you leave them alone so they don’t get distracted.
Now let’s think about the food itself. Make sure you are getting good quality food for your pets that will meet the nutritional needs required for their age and activity level. Try and feed your pet at the same time each day so that they can settle in to a schedule and know what to expect. If you have more than one pet, try and feed them separately to each other so you can monitor their intake and will be able to quickly notice any change in appetite or eating habits.
If you find that your pet is eating their meals too quickly, you can buy a puzzle feeder. This not only adds an element of mental stimulation to meal times but will also stop your pet suffering from bloat. If your dog gets very excited at meal times, this is a good time to try out some training techniques. Getting your dog to sit before you feed them will calm them down and offer some positive reinforcement for their good behaviour.
Avoid giving your pet foods that are high in fats, salt and sugar and don’t give them scraps from your plate. You should also be aware of any ‘human’ foods that could make your pet unwell, like chocolate or raisins. Your pet should be getting all the nutrients and energy it needs from its own meals and extra feeding could lead to weight gain. If you feel like your pet could benefit from losing a few pounds, take them to the vet to discuss a specialised diet plan. Don’t try and create one by yourself as this could lead to your pet missing out of essential vitamins and minerals. Any changes in your pets diet should be done gradually and under advice from your vet.
Try and consider what’s happening for the rest of the day before feeding your pet. Taking your dog for a walk or run too soon after eating could cause bloat so it’s best to save meals for when you get home or allowing enough time for proper digestion before you leave. If you need to take your pet out with you for the day in the car or maybe on a bus or train, you should leave plenty of time for them to eat before you leave otherwise your pet may suffer from travel sickness.
If you have any concerns about your pet’s diet or their feeding habits or if you notice a change in their eating patterns then you should consult your veterinarian immediately.