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The Nutritional and Dietary Requirements of Domestic Animals

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Domestic animals are usually fully dependent on humans for the food they consume, and therefore owners must carefully consider the nutritional needs of each animal they care for. This report will list the seven main nutrients required in animal nutrition, discuss how nutrition is related to the animal’s feeder type, and will outline some factors that will require a change in diet. All animals require varying amounts of the principal nutrients listed below: 1.Protein: essential for functions such as cell wall synthesis, tissue growth and repair, regulating metabolism, energy provision, and for use as biological enzymes (Tortora et al, 2007, p46). 2.Carbohydrates: include sugars, glycogen, starches and cellulose. They function mainly as a source of energy which is required for generating ATP to be used in metabolic reactions throughout the body. 3.Fats: vital in small amounts. “They provide fatty acids which are vital for the brain” and for energy (Watson, 2010, p56) and act as a carrier for fat-soluble vitamins.

4.Fibre: important for most species. Carnivores require only a small amount to aid food digestion; however it makes up the majority of an herbivore diet. 5.All animals require certain vitamins; organic compounds which support body regulation. For example, vitamin A aids growth, foetal development and vision (among other regulatory processes). 6.Macro-minerals (such as calcium and sodium) and micro-minerals (such as iron and iodine): both are crucial in animal nutrition and have various functions. E.g. calcium is needed for bone growth and muscle health, and iron is an essential component of haemoglobin in red blood cells, of which sufficient amounts are needed to prevent anaemia. 7.The most essential of all nutrients is water. Without water an animal would not survive one day, and therefore owners must daily provide fresh clean water for all animals. (Golonka, 2007)

How the Type of Feeder Affects Diet
The variety of nutrients an animal diet plan needs will depend on what type of feeder the animal is. The three primary types of feeder are carnivores, herbivores and omnivores. Carnivores obtain their energy and nutrients by consuming meat; some examples include cats, ferrets and owls. Conversely herbivores obtain their energy and nutrients purely from vegetation. Examples include horses, sheep and rabbits. Finally, omnivores (including pigs, rats and chickens) consume a variety of meat and vegetation to obtain energy and nutrients. A suitable food plan should be developed for every animal, determined primarily by feeder classification. For the carnivore classification, cats require a food plan which matches feline requirements and behaviours. Cats need meat to survive; Watson (2010, p56) states that “a deficiency can cause blindness, heart disease, and death”. At 12 months old, a regular routine of dry or wet food, or a combination of the two should be given. An average 4kg cat requires 240 calories daily (Catster Magazine, n.d.). This would equate to 4/5 of a cup of dry food or approximately 170g of wet food. Cats prefer to eat small portions regularly presented in a clean bowl at a reachable level (typically 13-16 times a day). Dry food can be left out all day for cats to return to, but they prefer to crunch on it, so keep it dry.

However with wet food, it may be beneficial to provide whole slices of warmed meat as a source of feline enrichment (Nestle Purina PetCare, 2007). Guinea pigs (herbivores) need to consume large amounts of vegetation to acquire the essential nutrients because plant matter only provides low levels of obtainable energy. A combination of green vegetables and hay is ideal; however it is important to keep the hay above ground level to prevent the guinea pig from soiling the same hay it consumes. According to the RSPCA (n.d.), “a bowl of vegetables should be provided per pig everyday”. Guinea pigs also require additional vitamin C because, like humans, they are unable to produce it themselves (Rhody, 2008).

Therefore plenty of fruit (including orange) should be provided. Food is either presented in a bowl at a reachable level, or within the animal’s living space so foraging is possible. Pigs (omnivores) can consume meat and vegetation as part of their diet. They are able to obtain energy from both sources, due to their non-specialised digestive systems and the presence of enzymes which hydrolyse meat. They are usually fed twice a day, and must be fed a wholesome diet in sufficient quantity to satisfy their nutritional needs and provide them with good health. Foraging substrate must also be made available to all pigs; scatter feeding allows for this natural behaviour (RSPCA, 2012, p1-3).

Factors Which Affect Diet
As animal age increases, balanced diet plans are usually required to change. The body slows down; requiring fewer carbohydrates, fats and proteins, and requiring less energy to function. However, additional fibre and vitamins should be given due to the slowing down of the digestive enzymes in the stomach and intestines. Health also affects diet; according to Pollard (2002, p90), “loss in appetite is a fairly reliable symptom of illness”, so fluid levels must be increased. Food should then be gradually increased into the animal’s diet: preferably high protein foods to increase the animal’s available energy stores. The correct diet is vital for all animals, as it can prevent numerous health problems. Also requiring a lot of energy is pregnancy, which also necessitates a change in diet.

The female must obtain enough energy for her own body but also enough to develop healthy offspring. Food needs to be slowly increased from the start of pregnancy up until birth and lactation, at which point the female should be receiving around 20% more food than during early pregnancy. This percentage varies between species, but consistent with Watson (2010, p60), pregnant cats for example require “50% more (food) than usual”. Since pregnancy can suppress hunger, a more concentrated diet is advised to prevent the female having to consume bountiful amounts of food. Throughout the third trimester and after birth, food amounts should remain increased until all offspring have been weaned, and the female can return to her normal diet.


Catster Magazine. (n.d.). How Much Should I Feed My Cat? Retrieved 08.01.2013, from http://www.catster.com/cat-food/how-much-should-i-feed-my-cat Golonka, D., et al. (2008). Vitamins and their Functions and Sources. Retrieved 08.01.2013, from http://www.everydayhealth.com/health-center/vitamins-and-their-functions-and-sources-info.aspx Nestle Purina PetCare (UK) Ltd. (2007). Feeding Your Adult Cat. Retrieved 27.12.2013, from http://www.purina.co.uk/content/your-cat/feeding-your-cat/right-food-for-your-cat/feeding-your-adult-cat Pollard, M. (2002). The Encyclopedia of Cats. Parragon Books Rhody, J. (2008). Vitamin C Supplements for Guinea Pigs.

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