Ask Dr. Richards

October 2009 Issue

Ask Elizabeth: 10/09

One of the main problems is ensuring that the diet is nutritionally balanced. Although it may appear that cats can live and even thrive scrounging for food on their own, a catís nutritional requirements are actually quite complex. When cats eat prey, they ingest the whole animal ó and it can be hard to duplicate this "complete" diet with muscle meats and other foods obtained from a grocery store. It also takes a lot of time, expense and knowledge to prepare a well-balanced diet, and many published recipes for home cooked pet diets have been found to be nutritionally incomplete. Even when the diet is balanced, it needs to be prepared so that picky cats canít selectively eat only certain ingredients. Unbalanced Diets & Nutritional Diseases. The veterinary literature is full of documented cases linking improper diets to nutritional diseases, some of which are fatal. Well-meaning owners feeding all-meat diets have caused serious calcium deficiencies resulting in catastrophic bone fractures. While bones contain calcium, feeding cooked bones may cause intestinal blockages or perforations, leading to peritonitis (a potentially fatal infection in the abdomen). Large amounts of tuna fish can cause thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiencies, resulting in neurologic disease (tuna cat foods are supplemented with thiamine to prevent problems). Deficiencies of the amino acid, taurine, result in blindness and cardiomyopathy (a potentially fatal weakness of the heart muscle). Interestingly, while muscle meats contain large amounts of taurine, grinding the meat can reduce taurine levels enough to cause deficiencies.

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