Pay attention what your pet eats

Animal Hospital 22

Ichiro Gushiken, a veterinarian and the owner of Animal Hospital 22 in Yogi, Okinawa City,will use this column, Pet Talk, to answer questions from pet-loving foreigners who often don’t know where to turn for advice.

Nutritious and healthy food is as important to your pet as to yourself.

The second wave of the pet boom is under way in Japan, but this time people’s focus has switched from the animal being a “watch dog” to a “family member”.

In recent years, the degree of affection people feel towards their pets has increased, and typical pet has also changed from being a large outdoor animal to a small indoor pet.  According to surveys, the preference is still changing further from big or medium size dogs to smaller ones.

Another change that has occurred with time is how we feed our pets. Up to 10 years ago, the common pet food was leftovers from our dinner tables, but now most people feed their pets specifically made pet food.

Recently, I went through a medical examination. It was some ten years since I had had one and was kind of nervous, but once I arrived at the hospital, I went efficiently through a blood test, echo graphic examination, w-ray examination, barium test and many others. After the tests, I received a talk about health and nutrition guidance. Last, I received the results of the tests and the explanation from the doctor.

Normally, the results take some time to receive, but they made an exception and told me I should do a medical examination every year from now on, meaning the results were not that great. The dietician and doctor made me aware about the importance of a balanced meal. Animals-humans have to eat to survive, but that does not mean eating anything will be okay. It’s important to eat healthy on the daily basis.

At this point I thought to myself that it would be a good idea to have human food graded according to our age, as is done for pets. Humans have to select from tons of food choices every time. On top of that, we have to limit the amount we take in, which seems much easier for a pet to do.

Well, now I would like to talk about the pet food situation in Japan. In 2009, in Japan, according to the Law of Humane Treatment and Management of Animals, pet food ingredients and standards were decided and a huge regulation regime was established that pet food manufacturing companies had to follow. Before this, there were no specific regulations, which meant that it was possible to use any ingredient.

And this is what we were feeding our pets. I am not aware of the regulations in other countries, and depending on the country, until this day maybe no regulations exist at all. However, Japan has now strict policies and regulations regarding ingredients of imported products, and if they are not met, they will not be allowed on store shelves. The standards given were not for purposes of safe food for pets, and it does not mean that all ingredients in the food are healthy.

Depending on the company, to hold down the cost they will use ingredients, which barely meet the standards, which is why the owner should pay close attention when buying the food.

Recently we receive many questions as to which pet food is the best, and there is a large variety and we cannot say which one is best, but I can say that in cheap pet foods high quality ingredients are not used in order to hold down the cost, and they may be high in animal fat and additives, even to cause the pet to become ill.

It is said that the food is the number one cause of allergies, which is why it would be best for the owner to choose a type according to the pet’s age and physical condition. When choosing a food, a good bet is not to not choose the cheapest one, for the pets sake, and choose one a bit more expensive than the ordinary.

If your pet becomes ill after changing the food, I highly recommend for the owner to seek advice from their vet. Please choose a good quality brand for your beloved pet.