Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Travelling and nutritional needs

With the summer having arrived, the number of activities involving our pets, one of them being travelling, has increased as well. Dogs typically enjoy travelling to the highest degree.

With new sights and smells, travel can be both exciting and overwhelming for us pets. Going into “foreign territories” is stressful at times even for well adjusted pets and can lead to drastic appetite changes. Animals are instinctively cautious about eating in unfamiliar surroundings and this lack of appetite cannot only affect bowel movements and energy levels, but even a pet’s overall health. For your peace of mind and your pet’s comfort, preparation is the key in traveling.

In times of high stress, hormones produced by the body can give animals poor appetites. So eating for calories is often the main nutritional focus. Make every bite count and travel armed with a tasty diet of foods that are just too good for a pet to pass up. Ideally this would be the pet’s normal diet to minimize any other stressful changes. But if that doesn’t work, the following suggestions might come in handy:

Foods that are higher in protein and fat are generally more palatable than foods higher in carbohydrates. Therefore, selecting a high protein and low carbohydrate food is a simple solution. For many brands, carbohydrate levels are not typically listed on packaging, but they can be easily calculated by adding all the percentages for protein, fat, moisture, crude fiber and (if available) ash and subtracting the total from 100%. The remainder is an approximation of the percent of carbohydrate in the food. Dry foods with less than 18% carbohydrates for dogs and 12% for cats would be considered low in carbohydrates. Canned dog and cat food with less than 2% carbohydrates would be considered lower in carbohydrates. Increasing fat and protein also allows us pets to get more calories per bite of food and helps boost our immune systems.

Hydration is also imperative for travelling pets to avoid overheating. One way to keep a pet hydrated is to provide frequent access to fresh, cool water. Another convenient way to help with hydration is to feed canned food. The greater water content in canned food, up to seven times as much as in dry food, can help to meet our water needs. In addition, canned wet food to some of us is just more tempting than dry foods.

Providing treats at different points on a trip is another great way to reassure pets and letting them know that travelling is fun. Selecting treats that are easily stored and that come in a variety of shapes and flavors can make giving treats both easy for you and enjoyable for your pets.

In the end, the more comfortable and satisfied we pets are during a trip, the more enjoyable the entire experience will be for everybody.

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