GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT
Pet owners are naturally anxious
to ensure that the growing puppy/kitten receives adequate levels
of nutrients to sustain growth and development. Breeders and owners
love to see plump, roly-poly puppies/kittens which seem to epitomise
good health and proper care. In the same way, fat babies were
once admired but this is now frowned on by health professionals.
In practice, more health problems
result from over-nutrition than from lack of adequate nutrition.
Although severe underfeeding will stunt growth, slight underfeeding
during growth will actually reduce health problems in adulthood.
There is undisputed evidence that
a high intake of protein and fat during puppyhood leads to skeletal
disorders such as hip dysplasia, obesity and a shortened lifespan.
Behavioural problems especially hyperactivity can often be attributed
to the same cause. Skin disease which used to be seen mostly in
older dogs now seems to be prevalent in the young dog also.
In spite of this, most proprietary
pet foods for growth have very high levels of protein and fat
and this is even promoted as a virtue. (The adverts may even say
“The first ingredient is meat! ! !) The key to having a
healthy puppy is to feed enough of a natural and easily digestible
diet to ensure a slow rate of growth rather than for the puppy
to shoot up. A puppy which grows slowly will still realise its
growth potential but may take a little longer to reach full size.
The needs of puppies vary tremendously
so recommended feeding amounts should be treated with suspicion.
Good judgement and experience are better guides.
Some problems of the growing dog
Although many health problems/weaknesses
have a hereditary basis correct diet can minimise the effect of
these inherited weaknesses. Weakness of the digestive system,
as in the German Shepherd or a tendency to develop eczema as in
the West Highland Terrier can be avoided by a correct diet. Hip
dysplasia has been shown to be aggravated by incorrect diet during
growth and it is likely that other developmental disorders of
the sleleton are diet-related.
Developmental problems are less significant
in the cat because of the proportionally smaller size.
Exercise and the growing
Some health care professionals advocate that puppies should not
be exercised as this will damage the developing bones and joints.
This makes as little sense as recommending that children should
not have exercise until adulthood.
Exercise promotes good muscle tone,
and well-developed bones and joints as well as providing social
interaction. As mentioned above, developmental defects of the
skeleton are caused, not by exercise but by poor diet.
Common pet health problems
John Burns Pet Health Management