Hello Pet Parents!
Here at PetShopBowl we thought we would explain every thing you need to know about the ingredients and nutrients in your pet's food - with this blog focusing on fat.
What is dietary fat?
Fats are one of the six vital nutrients that your pets need and should get from their food ingredients. The other vital nutrients are water, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.
Fats, made up of building blocks called fatty acids, are like a concentrated form of energy which give more than twice the amount of energy as carbohydrates and proteins do.
The proper name for what we call fats are lipids, which include fats (solid at room temperature) and oils (liquid at room temperature) - but to keep it easier to understand we will call them fats in this blog.
Why do dogs and cats need fat?
Fats are necessary for the normal development and function of body cells, nerves, muscles and body tissues, and are especially important for the health of the reproductive system. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble, meaning they can only be used by the body when mixed with fats. Also, fats play a vital role in maintaining body temperature and promoting healthy skin and hair.
Fats are also the nutrient first used by the body to produce energy - to do this fats are broken down in the body to eventually produce glucose, an energy source. So even though we think of fats as the horrible stuff that makes us and our pets overweight, they are actually needed in the diet to keep your pet active and fit!
Fats also help to protect the body from disease and trauma. When a harmful substance reaches unsafe levels in the blood, the body can 'dilute' the substance by storing it in new fat tissue. This helps to protect the organs from damage, until the substance can be safely used in the body or removed from it, usually by toileting. Fat protects the body from trauma too by 'cushioning' the organs and skeletal structure.
Some fatty acids are essential nutrients, which means they can't be produced in the body so need to be sourced in the diet - these are known as essential fatty acids and are divided into two groups called the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 helps to control your pet's inflammation, ease arthritis pain, promote heart and kidney health, increase trainability, and improve mood. On the other hand, omega-6 helps fight infections and promotes healthy skin and a shiny coat.
Fats are a big reason why dog food tastes and smells good too - to your pet that is.
Fat requirements in dogs and cats vary with age, activity level, temperament, life stage, health status, and quality of the diet.
What are the fat requirements for dogs (dry diet)?
Puppy - minimum 8.5%
Adult - minimum 5.5%
What are the fat requirements for cats (dry diet)?
Adult - minimum 9%
Kitten - minimum 9%
How can I tell which foods are better for fat than others?
The fats in pet foods are typically sourced from by both animal fats and oils from plants. Quality pet foods will list good sources of fat and ensure they provide the proper balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Have a look at the ingredients list to see how good the sources of fat are - good quality fats are certain fish oils - such as herring or salmon - flaxseed and canola oils, pork fat, poultry fat (such as chicken or turkey), egg yolk, safflower and sunflower oils, as well as corn and soy bean oils. Poorer quality fats include beef tallow or lard.
Also, there should be between five to ten times more omega-6 in the diet than omega-3 to healthily balance the nutrients so that they can do their job properly. Too much omega-6 fatty acids can cause inflammatory diseases including heart disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal disease, arthritis, dermatitis, other skin condition, kidney disease and colitis - If your pet suffers from any of these, or your pet's food contains too much omega-6, then feeding more omega-3 is recommended, perhaps by supplements, to help reduce the inflammation and/or restore the balanced ratio.
All in all, as long as your pet is a healthy adult, a complete diet that provides about 10-15% fat from quality sources is best to maintain health.
How can I tell if my pet is getting enough fat?
Feeding a commercial complete pet food that fits your pet's lift stage and activity level should be just fine - this is because the brand has to make sure there are enough fats in the food to call it complete.
Signs that your pet is not getting enough fat may include any or all of the following: weight loss, muscle loss, dull coat, dry skin, itchy skin, reproductive problems, heart disease, diabetes and reduced immunity.
If you feed your pet a complete diet but witness any of the above symptoms then you should take your pet to the vets as there may be an underlying health problem.
What will happen if I feed my dog too much fat?
If your dog eats a food too high in fat, the extra fat is stored around the body - causing your dog no harm as long as weight issues do not occur. However, if your pet eats a diet too high in fat for a lengthy amount of time then they are very likely to become overweight and eventually obese.
Obesity can then cause osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, respiratory disease, kidney disease, cancer and a decreased life expectancy of several years.
Don't worry if your pet's food seems to be a little over the recommended minimum amount - most pet food companies slightly exceed the minimum recommended fat requirements to ensure that pets definitely digest enough fat from the food. There is only a health threat when weight gain occurs.
Some breeds are more prone to gain weight from excess fat, including: Scottish Terriers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Beagles, Cocker Spaniels, Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers, Bernese Mountain Dogs and Saint Bernards.
Should I ever reduce the fat in my pet's diet to help weight loss?
It would be unhealthy to reduce the amount of fat, provided your pet eats a complete and balanced diet, because these diets supply the right amount of fat that is essential for the body to: digest certain vitamins, gain energy, maintain body temperature, promote healthy skin and coat, aid the immune system, protect the organs, aid inflammation and promote heart and kidney health.
Therefore, rather than lower fat content, safely lower the amount of food given or change your pet's diet to a 'light' or 'weight control' food. There are many of these diets available:
If your pet is showing signs of a health problem, associated with fat intake or not, then we advise you to seek veterinary advice.
For general pet health and nutrition queries you can always contact our Pet Health Advisor on 01789-205-095 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org