Educational Articles

Nutrition

  • This article reviews the benefits and disadvantages of semi-moist, dry, and canned dog foods. Semi-moist foods are not generally recommended as a sole diet due to their high sugar and sodium content, as well as the addition of artificial colors, preservatives and flavor enhancers. Dry food, or kibble, is easy to portion control and can be fed in puzzle toys. Canned food is a good option but more expensive than kibble and may contribute to periodontal disease.

  • Dog food has been made so palatable that it can easily create gluttonous behavior. Meal feeding and portion control are important to prevent obesity. Owners should not give in to begging behavior. Dogs that are still hungry after their meal can be supplemented with snacks such as green vegetables recommended by your veterinarian. Dogs that eat too quickly can be fed creatively to slow down eating.

  • Turtles are omnivorous, eating both animal protein and vegetable matter. As juveniles, they are mainly carnivorous, become more omnivorous as they age. When feeding turtles, offering a variety of food is important to help stimulate the turtle to eat and provide nutritional balance. The carnivorous portion of their diet should consist of commercial turtle or fish pellets, as well as a variety of invertebrates and vertebrates. The plant portion of the diet should be made up of vegetables, preferably ones that float and can be left in the water for the turtle to nibble on throughout the day. Some veterinarians suggest adding a balanced, commercially available multivitamin once per week with an additional source of calcium, such as a calcium block or cuttlebone, twice per week. Having a well-functioning filtration system that is cleaned regularly is key to ensuring good water quality. Turtles and other reptiles commonly carry Salmonella bacteria on their skin or in the gastrointestinal tracts, so always wash your hands thoroughly after feeding, cleaning, or handling turtles.

  • Box turtles are omnivorous. Generally, your box turtle's diet should be about 50% plant-based material and 50% animal-based material, but be sure to discuss a specific diet plan for your turtle with your veterinarian. Most young turtles eat daily, while older turtles can be fed daily or every other day, depending upon the pet's individual appetite, body weight, and overall health. Most (80-90%) of the plant material fed to box turtles should be vegetables and flowers, and only 10-20% should be fruit. As a rule, dark, leafy greens should make up the largest part of the diet. Fruit should be fed more sparingly than vegetables, since they are often preferred by box turtles over vegetables and tend to be less nutritious. The key is to feed a wide variety of healthy items, including both plant- and animal-based protein sources. A common problem seen in pet box turtles is over-supplementation with vitamins (especially vitamin D3) and minerals. Check with your veterinarian about the need to supplement your pet's diet with any kind of vitamin or mineral. Fresh clean water should always be available to box turtles.

  • Ferrets are true carnivores and cannot handle a diet containing more than 4% fiber. There are several good commercial ferret foods available that are dry foods. Ferrets have a very quick gut transit time (the time from eating to defecating) of three to four hours, so they appear to eat and defecate constantly. Fresh water should be available all the time.

  • Our knowledge of bird nutrition is constantly evolving both from heightened awareness of the importance of nutrition and from increased research into birds’ different needs. As with all other animals, birds need a proper balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fat, vitamins, minerals and water. Different species of birds often require different foods.

  • The preferred basic diet for guinea pigs is unlimited amounts of Timothy or other low-calcium hay, supplemented with smaller amounts of a commercial, high-fiber, Timothy-hay based guinea pig pellets. The diet should be supplemented with a variety of fresh, well-washed, leafy greens or colored vegetables; especially those high in vitamin C. Guinea pigs cannot manufacture their own vitamin C, therefore it is important that guinea pigs receive a vitamin C tablet or liquid vitamin C directly by mouth every day. Provide fresh clean water in a sipper bottle and check the tube for blockages each day.

  • Iguanas are herbivorous, meaning they eat plants. Most of their diet should be dark green leafy vegetables, with less than 20% of the diet as fruits. In general, foods comprised of large amounts of animal-based protein, such as crickets, mealworms, pinky mice, tofu, and hard boiled eggs, are too high in protein for iguanas to eat frequently and should be offered as less than 5% of the adult iguana’s total diet. The amount and type of supplements required by iguanas is controversial and somewhat age-dependent. Most veterinarians recommend lightly sprinkling a growing iguana’s food every other day (4-5 times per week) with calcium powder (calcium carbonate or gluconate), without vitamin D or phosphorus that has been specifically formulated for reptiles. Most veterinarians recommend that young iguanas receive a multivitamin supplement containing vitamin D twice a week. Opinions vary regarding the nutritional needs of captive iguanas, and our knowledge in the subject is continually expanding based on new dietary studies in reptiles. Check with your veterinarian for specific nutritional needs for your pet iguana.

  • Over 60% of cats in North America are either overweight or obese, so paying attention to the balance between activity and calorie intake is important. Nutrient formulation and portion control are the two most important aspects of weight control. Once you have chosen a formula and have calculated a reasonable daily portion based on calorie density, the best way to stay on track and prevent unwanted weight gain is to combine portion control with regular, formal weigh-ins.

  • Lories and lorikeets are also known as "brush tongued parrots" due to their unique tongues that are adapted for their highly specialized dietary needs. Lories and lorikeets eat a high moisture-containing diet and have relatively short digestive tracts when compared with other parrots. This combination makes for a very quick transit time of food through the gastrointestinal tract which is why lories and lorikeets eat often and produce frequent and very loose droppings. Lories and lorikeets eat nectar and pollens in the wild. They also consume soft foods like fruits, berries, blossoms, and buds. There are a number of excellent commercially available nectar and pollen substitutes available for feeding lories and lorikeets. Feeding these diets can be complicated, as their high-sugar content makes them susceptible to rapid spoilage once mixed with water. If lories and lorikeets eat spoiled food, they can be prone to developing gastrointestinal tract infections with yeast and bacteria. Lories and lorikeets can also be successfully maintained on several commercially available brands of pelleted diets and tend to have firmer stools when fed pellets. A large variety of diced fruits should be cut up in pieces and offered every day along with nectar substitute or pellets. Lories and lorikeets often use their water dishes to bathe in. Water dishes must be refilled often to keep them clean. Junk food, including chocolate, caffeinated products, alcoholic beverages, and foods high in salt or fat should not be offered. In general, birds eating 75-80% of their diet in the form of nectar, pollen, or pellets do not need supplements.