Have You Got a Fussy Dog or Cat?

Martin, from Pet Supplies UK in Yate, Bristol, has met a lot of pet owners over the years and has heard about a lot of food related problems relating to a fussy dog or cat. Pet Supplies UK are proud to offer a range of healthier pet food alternatives for optimum nutrition.

Below Martin gives some friendly advice on fussy pets and how you could go about tackling the issue  — opinions are all his own.

We hear the term: “I have a fussy dog or cat,” at least once a week at Pet Supplies UK.

Some pets do appear to be less receptive to their bowls, but did you know that there are ways to re-encourage the fussiest of eaters?

The first thing to do is re-educate their palates, which have been somewhat moulded by us as owners letting them share our flavoursome human foods, giving in to those sweet, puppy dog eyes.

Some pets can almost become like a fussy small child, turning their noses up at nutritious main meals in favour of treats, because they just want what tastes good, or comforting, without really knowing what’s good for them.

Of course, this situation can become stressful as parents are then in a predicament of giving in to ensure their child at least eats something, even if it’s not good for them. However, most of the time children will eventually learn that treats are just for special occasions, or only after main meals. It’s obviously a lot harder to rationalise/communicate this to a fussy dog or cat — you’re better off trying to avoid feeding them any of our sweet, salty, snacks in the first place.

The main thing to remember is that animals are hard-wired to survive, and in the wild would eat the available nutrients in their environment, with less emphasis on taste — naturally animals can’t afford to be too picky.

It was the same for us in Prehistoric times, and if we were in a situation where we needed to survive then we would eat whatever was available to keep us alive. However, unlike dogs we have become extremely cultured and food for hundreds of years has been a massive part of human society, religion and tradition.

This is why today it seems incomprehensible for most people to think of food as merely nutrition and this sometimes unconsciously transfers to our other family members: our pets, which can in turn make them annoyingly fussy.

For no right or wrong reason, we do have a knack of humanising our pets in many ways — we love them and live with them day in and day out so it’s easy to do. We naturally pander to a cute, characterful or fussy pet by making their food perhaps more comforting: warming, softening, adding flavour to their food — thinking that we’re being kind and loving.

This may be OK for a short while, but the pet will crave for more and more flavour and we have to keep trying other ways of keeping a fussy dog or cat satisfied. Dogs’ taste buds in particular, are very similar to ours where salty and sweet tastes are very tantalising.

It’s worth noting that this behaviour is human and no other species get used to this level of luxury in nature.

How do I stop humanising the food process?

This can be hard to start doing at first, but the long-term pay off is worth it.

Start with the correct feeding protocol and always feed from your pets bowl, your pet should realise where their food is available, regardless of taste or volume.

If your pet is healthy and has no medical conditions, then you can usually afford to be quite strict with meal times while they get used to a new behaviour. For example, if food is not eaten within ten minutes, then remove it — pets will naturally wait for something tastier, if they think it’s coming.

If your pet refuses to eat, then don’t worry, keep removing food and replacing for ten minutes, every scheduled mealtime. Ensure your pet drinks freely and feed nothing else and certainly nothing from your hand.

Working this process for as many as four days will allow your pet’s tastebuds to eventually dull and be more receptive to the taste of their own food. Think of it like re-setting a switch.

And don’t worry — they will not naturally starve themselves — chemicals release in the brains to re-prioritise the food to them.

Once they start eating their food, do not start to undo things by feeding treats. Doggy rather than human treats should be only considered after five days of consecutive eating and immediately withdrawn when a meal is missed after this point, waiting for full eating to resume.

Feed your dog or cat a good quality hypo-allergenic, or grain-free pet food — they do not contain glycerine, salt, sugars or propylene glycol to artificially sweeten the food, unlike some cheaper, inferior food.

If your Pet has gotten used to cheaper artificial food, go through the process described above so that they can start to enjoy the healthier offerings.

With a little bit of short-term effort, you will have a healthier pet long-term, and it will also help to make your life much less complicated.

Of course, speak to your vet before you drastically change your dog’s diet — this is generic advice and every dog is different. For more detailed advice, according to your own personal situation, please call in store at Pet Supplies UK, Unit 3 Brimsham Park Shopping Centre, call 0845 305 8260, or email: info@petsupplies-uk.co.