Cats having a nap at the Te Are Manu Vet Clinic. 20022109 / Te Are Manu. 20022109 / Te Are Manu.
Food is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Sitting down to dinner is the best. The best. Well at least the best since breakfast. We can eat food for pleasure, but the reason we need food is for energy, writes Te Are Manu clinic medical director Dr Michael Baer.
Energy is our first concern. For movement, like breathing. For digestion of our next meal. To find our next meal. Energy comes from various sources in our diet. Fat like oils in vegetables or the layer of fat around the muscle (meat) we eat is a good source.
Carbohydrates like sugar or starch are a significant source of energy for most of us. Protein, like muscle tissue, or seed and pulses are also good sources of energy. Because our cells all run on sugar (glucose), carbohydrates are the easiest for us to use as an energy source.
carbohydrates, and protein are the major components of every diet. And they do
provide energy, but we need them for more than energy. We need them to provide the building blocks
of our bodies. But we need a few more
things too. We need minerals, calcium
and phosphorous for bones, iron for blood, zinc for skin. We need vitamins to ensure our bodies grow
properly and keep our cells healthy.
To get all
of these things we eat a mixed diet of meat, vegetables, dairy, pretty much
everything. Most people are omnivores,
that is we eat meat, grains, vegetables, fruit.
But not all animals are omnivores, some, like cats only eat meat, they
are carnivores. Others, like cows and
goats, eat vegetables (grass), they are herbivores.
survive on very little carbohydrate, very little sugar. Most of their diet is protein and fat. Their bodies are very good at turning protein
and fat into glucose so their cells can work.
And they do get some carbohydrates from the gut content of the animals
eat a lot of carbohydrate. They get
protein and some fat too, more if we control their diet and add oil seeds or
grains. But they have the problem of
converting structural carbs, which allow grass to stand up, into glucose. No animal can actually do that, so herbivores
provide a place for bacteria to live in their bodies. The bacteria then break the structural
carbohydrates into smaller blocks, which the animal can digest. A bonus of this strategy is the bacteria can
then be digested by the cow, and provide protein. Clever.
what animals need and the options we have to provide it is the key to having
healthy animals. Many illnesses are made
worse when we don’t feed our animals properly.
And not feeding animals properly can cause diseases. For example, cats need an ingredient called
taurine, which is not present in dog food.
If cats don’t get taurine they can end up with heart failure. And too much of something can be a problem
too. Cats used to be fed a lot of liver. Liver has a lot of vitamin A. An excess of vitamin A caused all of the
joints in the cats to lock up, the cats became stuck in position.
people need a balanced diet, appropriate to their needs. Getting a balanced diet most of the time
means the odd treat is ok. Thankfully!