Vet urges pet owners to be aware of malnutrition

The head of clinical nutrition at Solihull-based Willows Veterinary Centre and Referral Service has urged pet owners to be aware of the debilitating signs of dehydration and malnutrition in their animals. 

Isuru Gajanayakea spoke out to advise animal lovers on the importance of food and drink in maintaining a pet’s health and wellbeing as part of National Nutrition and Hydration Week this week (March 16-22). 

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According to research carried out by the charity People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) last year, 31% of 10,000 surveyed dog owners didn’t know their pet’s weight or body condition score. 

In addition, some 56% of surveyed cat owners were unaware of their pet’s weight. 

Gajanayake, who has over 15 years specialist experience in clinical nutrition said there are many similarities in the dangers of malnutrition and dehydration in animals and in humans.

He said: “It is far easier to unintentionally overlook or ignore these issues in animals, so I would urge everyone to focus on making sure their pets are always well hydrated and well nourished, especially if they are unwell. 

“A number of the patients we see at Willows are either dehydrated or malnourished, sometimes both. This can easily happen if a pet has been suffering from a poor appetite, continued vomiting or diarrhoea.”

He added: “As with people, animals who are poorly hydrated or malnourished are more likely to suffer complications if they are ill or injured, which will mean continued treatment, increased risk of complications and longer stays in hospital. For both pet owners and vets, the key thing is for every one of us to be far more mindful of this.” 

Gajanayake concluded: “While dehydration is something which can be counteracted and resolved relatively quickly, malnutrition is a much more complicated challenge. The ultimate objective is to achieve an ideal body weight and body condition – but this can take some time. The secret is not to be extreme in your approach but to be careful and controlled with a diet.”

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