As part of our kindness at Christmas appeal we’re asking our supporters to donate the cost of feeding an animal across the three days of Christmas. But what exactly does go into feeding one of the animals in our care?
This week we’re featuring a special guest blog from Rowan Foster. Rowan volunteers at our Blackberry Farm Animal Centre, alongside studying canine nutrition. Here, he talks us through some basic dog’s dinners, from extra smelly treats to nutritional supplements:
Making a difference
The main reason I started volunteering was to try and make a difference to the lives of animals, mainly dogs, that were less fortunate than my own. I’d already been regularly donating to various animal charities and had participated in sponsored events, but wanted to contribute more.
In my free time, I’m studying a Canine Behaviour diploma and a Canine Health and Nutrition diploma, with the ambition of making a complete career change. Whilst doing so, it occurred to me that by volunteering, there were many hands-on practical skills I could learn and practice to support my studies.
Dogs at Blackberry Farm are fed twice a day, once in the morning and once late afternoon, but can often receive extra treats at any point. Each dog is regularly assessed by the onsite vet to review their health and individual dietary needs, which may result in their meals being adjusted accordingly.
Factors such as activity levels, whether they are a growing pup or adult, whether they are pregnant or nursing pups, and the environment they spend most of their time in, can have a significant effect on their dietary requirements.
Following an assessment by the onsite vet, any additional supplements are prescribed to meet the needs of the individual animal. These often include vitamins and minerals, omega fatty acids and joint supplements, which help the dogs receive all the vital nutrients they need to achieve optimum health.
If you have a dog at home who you think might also benefit from supplements you should seek advice from your vet, remember some human medicines can be dangerous to pets.
The main issues
Due to the proportion of animals that are received into the centre because of neglect, the majority of nutritional issues we see are obesity or malnourishment. Unfortunately, as with humans, both can have a detrimental effect on the health of the animal’s organs, bones and joints.
Another common problem we often see with the animals received at the centre, are issues with poor quality skin or coat. Coats can often be dull, thin or unhealthy, and easily shedding. Skin can also be found in poor quality, so could be dry, flaky, brittle, scabby or subject to a rashes. From our experience this is usually due to a poor quality diet or because they have an allergy.
There’s a particular little Jack Russel I regularly came in contact with, who was slightly underweight and had an issue with her coat. Under the expert supervision of the staff at the centre, within weeks she had made a noticeable improvement. It was lovely to see.
Treating dogs is well encouraged at the centre – however, there are some dogs that are forbidden certain treats due to dietary reasons. They typically have a stash of biscuits that include the likes of large bonios, small milk/gravy biscuits and cereal biscuits. Although, depending on the kind nature of the public and their well received donations, you may find something a little fancier.
Often, the best treats to give a dog are the really smelly ones because their sense of smell is so powerful, You should try to go for treats that are more natural and less processed, that will have greater nutritional value. Usually, dogs will respond well to small pieces of strong cheese or sausage. And it’s essential you reward your dog with something they really enjoy the taste of, otherwise it doesn’t work as a reward at all.
Highlights of the job
I would say that my favourite memory is from the first dog I was given to handle whilst completing my induction. On my turn, I was given a big dog called Smokey. Smokey was strong and had plenty of pent up energy, so kept me on my toes. After wearing him out, he showed a completely different side of himself and became very loving, affectionate and appreciative. The thing I loved about Smokey, is that I could relate a lot to his nature and it felt like we were partners in crime. These are the times that really give you the most satisfaction.
Give some kindness this Christmas
This Christmas, help us to care for a rescued animal by being a part of our Kindness at Christmas appeal. Your kindness can make such a difference.