10 Questions with Dr Ciara from Vet in the City!
Dr Ciara – the woman behind Vet in the City is one of the most respected vets in London. We have met on many occasions at PR events over the past year and I’ve always been amazed at her knowledge base!
I asked her with high hopes and no expectations if she would be kind enough to answer some questions for us here on the blog regarding nutrition! I can’t contain my excitement in sharing the following interview with you !
1. Tell us a little more about yourself !
Growing up in the Irish countryside, I was lucky to be surrounded by animals and could always be found outside playing with our dogs, cats, chickens, calves. Basically anything with fur or feathers! Like many vets, I knew from an early age what I wanted to be “when I grew up”. For me, being a vet is not just a job, it’s a way of life and I love it!
2. Why do you feel preventative healthcare is so important ?
Keeping dogs healthy together isn’t just a tagline, it’s something I really believe in. Preventative care, active bodies and minds, balanced nutrition, healthy treats and gentle skin care see our dogs live longer, fuller and happier lives. Why be reactive when we can be proactive?
3. What are some of the common misconceptions about ‘healthy’ dog food ?
That the best food is the most expensive. I’ll expand on that later!
4. What should owners look for in their dog food ?
I always tell my pet owners, the best dog food is the one their dog enjoys, that suits their digestion, is complete and balanced and the highest quality they can afford. This is often not one in the same. Some owners may wish to feed only the finest beef and bones but their dog and their tummy might have other ideas!
5. To you, what makes a healthy diet for dogs ?
It’s quite simple; high quality ingredients that have been formulated to provide complete and balanced nutrition. For example, though organic chicken breast is a terrific source of protein and energy, a diet of this alone will lack calcium, zinc and vital vitamins.
Below: Dog food labels explained !!
6. Can you explain dog food labels?
If you turn your dog’s packaged food around, you may feel you need a degree in nutrition to decipher the label! Don’t worry, here is a simple guide that will help you understand the terminology and listed ingredients.
The term Complete is a legal definition. Complete means that the product contains all the nutrients your pet needs to support its daily life. Complementary pet foods are also available. A complementary food means that other food must be added in order to provide nutritional balance, for example a mixer biscuit.
Most pet foods are made from a recipe using several ingredients. These ingredients will be listed under Composition, in descending order of weight per moisture content.
E.g. If corn is listed first and poultry second, there is more corn in the food than poultry. Many processed dogs foods will not list a single named meat on the back of the package, despite what it may advertised on the front. This is because the meat is usually a combination of animals, with the named meat on the front in the highest quantity. This falls under the loose terms animal derivatives or meat and bone meal.
Meat and animal derivatives describes animal based ingredients which are by-products of the human food industry. They are the parts of an animal not classed as ‘flesh’ or ‘meat’, and include internal organs, beaks, feet and underdeveloped eggs.
Meat or bone meal are animal by-products that have been heat treated, dried and ground to a powder format.
Crude ash/ Inorganic matter are also legal definitions which are understandably confusing. They are not added as an ingredients but are phrases that refer to the mineral content of the food.
A product can only be labelled as Organic if at least 95% of the ingredients are organic. Organic standards, which apply to both human and pet food ingredients include:
• Cleaning materials and pest control methods are restricted
• Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are strictly prohibited
• Flavourings must be either naturally or organically produced
The term Natural should be used only to describe those pet food ingredients to which nothing has been added and which have been subjected only to such physical processing as to make them suitable for pet food production and maintaining the natural composition. Additionally all pet foods marketed as natural must not contain any chemically synthesised ingredients.
The term Various sugars is a category description which may refer to sucrose (cane sugar), fructose and glucose, or even honey, all of which are natural products.
Additives which can be used in pet foods may include vitamins, flavourings, preservatives, antioxidants and colours.
There are differences between pet food legislation in Europe (including the UK) and the US. If reading online, it’s important to check that the source of information is relevant to the country you are based.
7. How important is the price tag? Is all cheap dog food inevitably bad?
Not at all. Whether you’re paying £10 for a bag of food or £50, if it states it is a complete and balanced food, then both diets are bound by EU regulation to follow a strict set of nutritional guidelines. Similarly, not all expensive dog food is good. Turn your dog food package around and look at the label! If you are paying more money, you should expect to receive higher quality ingredients.
Here are two expensive dry dog foods that both advertise Chicken on the front of the bag. Bag A costs £6 per kg, Bag B costs £8 per kg. You’ll now immediately notice a difference in the quality of the listed ingredients.
Bag A: Maize, chicken (28%) and turkey meal, rice, cellulose, animal fat, digest, dried beet pulp, dried whole egg, soybean oil, minerals, flaxseed, L-Carnitine, vitamins, trace elements and beta-carotene.
Bag B: Fresh Chicken (50%), dried potato, oat flour, dried sweet potato, chicken fat, minerals, dried chicken liver hydrolysate, plant fibre, whey powder, seaweed, turmeric, yeats, green tea, nettle, chamomile, mint, rosehips, parsley, thyme, rosemary, dandelion root and passion flower..
8. Could you share with us a few recommendations of dog foods?
Absolutely! I have a keen interest in nutrition and have spent a lot of time researching UK dog foods, often speaking to the developers, visiting their kitchens and of course, listening to the biggest critics- my own family dogs. If it doesn’t pass their paws of approval, it just doesn’t make the final cut.
I highly recommend Butternut Box fresh meals, McAdams and Nineteen 87 dry baked food and Rockster wet food.
We love treating our dogs and I love giving my own dogs and patients Huxley Hound organic vegetable treats, Kyon baked biscuits, The Dog Treat Company snacks and The Innocent Hound meaty bites.
9. Any there any holistic supplements or add ins to a dogs diet you recommend?
If a dog food is complete, no supplements are strictly needed. If unwell, I always recommend adding a probiotic to my patients diet to balance their natural gut microbiome.
10. Finally ! Could you share with us your thoughts on raw feeding ?
Many dogs thrive on a raw diet and owners often tell me how they enjoy the small amount of poop produced. To ensure you are feeding a nutritionally balanced meal, always choose a raw food that states it is complete. And take extra care when preparing or thawing raw meals at home. Raw food can carry bacteria such as Salmonella, E.coli and Campylobacter which is a hygiene concern for you and your family.
Regardless of the food you choose to feed your dog, always keep an eye on their appetite, energy level, weight and poop quality as basic signs of a healthy diet.
We have met Dr Ciara at numerous events over the past year and were so incredibly excited to have her here on the blog! We hope you have had your questions answered & been enlightened as much as we have!
Eva & Amelia ♥