By Sean Delaney, DVM
Traveling can be exciting and overwhelming for humans and pets alike. A hallmark sign of a stressed animal is a reduced or poor appetite, which cannot only affect bowel movements and energy levels, but your pet’s overall health. To keep your pet on track during any trip, preparation is the key.
In times of high stress, hormones produced by the body can give animals poor appetites. So eating for calories is often the main nutritional focus. Make every bite count, and travel armed with a tasty diet of foods that are just too good for a pet to pass up. Ideally this would be the pet’s normal diet to minimize any other stressful changes, but if that doesn’t work then the following feeding tips and strategies might be helpful.
Foods that are higher in protein and fat are generally more palatable than foods higher in carbohydrates. Therefore, selecting a high-protein and low-carbohydrate food, such as EVO (NaturaPet.com/brands/evo.asp), is a simple solution. For many brands, carbohydrate levels are not typically listed on packaging, but can be roughly calculated by adding all the percentages for protein, fat, moisture, crude fiber, and ash and subtracting the total from 100 percent. The remainder is an approximation of the percentage of carbohydrates in the food. Dry foods with less than 18-percent carbohydrates for dogs and 12-percent for cats would be considered lower in carbohydrates. Canned dog and cat foods with less than 2-percent carbohydrates would be considered lower in carbohydrates. Increasing fat and protein also allows pets to get more calories per bite of food and helps boost the immune system.
Hydration is also imperative for traveling pets to avoid overheating, poor appetite, and other serious illnesses. The best way to keep a pet hydrated is to provide frequent access to fresh, cool water. This can be challenging when pets are physically separated from the rest of their traveling companions, such as on an airplane. In these situations, it may be worthwhile to see if the carrier will allow the pet to travel on board with you, and if not, consider using water bottles that can be licked. One example is the Pet Top bottle top, which fits onto your standard water bottle (PetTop.com/cgi-bin/pettop.pl). Remember to train your pet to use them before your trip.
A more convenient way to help with hydration is to feed canned food. The greater water content in canned food (up to seven times as much as dry food) can help meet the pet’s water requirements and reduce how much water they need to drink. Plus, higher-moisture foods are often more appetizing for pets, encouraging consumption.
Before starting your pet on any new diets, always check with your veterinarian. As responsible pet guardians, it’s up to us to select the right pet food for every occasion. In the end, the more comfortable and satisfied a pet is during the trip, the more enjoyable the entire experience will be for everyone.
Sean Delaney, DVM, MS, diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition, is a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and chief medical, scientific, and nutrition officer of Natura Pet Products, manufacturer of EVO, California Natural, Innova, Karma, HealthWise, and Mother Nature natural pet foods and treats.