Downsides of a mince only diet - why we recommend well balanced diets

Gizmo is a 6 year old female domestic long hair cat. One evening, Gizmo's owner found her rolling around on the lounge room floor, crying and unable to stand. She was rushed to our hospital immediately. Gizmo was quite distressed, vocalizing and panting. Her temperature was low and her heart rate was high. Although Gizmo could not stand, she still had feeling and movement in all her limbs.

The owners were asked for a brief history of Gizmo. They told the veterinarian on duty that she was a quiet cat that lives indoors and loves to lie around on the couch all day. She has been toileting fine and eating and drinking has been normal. Gizmo is fed only raw pet mince and there is no chance that Gizmo has been exposed to any toxins or poisons.

The veterinarian examined Gizmo and found that she had nystagmus which is when the eyes move involuntarily from side to side. Her pupils were dilated but responded to light. There were no signs of spinal pain. No other obvious problems were found. Her paralysed state and her dilated pupils were signs of neurological problems.

The veterinarian suggested that Gizmo needed to be monitored closely over night and be referred to a specialist in the morning for specialist tests such as a spinal tap or myelogram to find out the problem. Gizmo was taken to the Essendon emergency centre for overnight observation.

Once at the emergency centre, blood was taken for testing and gizmo was given pain relief and placed onto an intravenous drip over night.

In the morning, Gizmo seemed to be feeling a little better. Although she could not stand, her panting had stopped and her heart rate had returned to normal. Her blood tests revealed that she was slightly dehydrated but nothing more.

Gizmo was transferred to the Melbourne veterinary referral centre for their opinion.

The veterinarians there examined Gizmo again but again did not find any physical problem to why she could not walk. There was no pain in her spine when manipulated. Nystagmus (moving of the eyes from side to side) suggested brainstem disease. There were a wide range of problems which could be causing these signs such as infections in the spine, exposure to toxins, trauma and nutritional disease.

The veterinarians noted that Gizmo had been fed solely on raw pet mince which can cause thiamine (Vitamin B1) deficiency. Gizmo's signs were consistent with this. Although the veterinarians had to keep an open mind about what other possible causes there could be for these symptoms, they opted to treat her for thiamine deficiency.

Animals need a variety of nutrients in their diet such as proteins, fats, minerals, carbohydrates and vitamins.

Commercial pet foods have added nutrients to supply your pet with the proper dietary requirements.

Vitamin B helps with the utilization of food and the production converting food into energy for the body. Cats need a relatively large amount of thiamine in their diets. Thiamine is destroyed by heat so pet food manufacturers add large amounts when processing pet foods.

Thiamine is also added to pet mince along with sulphur dioxide, a preservative. Sulphur dioxide destroys thiamine as well as other vitamin supplements. Cats eating solely pet mince diets can become vitamin deficient.

Raw fish diets can also result in thiamine deficiencies as it contains thiaminase which destroys vitamins.

Commercial pet foods are made to accommodate the dietary needs for all pets. It is essential that pets be fed a well balanced diet to supply them with all the vitamins and nutrients their bodies need.

Gizmo was placed on vitamin B1 supplements straight away. She was kept at the hospital overnight to monitor her situation. Gizmo improved significantly overnight after starting her vitamin supplements. Her Owners were informed to feed Gizmo a balanced pet food diet such as veterinary or supermarket brand canned or dry pet foods which they are now doing.

Nine days after her initial visit to the hospital, Gizmo was back to normal. Gizmo's owners were unable to change Gizmo to a commercial food as she would not eat it, so it was suggested to use mince from the butcher as it does not contain sulphur dioxide as well as Vitamin B1 supplements for life.