2nd Dec 2021 @ 11:33 am

Lanzarote Vet Jane Burke offers some tips for a greener, more responsible Christmas, and healthier, happier pets.

I know no one wants to think about these matters at Christmas, and I understand it is desperately tempting to feel hopeless and do nothing, (especially living here on our lovely island, surrounded by blue seas, where the dolphins and whales have flourished due to the Covid-reduced cruise shipping).

And whilst it seems that, as an individual , you can do so little in the face of such dire and dreadful problems, I believe that if each of us, individually, consume a little less water, a little less fossil fuel-generated power, buy fewer new clothes, refuse more plastic packaging and consume less meat and dairy, then collectively we can make a massive difference.

Our fabulous weather hasn’t, as yet, altered enough to impact us with the horrendous flooding and fires that are escalating out of control elsewhere in the world, but I think everyone can and should start, right now, to be part of the solution by not buying into the problems. However small it may be, each one of us should definitely be doing something to reduce our contribution to the end of this planet.

So, here are a few random suggestions!

I feel for Christmas this year we could all take a leaf out of my dear friend Lisbeth’s book and persuade our circles of friends to stop buying presents for each other, and instead put the monies into a communal pot to buy, for example, presents for children whose families are in need. We did this last year and she hosted a fabulous ¨wrapping party ¨ where we drank wine and celebrated our friendships whilst wrapping lots of great presents paid for with our pooled funds, and labelling them appropriately by age and sex.

This year how about organising one between yourselves, where the communal gift funds are spent on presents for families in La Palma? Or for the animals in Sara, or any of the many hard pressed and hard working charities you can read about on pg 13. Or I am certain the many organisations trying to care for and control our street cats would be very happy to receive presents towards costs for feeding and neutering. Anything from bags of food, warm blankets and safe toys would, I am sure, be most welcome.

Children love to get involved. Sell them on Christmas parties where they bring gifts to be wrapped for children who otherwise may have none. Urge them to choose presents they would themselves like, or to up-cycle something of their own. Organise games at their parties where the winner gets to choose which charity box to post their coins in.

Help them prepare and make their own boxes and use the time to explain why Pals, The Shack, Sara etc, so desperately need help with funds. Or make it a new Christmas family tradition to go out and find different charity boxes to post some of their savings in. Take the whole family once a week to walk the many, many incarcerated, lonely dogs. Encourage your whole family to try a bit of buying and selling on the internet, or car boot sales, or anything that reduces their uptake of temporary fashion and contributes to the climate disaster as much as their burgers and milky drinks. These children will not be forgiving when they look back on the generations that ruined their planet and continued to encourage them to barbecue whilst it burned.

Cut down on the dry stuff.

If I could offer your pets two blessings for Christmas, firstly it would be to advise you to feed your cats and dogs less dried food. I am all too aware of how much easier, cleaner and cheaper even the most expensive dried foods are, but they come at a significant long-term health cost to our pets who may or may not drink enough water to save their kidneys, and who may or may not be limited to sufficiently tiny portions that they avoid early obesity and all its deadly consequences.

One bowl of dried food is the equivalent of five bowls of wet food. Dry food is less than 8% water, real food is 80% plus, All of our pets will live a longer and healthier life if a significant portion of their diet is wet food.

Secondly, I would ask you to deliberately reduce the amount of protein in their diets. This is only slowly being discussed in veterinary circles but the proof has always been there if anyone wanted to look. High-protein diets cause or exacerbate heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease and other ailments. I speak with many pet owners who add more protein to the commercial diet they feed their furry families, but they are turning an already high-protein diet into a dangerously high-protein diet.

Our cats and dogs evolved to live on whole carcasses, Watch the next TV wildlife program and see the natural feeding habits of lions and wolves. Despite significant changes bred in over centuries of domestication our pets are just little versions of these big cats and dogs. They need the intestines full of predigested grasses/seeds and this is the first to be devoured by the biggest and best of any group. Only then do they set about tearing out the rest of the insides, devouring the skin and fat, and finally scraping the meagre muscle tissues off the bones (wild creatures don’t have the genetically-engineered oversized musculature found on the distorted beasts of modern meat/milk production).

The problem is that cheaper cat and dog foods use poor-quality protein sources in high quantities to avoid inadequate levels of some essential amino acids. If you want to enhance shop-bought food, do it with a balance of protein/carbohydrate/ fats and roughage. Exactly the same balance as you should be eating!

So, instead of new toys and treats, make these your gifts for your pets: less dried food and lower protein diets! More exercise, and clean water in a clean bowl everyday (cleaned twice daily if you have two etc).

Keep their bowls scrupulously clean and raise a glass with me to toast spending your Christmas funds and time with good friends, doing little but great things for those less fortunate, and for the planet our children and our grandchildren will inherit.

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