First broadcast on  

This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.

In human health-conscious circles "fat" has gained a bit of a bad reputation - and there is a general misconception that "fat is bad for you". The truth is - fat is good. Only too much fat is bad !

Animals and humans have a dietary need for fats because essential fatty acids (the polyunsaturated ones !) are required for numerous purposes in the body, including :

  • They are a major structural component in cell membranes
  • They are required for the synthesis of important chemical substances in the body - eg prostaglandins 
  • Fats in the skin are important in preventing water loss from the body

Deficiency of essential fatty acids often results in  signs of skin disease (including a dry, dull, scurfy coat and "hot spots"), poor wound healing and even poor reproductive performance.

"Complete" manufactured animal foods contain sufficient amounts of the essential fatty acids, but owners and breeders constructing their own ration may well not include sufficient fat in the formula, especially if they consider fats to be undesirable on health grounds. In cat and dog nutrition fats are also important because the presence of fat in a food improves it's palatability. This is where problems may arise - because pets fed highly palatable foods may eat more than they need to meet their energy requirements (and fat provides more energy per gram than any other nutrient). So eating too much fat can lead to obesity - which is definitely not desirable. High fat-content diets also require sufficient vitamin E or other antioxidant to be present in the food, otherwise they can become rancid quite quickly. This reduces shelf-life and can be harmful to animals that eat the food.


Updated October 2013