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Pet food shortage offers opportunity, say vets

TOM TAYLOR
tom.taylor@age.co.nz

Pet owners may have noticed gaps on supermarket shelves in place of their preferred pet food brands in past weeks.

However, a Wairarapa veterinary surgeon says this is no cause for alarm and could present an opportunity for pet owners to re-educate themselves on what a healthy diet looks like for their pet.

Pak’n Save Masterton owner Andrew Summerville said pet food brands had been affected by global supply chain issues.

“My understanding is that it’s stuck in container ships, or not even getting to the container ship,” Summerville said.

The most affected customer brands had been Purina and Whiskas.

Purina, a subsidiary of Nestle, had a message to pet owners on its New Zealand website:

“We apologise for any difficulty you may have been experiencing getting your hands on your pet’s favourite foods in the past couple of weeks. Unfortunately, like many companies, we are experiencing significant delays due to global supply challenges, leading to temporary out of stocks.”

Whiskas, a Mars brand, had a similar message:

“We’re working really hard to get our usual stock levels back on shelf as soon as we can. In the meantime, we’re sorry for any inconvenience this might cause you – and your fur babies!”

Pet store Animates Masterton had been similarly impacted by supply issues, although some specialty items such as Purina Pro Plan had been less affected.

“We all get slowly drip-fed bits and pieces,” assistant manager Viv Te Tau said.

“We’ve got a lot more stock on hand now but there’s still a lot of things like fish supplies that come from America that is out of stock. It is what it is, unfortunately.”

Kitten and puppy food had been among the hardest-hit products.

“There just seems to be lots of new puppies in the area at the moment,” Te Tau said.

“Customers get a little bit sick of hearing the covid story because in their mind, covid doesn’t exist anymore. Well, it very much still does.”

However, a veterinary surgeon said the shortages offered pet owners a chance to modify their pet’s diet.

Vetcare director and veterinary surgeon Dr Heidi Ward-McGrath said depending on what a pet was eating, vets should be able to suggest healthy alternatives.

“Diversity is actually a good thing,” Ward-McGrath said. “You can take a problem and actually turn it into an opportunity to boost your pet’s immune system.”

Ward-McGrath said modifying the proteins in a pet’s diet could stop the pet from developing protein sensitivity.

“Changing proteins particularly away from red meat protein towards white meat protein – chicken, fish, possum, and rabbit – is a great thing. There’s no shortage in the New Zealand market of our homegrown meat. So, anything that wiggles and squeaks is still good to go.”

Ward-McGrath recommended changing a pet’s diet gradually over three to five days to give a pet’s microbiome the chance to adapt. Introducing natural antioxidants like blueberries, for example, could improve a pet’s gut health.

“It’s really a paradigm shift about getting people to understand – don’t worry if your standard kibble food is out of stock. It might be the best thing that has ever happened to your pet’s health.”



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