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The New Zealand Brushtail Possum: Benefits for Pets

The New Zealand Brushtail Possum: Benefits for Pets

Written by Andrew Burch, Director - Zealandia Limited.

The brushtail possum is a fascinating and adaptable marsupial native to Australia. It was introduced to New Zealand in 1837 initially intended to establish a fur trade, as brushtail possum fur was highly valued. However, the species quickly became invasive, with significant ecological impacts on the native flora and fauna of New Zealand. The lack of natural predators and the abundance of food allowed the possum population to grow rapidly, leading to widespread damage to forests and competition with native species. Today, the brushtail possum is considered a major invasive species in New Zealand, prompting various control measures to manage its population and mitigate its environmental impact.

Known for their nocturnal habits and arboreal (living in trees) lifestyle, these creatures have become well-recognized symbols of the regions they inhabit. Beyond their ecological significance, brushtail possums have garnered attention in the pet nutrition world due to their potential as a novel protein source for pets. This article delves into what brushtail possums are and explores the benefits of incorporating brushtail possum protein into your pet's diet.

What is a Brushtail Possum?

Physical Characteristics

Brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) are medium-sized marsupials, with adults typically weighing between 1.2 to 4.5 kilograms (2.6 to 9.9 pounds). They have a distinctive bushy tail, which is prehensile (meaning that it can curl round and grip a tree), aiding in their arboreal navigation. Their fur is generally grey, but it can range from silver to black, providing camouflage in their forested habitats. These possums possess sharp claws and a keen sense of smell and hearing, which are crucial for their nocturnal activities.

Habitat and Behaviour

Brushtail possums are highly adaptable and can thrive in various environments, including forests, woodlands, and even urban areas. They are nocturnal, spending their nights foraging for food and their days resting in tree hollows, burrows, or other sheltered locations. Their diet is omnivorous, consisting of leaves, fruits, flowers, and small animals. This adaptability in diet is one reason why brushtail possums have been successful in various habitats.

Brushtail Possum Protein in Pet Nutrition

Nutritional Profile

Brushtail possum meat is rich in high-quality protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. It provides a balanced amino acid profile, making it a suitable protein source for pets. The meat is particularly high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are crucial for maintaining healthy skin, coat, and overall cellular function.

Benefits for Pets

Hypoallergenic Properties: One of the most significant benefits of brushtail possum protein is its hypoallergenic nature. Pets with food sensitivities or allergies often react to common proteins like chicken, beef, or lamb. Brushtail possum, being a novel protein, is less likely to trigger these allergic reactions, making it an excellent option for pets with dietary restrictions.

High Digestibility: Brushtail possum protein is highly digestible, ensuring that pets can absorb and utilize the nutrients efficiently. This digestibility is crucial for maintaining optimal health, especially in pets with sensitive digestive systems or those recovering from illness.

Rich in Omega Fatty Acids: The high content of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in brushtail possum meat supports various aspects of pet health. These fatty acids are known to promote healthy skin and a shiny coat, reduce inflammation, and support cognitive function. For pets with skin conditions or inflammatory diseases, this can be particularly beneficial.

Sustainable and Ethical Choice: In New Zealand, brushtail possums are considered an invasive species, causing significant ecological damage. Using brushtail possum meat in pet food helps manage their population and reduce their impact on native ecosystems. This makes it a more sustainable and ethical protein choice compared to traditional livestock.

Palatability: Brushtail possum meat is highly palatable, which means pets are more likely to enjoy and consume it. This is especially useful for pets that are picky eaters or those that have lost their appetite due to illness or stress.

Incorporating Brushtail Possum Protein into Your Pet’s Diet

Brushtail possum protein is available in various forms of pet food, including dry kibble, wet food, and freeze-dried options. Each type has its advantages, and the choice depends on your pet's preferences and dietary needs. Zealandia offers Brushtail in wet food for both dogs and cats. Wet food tends to be more palatable and hydrating, making it suitable for pets that need extra moisture in their diet or those with dental issues that make chewing difficult.

Transitioning Your Pet

When introducing brushtail possum protein to your pet’s diet, it is essential to transition gradually to avoid digestive upset. Start by mixing a small amount of brushtail possum-based food with your pet’s current diet, gradually increasing the proportion over a week or two. Monitor your pet for any signs of digestive discomfort or allergic reactions during this transition period.

Considerations and Precautions

Veterinary Consultation

Before making any significant changes to your pet’s diet, it is crucial to consult with a veterinarian. They can provide personalized advice based on your pet’s specific health needs and ensure that the dietary change will be beneficial.

Sourcing and Quality

Ensure that the brushtail possum protein used in your pet’s food comes from reputable sources. High-quality pet food manufacturers will provide information about their sourcing practices and quality control measures. Look for brands that prioritize sustainable and ethical harvesting practices.

Conclusion

Brushtail possum protein offers a novel and highly beneficial alternative to traditional pet food proteins. Its hypoallergenic properties, high digestibility, rich omega fatty acid content, and sustainability make it an excellent choice for many pets. Whether dealing with food allergies, digestive issues, or simply looking to provide a high-quality diet, brushtail possum protein can be a valuable addition to your pet’s nutritional regimen. Always consult with a veterinarian to ensure the best outcomes for your furry companion and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with providing a nutritious and ethically sourced diet.

 

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