There are so many pet foods to choose from … and a lot of marketing strategies to encourage you to choose one food over another. There are a few major concepts that we want you to know before you brave the world of choosing a food for your pet.
Consider the following when choosing the right food for your pet:
1.) The biggest problem with most pets is not WHAT they eat, it is HOW MUCH they eat! Getting too much nutrition and getting FAT is a far bigger problem than not getting enough nutrition from pet foods today.
2.) Not all pets need to eat grain-free, limited ingredient diets. Food companies have grabbed on to the idea that grain-free is perceived by the public as better….
and that means they can charge more for it. It is true that some pets with allergies do better on grain-free diets, but it is much more complicated than just choosing the right bag of food. Getting some direction from your veterinarian about how to properly do a “food trial” for allergies BEFORE you change your pet’s diet will help avoid common mistakes that owners make when they “go it alone”.
3.) To some degree, you get what you pay for….and labels can be deceiving. Commercial foods should have an AAFCO statement that they meet minimum standards of nutrition needed. Most pets can survive eating any of these foods, but the ingredient list and the nutritional analysis on the food label don’t tell the whole story, and can often be misleading. More expensive foods are called premium foods for a reason: They tend to have more digestible ingredients and they tend to stick to their recipe, even when the cost of an ingredient goes up. The result is that premium pet foods are often more easily digested and absorbed…sometimes this translates into improving a pet’s gas, a rough or dry hair coat or stomach upset.
4.) Homemade diets can be very good….or very bad. Some pets just do not thrive on commercial foods, and some pets with allergies need to eat homemade diets. We recommend having the diet evaluated by a veterinary nutritionist to make sure that it is balanced. It is easy to get way off on the correct portions of meat, fiber, carbohydrate or vitamins, and essential minerals needed, and a veterinary nutritionist can help keep you on the straight and narrow. Nutritional imbalances can cause problems like organ failure. These problems can take a long time to show up…so by the time the problem occurs, it is often too late to reverse. There are veterinary nutrition websites that walk owners through developing recipes, or your veterinarian can help.
5.) Raw food and bones are risky. While homemade diets can be great for pets, we feel strongly that vegetables should be washed and meats should be thoroughly cooked before feeding. Pets who eat raw food have a higher chance of getting sick from bacteria or passing that bacteria on to the people they live with. Pets can actually shed bacteria, like pathogenic Salmonella or E.coli, without looking sick themselves. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) and AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) have each made statements regarding the risks involved and the Delta Society (an organization that trains and organizes therapy dog activities), will not allow pets that eat raw food to participate in their programs.