Best Pet Nutrition?
Pet nutrition can be a frustrating process with so many labels, ingredients
and brands to research. How do you know which pet food is best and even
if it is the right food for your cat or dog?
For starters, it is important to understand that what is “best” can
vary from one pet to another, just as what food is good for one person
may not be good for another. One dog may feel just fine on a certain
brand of pet food, while another one scratches and itches, tearing his
fur out. One cat may like a certain brand of cat food, while the other
one refuses to eat it.
So…the first step in establishing your pet’s nutrition plan
is acknowledging that you will have to do some needs-based fact finding
and that if you have multiple pets, you may not be able to feed all of
your pets the same pet food. This can be challenging at times, but not
impossible. Once you see the benefits of giving your pet the right food
based on your individual pet’s needs, you will be rewarded for
your extra effort.
The phrase “pet nutrition” implies something beyond just
providing pet food for energy. It means that you are providing pet food
that your pet’s body can utilize and benefit from. For example,
candy provides calories but is it really nutritious? Those adorable,
artificially colored pet treats that are made to look like human treats
such as popcorn are gobbled up by your dog, but does that mean it is
really good for them…and could it even be potentially harmful?
The fact is that you want the pet food you use to give you the most benefits
possible: promotes good health, is convenient, easy to use, is economical
and most of all, that your pet likes the taste. Unfortunately, not all
of these pet nutrition variables may come to play and you will have to
make some compromises.
When it comes to optimizing pet nutrition, one fact prevails: you get
what you pay for. If standard grade meat/poultry is $3.00 a pound and
a 20lb bag of dog food costs $25 — you do the math-how much meat
vs. corn fillers do you actually think is in the food? So, if you want
to keep your pet healthy and use a nutritious food, chances are you are
going to have to pay more for it. The tradeoff though is that you will
pay for a lot fewer visits to the veterinarian because so much of your
pet’s well-being is due to the food you are using. Pet nutrition
can greatly impact the course and quality of a pet’s life, as much,
if not more than genetics.
So when it comes to pet nutrition, Rule #1 when selecting a food for
your cat or dog, is to READ THE LABEL! Many people use a pet food because
their neighbor said it was good, or their breeder used it previously,
or breed club said it was good or even because the veterinarian recommended
it. With no disrespect intended to whoever might have recommended it,
YOU are the one responsible for your pet’s well-being and YOU alone
should read the label and understand what you are giving your pet. Many
pet owners lament years later after giving their pet the wrong food that
they wish they had “known this before.” The label is required
by law for you and your pet’s protection, so please take the time
to read it.
A good pet food should contain meat, poultry or fish clearly identifiable
in the first ingredients. It should contain ingredients that you have
heard of such as peas, carrots, fish, etc. Ideally, it should contain
a variety of nutritious ingredients such as lean meat, vegetables and
omega 3 fatty acids. There should be a nice balance between protein,
fiber, fats and carbohydrates. Even if a pet food says it is “organic” or
holistic or hypoallergenic, doesn’t mean that it is the right food
for your pet. Depending upon your pet’s individual health concerns,
one diet may be more suitable than another. For example, many “hypoallergenic” diets
are extremely high in carbohydrates promoting yeast overgrowth and many
organic brands contain flour and soy which contribute to allergies and
urinary tract infections. Remember, base your decision on the ingredients
and your pet’s health concerns, not on the beautiful pet featured
on the pet food product.
Some pet food ingredients you should try to avoid include:
Grains — such as corn, corn gluten meal, ground corn, wheat gluten,
wheat flour or any other flour-while some pets do just fine on high quality
brands that contain grains, many pets do not digest them properly and
develop allergies, UTIs and chronic health problems. If your pet has
a lot of gas, this is a sure sign he or she is not digesting the pet
food properly and may be having difficulty with the grains.
Brewer’s Rice — A processed rice product that represents
the milled fragments of rice kernels that have been separated from the
whole grain rice. This is a lower cost rice product that lacks the nutrients
found in its counterpart whole brown rice.
Ethoxyquin — chemical preservative found in some pet foods used
to extend the shelf life and ultimately the overall profitability of
the food. Ethoxyquin has been banned from most human foods due to its
cancer-causing properties. Try to find foods that are preserved with
Vitamin C or E (mixed tocopherols).
Meat and Poultry by-products — Byproducts are much less expensive
and digestible than the muscle meat found in higher quality brands. Ingredients
vary from batch to batch but can include heads, feet, bone, etc.–not
the steak and chicken breast you are seeing in the commercials.
Potato Product — a cheap byproduct of food processing of potatoes
for human use. The potato “product” does not have the same
nutritional benefit of a fresh whole potato. As a general rule, any food
labeled as a “product” in the description, e.g. “egg
product” or “byproduct” isn’t going to have the
same level of pet nutrition for your cat or dog as the whole food itself.
Peanut Hulls, Beet Pulp, Soybean Hulls — used as an inexpensive
filler with little or no nutritional value. Provides fiber and is often
used in “reduced calorie” pet foods so that the dog or cat
feels satiated. It is better to use green beans, canned pumpkin or other
natural sources of fiber to help your pet lose weight.
There are many high quality pet foods offering superior pet nutrition
available today. Some pets may require a special, “prescription” diet
and there are pet nutritionists and holistic veterinarians available
who can help you determine the best food for your pet. With just a little
extra effort in reading labels and becoming educated about your pet’s
food and the benefits of pet nutrition, you can greatly help your pet
to live a longer and healthier life.