Feeling overwhelmed when you head to your local pet supply store and see aisle after aisle of choices for your pet? What about all those commercials showing those adorable, healthy dogs and cats running in slow motion with their shiny coats gleaming in the light?
We all want to give the very best for our pets, so when it comes to nutrition, where do we start, and which food really is the best?
From general health questions to urgent concerns, use the Petzey app to talk or video chat with a credentialed vet professional to get answers in minutes. If a trip to the vet clinic or hospital is needed, we’ll help find ones near you.
Where do I begin?
When shopping for pet food, you may be overwhelmed with claims on packaging like “grain-free”, “all-natural ”, “no by-products”, and “no corn…ever!” But what does it all mean?
Our pups need balanced nutrition from many sources since dogs are omnivores. They digest pure protein from meats; vitamins, minerals, and fiber from fruits and vegetables; and essential fatty acids from fats. Not all grain is bad – in fact, they play an integral role in a well-balanced diet. Grains can be a good source of energy that keeps your pooch chasing after that ball with gusto!
Over the many years of domestication, our canine friends have developed the enzymes in their digestive systems to process starches and sugars, a reminder that a properly balanced diet is essential for their well-being.
Cats on the other hand are an example of a true carnivore and feeding them a high-quality diet of protein, essential fatty acids, and the correct balance of vitamins and minerals is important.
What should I feed my pet?
The best answer is to feed the highest quality diet that you can afford. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) provides the general guidelines for pet food. Make sure the back of that dog or cat food bag has the label or disclaimer indicating the food meets AAFCO guidelines.
You will sometimes notice a much cheaper food showing the same percentage amount of protein as that expensive bag. But it’s the quality of that protein you are after. How many calories are in a cup of the cheaper food, and how much do you have to feed your pup to achieve that desired protein level? Cheaper foods tend to require a much higher feeding rate to achieve those nutritional claims, but there can be a very big difference in how well your pet can digest that diet. So when you see the AAFCO label or disclaimer on the bag, you know you’re getting the high-quality protein your pet needs.
What about a raw diet?
Over the many years of domestication, we changed the way our pets digest food. They are susceptible to many of the same food-borne illnesses as humans, from Salmonella to Listeria. Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis and Pancreatitis are a few very common gastrointestinal upsets that veterinarians treat regularly. Many of these illnesses can occur from dietary indiscretions at home committed by pet parents.
Studies show cross-contamination of food-borne illnesses, especially with immunocompromised or young family members at home. These bacteria are being transferred by regularly handling the raw meats or being licked by their pet. A good quality, highly complete diet will eliminate those risks, and also give you peace of mind knowing your pet is getting all the essential nutrition requirements needed for good health.
These are some health concerns we are aware of that come with a fully raw diet. If you are interested in a raw diet for your pet, we recommend discussing with a veterinary professional for the safety of your pet and your household.
What does age have to do with diet?
Your pet’s life stage should also be considered when feeding your pet. A puppy or kitten’s nutritional requirements vary greatly from a senior pet’s requirements. For example, the number of good-quality calories will be much higher for a growing animal. Feeding a senior animal the same amount of calories as you would a pup can cause obesity, which can lead to many other health problems including heart disease, osteoarthritis, and respiratory difficulties, just to name a few. Choosing the correct life stage is very important to keep your animal happy and healthy.
The best source for learning about pet nutrition is your veterinarian or licensed veterinary nurse. You will get specific, unbiased advice on how to optimize your pet’s health through nutrition. Petzey Vet Professionals can answer any nutrition question you may have, no matter what it is. We’re here to help you take the best care of your pet!
Got questions about your pet’s nutrition? Use Petzey to talk or video chat with a credentialed vet professional to get answers right away, all for only $20 a consultation.
This information is offered for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended to replace traditional veterinary medical advice or create a veterinarian-client-patient relationship. You should not change your pet’s care or treatment on the basis of this information. If you think your pet requires emergency assistance, you should take your pet to the nearest emergency veterinary hospital.