Deciding what to feed your pet is not easy to do, as there are hundreds of different brands of cat and dog food to choose from. The first step is to determine the life stage of your pet.
- Puppy or Kitten: From birth to about 10 months of age.
- Adult: from 10 months to 8 years.
- Senior: 8 years plus.
How to Read a Pet Food Label
- Pay attention to the AAFCO statement on the pet food label. This statement is mandatory on all bags of dog/cat food, and will tell you if the food had a feeding trial before it came to the market. Be careful, because if the label says the food is formulated, it means there was not a clinical feeding trial, and the only feeding trial is being done using your pet. We typically recommend brands that have been through a feeding trial. The only exception is Precise brand, which has been around for over two decades.
- It is important to look for the manufacturer of the food. Most smaller companies do not manufacture the food they sell and outsource its production. This means they have no safe way of monitoring the quality of the food. In cases like this, the buyer believes he is purchasing a unique food when in fact it was bundled with another company’s food. It was just sorted out at the end and given a different label.
- It is important to note who formulated the food. Pet foods should be formulated by a veterinary nutritionist (a veterinarian who has done a residency and is a boarded nutritionist). Some small companies use nutritionists who are not veterinarians, and others use nutritionists who have no medical background.
- Most pet food companies also have an “open label” policy which means they can change an ingredient at any time without notifying the public for some time. If your pet has a food allergy, this could cause serious problems. Very few pet foods have a closed label. Science Diet is one of them, which is one reason we recommend their food. As a consumer, you have the right to call the pet food company directly and ask questions. The internet may not be helpful because many companies have web sites which will compare food and point you in one direction. These are advertisements and should not be taken as medical information.
- The ingredients in your pet’s food are extremely important. The type of protein and type of carbohydrate in the food can cause problems such as allergies. The most common food allergens are beef, chicken and soy. Less common are allergies to wheat or gluten. The best thing to do before changing your pet’s diet is to consult with your veterinarian. Identifying food allergies can be very frustrating and may take a while to work out.
- Calories in your pet’s diet must also be considered. The average dog food has 350 calories per cup, and the average cat food has 400 calories per cup. Grain free diets often have over 500 calories in a cup. As you can see, if you were to switch to a grain-free diet, feeding the same amount as you did with a non-grain-free diet, it could result in obesity in your pet. Keep in mind that the number one disease we see in dogs and cats is obesity, so it is important to consult with your veterinarian regarding how much to feed your pet.
- Nutrition is a vital part of our pet’s health it is important to get on the right start from the very beginning. Eating a well balanced and healthy diet is one of the keys to a healthy life.
- By-products are not necessarily bad. A by-product is simply something produced in the making of something else. When processing soybeans, the by product is Vitamin E. Ingredients listed on pet food labels as meat by-products include organ meats such as liver and kidney, which are rich in nutrients.
- Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that stimulate the growth and/or activity of bacteria in the digestive system in ways claimed to be beneficial to health.As a functional food component, prebiotics, like probiotics, are conceptually intermediate between foods and drugs. Depending on the jurisdiction, they typically receive an intermediate level of regulatory scrutiny, in particular of the health claims made concerning them. Prebiotics and probiotics can restore the balance of bacteria in your digestive tract. It is something that needs to be added in correct amounts as too many can result in bacterial overgrowth.
- Some pets may need to be on a prescription diet to help diagnose or treat a disease. There are diets which can help in the treatment of kidney disease, diabetes, liver disease, arthritis, senility, obesity, urinary disease and more. We carry many prescription diets for cats and dogs and would be happy to determine of your pet needs a specific diet.
Some of the pet food brands we recommend are:
- Hills Science Diet
- Transparent Nutrition
- Fresh Pet
- California Natural
For more information on pet nutrition, please check out the links below: