The options for feeding our dogs and cats can seem overwhelming. Nutrition advice comes from all corners. While there are no easy answers, there are important considerations.
• Cats are obligate carnivores, which means their diets must contain meat.
• Dogs are carnivores with an ability to adapt to grains and vegetables, and are therefore considered by many to be omnivores. Meat, however, is considered to be the major nutrient for the canine body.
• The quality of a food is only as good as the quality of the ingredients For example, if the protein in a food cannot be broken down and effectively absorbed and utilized by the body, then it simply goes in one end and out the other. It doesn’t matter how high a percentage of protein the label says the food contains; it’s irrelevant if it cannot be used. Stick with well-known brands that use quality ingredients.
• Unlike human food products, dog and cat foods are designed to be nutritionally complete. Manufacturers combine the proper amounts of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals into a single product packaged in a can or bag.
• Commercial pet food should state on the packaging that it meets the nutritional standard established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). This statement is on every can and bag of approved food.
• Canned or dry? Current thought by veterinary dental specialists is that dry food does not help clean teeth, as once thought. So that's not a consideration.
• Dry foods usually contain more grains and other carbohydrates than canned food. Look at the ingredients, which are listed in order, with the main component first. Meat(s) should be the first ingredient.
• Commercial? Home-cooked? Raw? Each can be nutritionally complete, but quality can vary.
If you cook for your pet, be sure all the nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, are present and in the proper quantities.
Raw diets may not be nutritionally complete. Raw food also presents potential health risks, such as bacteria and parasites, to both pet and handler.
On the positive side, raw diets usually do not contain chemicals, preservatives, or excessive carbohydrates, and often avoid potential food allergens such as wheat, corn, and soy. Several of the raw food products claim to meet AAFCO standards.
These points reflect only a few of the many debates and issues surrounding pet food. There are many good products on the market today. You can be confident that the well-known brands have good research behind them.
If your pet has a medical condition or food sensitivity, your veterinarian may direct you to a special diet. Several reputable manufacturers formulate special foods for kidney disease, heart disease, skin conditions, weight problems, digestive problems, and even cancer. There are also recipes for owners who wish to cook for their pets with medical issues.
There may be many quality diets available for your pet. If you have questions, ask your veterinary office for guidance. Do some research yourself.
Never change from one diet to another suddenly, unless you’re putting your pet on a bland diet. Gradually introduce a new diet a little at a time. Watch for your pet’s response to the new food in their bowel movements, urination, coat quality, energy and mobility.
Mealtime is a highlight of the day for most pets. A little research goes a long way to ensuring health and happiness.