Did you know that genetics, nutrition and care are the three factors that most impact your pet’s longevity? This and upcoming blogs will discuss those factors in detail. Today’s blog addresses nutrition.

A dog laying on the ground with ears up

Ever feel overwhelmed when you go to your grocer or pet store to buy food for Fido? It’s no wonder. Pet food brands and types have mushroomed as more people become pet owners. In fact, research shows that US pet ownership has grown by nine million in the past decade. Some 67 million households now include a pet. So it’s no surprise that more and more businesses want a piece of the pet-food pie. The question is, which foods are fad, and which foods are legitimate, and how do you know what to buy for your pet? Here are thoughts on how to best choose the right food for your pet.

 Just like we are what we eat, our pets are also what they eat.  Feed them a high quality pet food! If you are looking for a high quality commercial pet food, look for those that have passed the AAFCO feeding trials (Association of American Feed Control Officials).

If your pet is healthy, it’s a bit easier to find the right food. If your pet has a food allergy, however, beware of over –the-counter foods boasting they’re a “novel ingredient” diet.  Testing has shown that about 10% of the time, companies substitute another “meat” for the “novel ingredients”, and your pet may be allergic to that.   Your better manufacturing companies will prepare novel ingredient diets at a separate facility or take strict measures to avoid cross contamination of other ingredients.

In commercial foods, unfortunately the cheaper they are, the more likely they contain lower-quality ingredients.  However, you don’t have to buy the most expensive food, either. Stick to major food manufacturers, rather than store-labeled foods or foods with celebrity names.

What to Read on the Label

Check the label to see if it says “Manufactured by” or “Manufactured for”. If the label says manufactured by, that company is vested in high-quality testing and is more likely to have a veterinary nutritionist on staff.  Such companies test both the raw ingredients and the finished product.

If the label says “manufactured for, that company is less likely to have a veterinary nutritionist on board. Equally important, testing is generally less thorough. They often don’t test both the raw ingredients and prepared food. Testing is vital. In particular, it helps prevent recalls due to a bacterial contamination—unfortunately, an increasingly frequent reason for recalls.

You can check for recalls a company has had by visiting the FDA website.  Once you have researched a food you think will be good, enlist the help of your veterinarian to help you evaluate your choice.  Their in-depth knowledge of your pet’s health combined with their background in nutrition ensure you’ll make the right choice.

The Right Foods for Pet Diseases and Conditions

If your pet has a disease such as kidney, liver, urinary or a gastrointestinal disease, a prescription diet may be healthier for them.  Prescription Diets, available from your veterinarian, are especially good and have been researched and tested extensively in both the raw ingredient and cooked stages.

These foods are developed to address the specific nutritional needs of a pet with a serious disease.  Pets that are fed these diets have been shown to live longer than pets who are fed a commercial diet.

I know, you say, “but these diets have corn in them!” This is true, many of these diets do have grains, but grains are not necessarily a bad thing. It depends on the pet. These prescription diets are tried and true; they have been researched and tested multiple times on many dogs and cats to ensure they do what they are prescribed to do.

This is especially important if you have a male cat with urinary crystal problems. There are commercial foods labeled to help prevent urinary problems. But if your cat has ever had a urinary obstruction, go with prescription food!

Believe me, I too, have tried numerous other commercial diets for my own cats to address this problem.  All I can say, is “Don’t do it. Your pet’s life is too important to risk a life-threatening urinary obstruction!” I feed my cat a prescription diet to help prevent urinary obstructions.  Though the ingredients are not on my preferred list, these diets do prevent a crisis.

The most important factors in your pet’s diet are

  1. The food has been formulated by veterinary nutritionists to ensure it is a complete and balanced diet for your pet
  2. The food meets your pet’s needs
  3. The ingredients are tested extensively for contamination

Home-made Pet Food

What about homemade diets? Preparing a homemade diet for your pet is expensive and a lot of work. Yet, many people want to provide homemade diets for their pets.  Please know that this does not mean feeding them table scraps or whatever you are having for breakfast or supper. This means using high quality human food ingredients in a diet formulated by a veterinary nutritionist to ensure the diet meets the pet’s nutritional needs.  If your pet has no known health concerns then you can visit PetDiets.com for home-made diet recipes formulated by a veterinary nutritionist.  The recipes as written will provide a nutritionally complete diet for your pet so no changes should be made for optimum health.

Our pets do not have the same nutritional needs as we do.  Diets that do not meet all the pet’s nutritional needs put your pets at risk for diseases. Such diseases can affect their brain, eyes, heart, joints, kidneys, liver, skin and digestive track. So, proper nutrition is vital. Contact us if you would like discuss nutrition recommendations for your pet or if you are interested in learning more about home-made diets.

Dr. Cook is a 1997 graduate of the Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine and purchased The Bluffs Pet Clinic in 2001. She is certified in Veterinary Acupuncture and well versed in the use of Chinese Herbs.  In her spare time she can be found playing ball with her Golden Retrievers.