Our pet’s food can be more than a source of energy for our pet; it can influence weight as well as overall health. Just like us, our pet should have a well-balanced diet. A well-balanced diet includes a combination of protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, and water. Meat is a typical protein source, building muscle and promoting growth. Carbohydrates, the grains, are the source of quick energy. Oils make up the fat and provide stored energy. Vitamins and Minerals are necessary for body function and are specifically added.
The ingredient list will specify which source of protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals are in your pet’s diet. However, verbiage and unfamiliar products can make the ingredient list look like a foreign language. Here are some helpful tips:
· The ingredients are listed in order by weight and should be listed by their common names. This can be deceiving when a meat product is the first listed ingredient as this will include the water weight. Meat meal may be seen listed first followed by many types of carbohydrates, like barley, sorghum, wheat. By breaking up the carbohydrate group, the manufacturer strategically seats the meat product at the top of the ingredient list because each portion weighs less than the total meat meal.
· “Meal”- meal is the dried product of an ingredient. Contrary to belief, it’s beneficial because the nutrients are more concentrated since the product has already had water removed.
· “By-product”- the scary word! By product does not always mean it is the ground up “leftovers” of a carcass. By-product can be organs or a cut of meat not specifically sold for human consumption. The bag may not specify which by-product but if you call the manufacturer they can tell you what by-products are used.
Choosing the right diet for your pet can be difficult because there are so many options and multiple variables that persuade us to choose a diet. Here are a few guidelines to help you decide on the right food for your pet.
1. Read the AAFCO statement- This statement can be found near the ingredient list. The Association of American Feed Control Officials developed two strategies to qualify a product as balanced and complete. The food must either pass a food trial or meet one of two nutrient profiles. The two food profiles are reproduction & growth, and adult life stage. There are many diets that are formulated for all life stages. All life stages diets must meet the requirement for the highest stage of nutritional need: the reproductive stage. Most adult and senior pets do not require the same nutritional standards as those lactating or growing. Instead, a reputable senior diet will be labeled for adult life stage. We recommend choosing a product that is labeled appropriately for your pet’s life stage and better yet, choose a diet that also has passed a food trial!
2. Choose a diet for your pet’s needs- there are many foods that target a specific benefit to your pet: Dental, kidney, allergen, or urinary care lines. Your pet may need to avoid specific diets or ingredients. High protein diets are popular but are not always beneficial, especially to senior pets as the excess protein is not easily digested and can be hard on liver and kidneys. Your veterinarian may recommend a particular diet to benefit your pet. There are multiple veterinary brands so be sure to discuss your options.
3. Buy within your price range- unless your pet develops a condition that requires a diet change, your pet will eat the same food until it grows into the next life stage. Changing diets can cause upset stomachs so transitioning should be done over a week period to avoid diarrhea. Make it easy on yourself, choose a product that works within your budget. Also, the saying “you get what you pay for” is no longer necessarily true. Some pet food companies spend more on marketing than they do on research.
4. Be sure you choose a food that is manageable for your lifestyle. Raw food diets should be carefully thought out before committing to. We do not recommend a raw food diet for households with children as Salmonella and E-coli can be transmitted from feces. However, there are precautions that can be adapted to your daily lifestyle to safely feed a raw food diet should you choose.
With so many pet food products out there, you are sure to find a healthy diet that suits your preference.