Feeding our pets has never seemed more complicated than in today’s world of recalls, contamination, nutritional issues, and “extreme” marketing. This sheet is an attempt to help you decide what is best for you and your pet when trying to choose a diet. Of course, some pets may require specific diets created for medical conditions, and these are things that we will discuss as individuals if your pet has any such conditions. Other factors, such as canned –vs- dry, free feeding –vs- timed meals, and using vitamin supplements are more a matter of personal preference, and we will be happy to discuss these issues with you as individuals.
For the purpose of this sheet, we will just touch on some important considerations when choosing what to feed your beloved family members.
#1: Read labels.
- ”fancy” ingredients do not equal high nutritional value. Companies routinely use terms such as “all natural”, “organic”, “human grade”, etc. These terms are strictly marketing, and are meaningless as far as indicating true nutritional value.
- Don’t believe everything you read about the food itself. E.g.: the term “by-product” was falsely demonized by people saying it contained hooves, horns, feces, & other “undesirable” ingredients. This is not true, by definition “meat by-product” includes organs & bone, but NOT intestinal contents, hair, horns, teeth, or hooves.
- Label ingredients are listed in descending volume order, with the first ingredient being the largest by weight in the product. Companies love to appeal to human tastes, but if “nice looking” ingredients are listed >5 items down the list, or after a vitamin, they are likely in such a tiny amount that they contribute nothing.
#2: Do some research.
- Contact the manufacturer and ask relevant questions:
- “Do you employ a full-time nutritionist?”
- “Who formulates your food & what are their credentials?”
- “Are you using AAFCO feeding trials?” (the best method)
- “f using just AAFCO recommendations without feeding trials, is your nutrient profile determined by ingredient profile, or by product analysis?” (product analysis is more desirable.
- Where are your ingredients sourced, and where is the food made?”
- “What quality controls do you have in place?”
- “ Can you provide a COMPLETE nutrient analysis of the food?” (not just crude protein/fiber/etc., but EVERY nutrient).
- “What research has been done on the product?”
- Be Skeptical. Use reliable websites to obtain information:
- Double check any claims made by a food manufacturer. Be aware of the credentials of the sources of information. Make sure your information is up to date—things change often and rapidly in the world of science and nutrition.
- Do not give in to “my cousin’s neighbor’s father-in-law’s dog did great (or terrible) on…” . Or to the minimally knowledgeable employee at a store that wants to sell you whatever they can.
- Be aware of recall information. www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/Products/AnimalFoodFeeds/Petfood/default.htm
#3: Can I cook for my pet?
- The most critical element in home cooking for your pet is providing full & balanced nutrition.
- Here, at Hopewell Animal Hospital, we can formulate Food therapy diets based upon Traditional Chinese Medicine principles (these diets are analyzed using ingredient nutrient profiles, and so always require a multivitamin/mineral supplement)
- Good information about home cooked diets and appropriate balance/supplementation can be found:
www.ACVN.org (Veterinary nutrition)
www.balanceit.com (nutritionist run diet service)
#4: What about raw?
- While we are not big proponents of raw diets, some raw diets do have their merits.
- It is important to follow excellent food handling & hygiene when dealing with raw foods to minimize potential contamination.
- Some good information on raw diets:
#5: Does the diet “agree” with my pet?
- Is your pet maintaining a healthy weight, good teeth, sleek coat, bright and active personality, and having normal bowel and urination habits
- Your pet must actually like the food (if they won’t eat it, it certainly can’t do them any good).