If you are like most pet owners, walking into a pet supply store to peruse the food isle leads to confusion, frustration and a feeling of hopelessness. One manufacturer touts their special blend, another praises their “all natural” ingredients while a third highlights the fact that their food is grain free. So does how one decide what is most appropriate for their pet? Rather than try to make specific recommendations let’s look at some of the basic issues to consider in making our choice.
First and foremost I consider two main factors in choosing foods for my own pets. Is it safe and is it nutritious? The nutritional part is easier to assess than the safety. Nutritional information is published on the package as well as on line. The safety aspect of a particular diet is problematic. Most of us remember the incident of several years ago when tainted cat food resulted in serious disease and loss of many felines. It was not a single food but in fact a manufacturer in China who marketed many different foods to major US manufacturers. These companies then placed their own label on the product. In addition to the safety of a particular food does your pet have any special nutritional requirements or exlusions that need to be considered before purchasing a diet? For example if your cat or dog has kidney issues, a low protein diet may be in his/her best interest. If your pet has had bladder stones in the past there are certain diets you need to avoid. If your vet has presribed a specific diet make sure that you check with her or him before any changes are made. We often see feline patients in our practice who present with serious urinary tract disease or even blockage because the owner decided, on their own, to switch to a diet different than the one presccribed.
How does one know if a product is safe and nutritionally complete for their pet? Veterinarians who are in practice today spend considerable time while in training learning the specifics of nutrition. Protein requirment for young versus old pets or active versus inactive pets is just one of the specifics that should be considered. Source of protein, percentage of fat, supplementation in the diets are all critical issues in assessing diets. What is the truth regarding grain free, “all nautural” or raw diets currently? The questions go on and on. How can one possibly find answers in selecting the one best food for their pet? Reality is there are many products that should satisfy your (and your pet’s) needs. Safe, nutritionally complete and palatable diets are more readily available then ever. But as a responsible pet owner we need to be our own pet’s advocates as well. Often information available at pet supply stores or online is no more than anecdotal, heresay or marketing information from specific manufacturers. Start by consulting with your vet regarding the appropriateness of various diets you may be feeding. If you find that your doctor does not appear engaged in the field of nutrition, inquire if there is someone else trained in the practice who may be more appropriate for this discussion. If there isn’t then it may be time to consider a different practice. The importance of nutrition has never been more important for pets as well as people. Remember…….. “We are what we eat”