Gateway Gazette

Choosing Your Pet Food

The number one question that I get asked by pet owners, is what is the best method of feeding, and brand of food for their pet.

It’s a complicated query to answer but the bottom line is that there is no one way to feed or a single brand of food that is the best for every dog or cat.

While your neighbour’s two-year-old German Shepherd does exceedingly well on Brand A, that does not mean it is the best food out there for YOUR dog. If there was a single, best fit for all dogs and cats, then choosing your pet food would be simple.

Good quality food is important. Good nutrition means a stronger immune system, less health issues, and hopefully less trips to the veterinarian, over the course of the pet’s lifetime.

When deciding on a method of feeding – kibble, dehydrated, raw, canned or cooked homemade, you must factor in many things.

Which method of feeding fits into YOUR life the best?

Is kibble the right fit for you and your pet because it is simple and is easy to store? Or do you want to take a more active roll in what goes into the makeup of your pet food? Do you have the time to cook for your pet? Are you able to source the proper ingredients and be confident that you are meeting all of your pet’s nutritional needs? Do you have freezer space to accommodate adequate raw food and interest in making sure that a raw diet is complete and balanced? Is there a health reason that would best be handled with a specific method of feeding and perhaps additional supplementation? And, how can you best feed your pet and stay within your financial budget?

There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. It is just a matter of figuring out where to start with feeding your pet, and what parameters you have to work within.

Once you have decided on a method of feeding, then a whole new list of questions comes up before you decide which brand of food to buy. Based on species, age, activity levels, and any health concerns, what is the best food for your individual pet?

Dogs and cats source their nutrients and energy from meat and animal fat. No matter what method of feeding you decide upon, their food should be high in meat inclusion. And meat inclusion should not be made up of “meat by-products”. These are the lowest grade of animal ingredients, are often from sketchy sources, and do not provide quality nutrients.

Grains and lentils found in pet food are fillers. If the food is high in fillers, then it is low in meat content. In kibble, fillers act as a binding agent and hold the kibble together, so they are necessary, to a certain degree. However some kibble formulas are over 50% fillers (carbohydrates and starches). That means that less than 50% of the ingredients are biologically appropriate meat sources. Something to take into consideration when 1 in 2 dogs will get cancer in their lifetime, and the rate of diabetes in cats is incredibly high.

Cats have very little need for grains in their diet, so most brands of cat food, found at your local pet store, are grain free, but not all. Occasionally we see a cat that has digestive issues that benefits from a small amount of grains in the diet. Often dogs don’t do well at all on grains, especially lower quality foods that contain wheat, soy or corn in their grain inclusion, and so a grain-free diet works best for them. Other dogs actually do better with food that has a small amount of “good” grains like oatmeal, barley, spelt, quinoa or brown rice.

Some pets need higher amounts of protein and fat because they are active and can’t maintain weight on lower protein/fat formulas. Other pets are not as active and don’t utilize the higher protein foods. So you should consider protein and fat levels when choosing a kibble or canned food.

Raw diets are usually filler free and low in carbohydrates. Uncooked and without added fillers is actually easier on a dog or cats’ digestive system, as that is what their systems were designed to process. It means the digestive system doesn’t have to work as hard and food processing is much quicker. Despite the common misconception, raw diets are not usually high in protein levels, though they are high in meat inclusion.

If you want to be more in control of the ingredients in your pet food but feeding raw is not something you want to do, then a balanced home-cooked diet is not difficult to do BUT you must do your homework and ensure that you are meeting your pet’s nutritional needs. Cooked ground beef or chicken, cooked veggies and brown rice, definitely is NOT a balanced diet for your dog or cat. You may need to rotate to other meats and add in a dietary nutritional supplement to ensure proper levels of omega 3 essential fatty acids, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and a number of other essential nutrients.

And of course, we need to address the possibility of food allergies. We see more and more dogs and cats with food sensitivities. The reason for that and how best to deal with it are topics for another day but when choosing your pet food, you need to take those sensitivities into consideration. There are all sorts of food formula choices, so you should be able to work around those limitations.

Whatever method of feeding you choose, don’t presume that it is a one size fits all diet that will work for your individual pet. Don’t presume that cheaper is better or that more expensive means better quality. If you take all of these questions into consideration and are still at a loss as to how/what to feed your pet, talk to your pet specialty personnel and provide them with the facts and details about what you are looking for, and hopefully they can help you find the right food that works for your pet, that is also in your budget.

Article Contributor: Chinook Windz Healthy Pet & Horse Supplies

healthypets@chinookwindz.com

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