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Pet Food for Thought

How and what we eat plays a big part in our lives. A healthy balanced diet is something many people strive for and, despite it, when it comes to feeding the animals in our lives, we reach for bags of pet food without much thought. Instead of looking at pet food companies the way we look at our own— with deserved skepticism— we trust that they are making pet food that provides a balanced, healthy diet to fuel our best friends. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. No fear: informing yourself about the various options and understanding your pet’s particular dietary needs can ensure a long and healthy life for your furry friends.

The first rule: know where you can purchase quality food. Yes, let me tell you right now, high quality food does mean we will spending more on our pets food but, in the long run, the slightly more expensive stuff helps prevent common aliments. Typically, dry food (commonly known as kibble) will be the least expensive, followed by a canned diet, followed by a raw, or dehydrated product. A home cooked diet is also an option.

This brings us to rule number two: if you can buy the pet food in a grocery store, it’s more than like not a high quality product.  Instead, go to pet store.  Most stores will display the higher quality pet foods towards the front of the store.  If you have nay questions about them,  an employee should be able to talk with you regarding the benefits of different brands.


Where to Start

When bringing a new pet into your life, whether it is a puppy, kitten, or an older animal, discussing their individual dietary with a veterinarian is always beneficial. Puppies and kittens have different dietary needs than an elderly pet. Just as the nutritional requirements of our diets change over time, the same holds true for your pet’s.
Some pets develop aliments that require certain diets: cats with urinary problems may need foods designed to balance the PH in their urine, while animals with allergies many need a diet with a novel protein and/or limited ingredients to help manage their conditions. While the diets themselves may be more expensive, if you can control your pets condition through its diet, you may save money on veterinary care. Most veterinarians will support your dietary choice as long as the animal is doing well.

Rule three: vegan or vegetarian diets are not biologically appropriate for dogs or cats. Placing your pet on a vegan or vegetarian diet without consulting a vet is dangerous and should not be attempted. For cats, eating dry food can also be dangerous. In general, cats do not consume much water and a dry-food only diet means they may be dehydrated. For cats, a food with a higher water content (either wet or raw) is a healthier choice.


Breaking Down Pet Food Advertising

Some pet food companies will advertise by directly comparing their product with other products. The comparison often comes from elements of the diet such as level of proteins, carbohydrates/grains. A diet having more or less protein than others is not an effective way of judging the quality of food. Some animals may need a diet that is higher in fibre/carbohydrates in order to help pass stool. Others may have conditions which mean they need a lower fat content or protein levels. This means, again, that understanding your pet’s dietary needs in key to insuring that you’re feeding your pet the appropriate food for them. Don’t fall victim to the food shaming advertising that some companies employ.


Alternative Diets

more and more people are choosing an alternative to traditional pet food, a raw, home-cooked, or dehydrated product to feed their pets. This is a more involved feeding process, which often involves making sure that you are using the proper food handling techniques. People who are immune-compromised, have small children, or the elderly living with them, may find that raw food is not a viable option. Deciding what works best for your lifestyle is key. There are some benefits to these alternative diets, aside from knowing what goes into them. Animals that eat a raw diet tend to have smaller, less smelly stools, and better oral health. Alternative diets can often be found in smaller, independent pet stores.

Picking the correct diet can be overwhelming. This shouldn’t discourage you from researching and choosing the best option for you and your pet. Making sure you understand what your pet needs, and likes, as well as maintaining a critical eye against the nutritional fallacies being promoted by advertisers will help you make informed decisions about your pet’s diet that you can feel good about.

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