Let's face it - whether you just got a new puppy or kitten, or you're deciding to switch your pet over to a healthier option, you don't know where to begin. Whether you shop at a boutique, large pet store, or a general convenience / supermarket, the options are endless. This article will not be suggesting or siding with any one brand or style in particular, but we will outline some tips & guidelines to help you along the way!
Over the years pet nutrition knowledge has in creased immensely - and just like with people, companies now strive to market all natural pet food and have the best options available. Commercial food, while more convenient, is ultimately processed food. Large brands will sometimes not be making their own food, and the larger the scale the more oversights that can happen.
Be cautious also with ingredients, often protein comes from parts of an animal that humans have no use of for consumption. Always make sure to research a specific brand, and see where their food is coming from.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has established guidelines to govern claims a pet food company can make on its label.
*If the food lists a single ingredient, it must contain 95% of that ingredient, not including water
*Phrases like "dinner", "platter", and "entree" means the food must contain at least 25% of the named ingredient . If it states "with" another ingredient, then it contains at least 3% of that ingredient.
On the label, foods with heavier weight (usually that contain moisture) will be listed first. Proteins that are dehydrated for dry food will appear further down the list.
Grain-free foods are not only options for animals that have allergies, but many pet owners choose a grain-free diet for their dog or cat. Pets may also have allergies to soy, potatoes or meat (such as chicken or beef). Some owners also prefer to utilize a raw diet for their pets. While cats are a little closer to their wild cousins, dogs are more domesticated, and their diets should be adjusted. There has not been much research on feeding dogs a raw diet, but so far there is little to know about whether it substantially provides them nutrients.
The big decision now is: Dry food, Wet Food, Dehydrated Food, or Home-made food?
Dry Food: The most convenient, and can be left out for a pet to eat at their leisure. It is easy to measure out, and easier to buy in bulk. Some foods will also help with tooth and gum problems (but if your pet has missing teeth it's best to keep them off harder food). Kibble will have a reduced fat content in order to maintain their shape, so look for a brand to make up for the nutrients. Also, since it is dry, make sure dogs get the water content they need, especially in hotter weather.
Wet Food: Many animals do not get the hydration they need, so feeding wet food can give them the moisture their bodies need. Usually contain less or no synthetic preservatives compared to dry food. Also great for older or ill dogs that have difficulty eating, or may find richly smelling food more enticing. However, wet food can be messy and spoils quickly after opening.
Dehydrated Food: Dry, but all you need to do is add water. You can mix it with other wet, dry, or home made food, or even broth. Dehydrated means the food has not been processed at higher temperatures, and therefore it contains more nutrients. Great for digestibility and a source of protein. Can work as an in-between if trying out new diets for your pet.
Home-made Food: If you are more comfortable cooking up a meal for your pet, then make sure to research animal nutrition, specific diets, and consult with your veterinarian. Never feed them random dinner scraps! Know the science behind their diet, their breed, and any conditions such as allergies. Home-made means you know everything your pet is eating, and they will always have happy bellies. For more tips on home-made, check out these links: The Bark, PetMD, Founders Vet, Know Better Pet Food