Food & Diethealthy eating and snacks for our pets
What defines “Good Food” for your pet?
Unfortunately, better foods do cost more and are generally considered worth the money. However, this doesn’t mean the most expensive foods available are necessary. Middle of the road works great for lots of pets. Every pet’s needs are different. There is not one food that works for all.
Some pets have diseases that require very specific prescription foods, but most will do well on the right commercial diet.
There are several ‘stage of life’ differences. Puppies, kittens, pregnant animals, and those that are nursing all require high-calorie puppy and kitten foods. Small to medium breed puppies should remain on puppy foods until they are one year of age. Large breed puppies need a puppy food designed for LARGE BREEDS and they should remain on this until 12 months of age, 16 months for giant breeds.
Older dogs that have done well on one diet may need adjustments as they age or develop illnesses. Always make changes in diet or food brands gradually by blending the new and old diets over a week or so.
Finding the Right Food
Sometimes finding the right food and diet for our individual pets has a little trial and error. But paying attention and adjusting as needed will make all the difference for your pet.
Use these criteria to decide if your pet’s current diet is okay:
- Your pet stays at a consistent and healthy weight.
- Their skin and hair coat are healthy, and have no ear infections.
- They have no more than 2-3 stools per day.
- Those stools are normal in size and consistency (firm but not hard or soft).
- They eat consistently one to two times per day
- They do not have intermittent vomiting, skip meals or eat grass or dirt frequently
Feeding schedules and snacks
Generally, we recommend pets eat two meals per day. This not only helps with training but helps level out blood sugar levels and decreases occasional vomiting seen with empty stomach nausea. There are some pets who truly prefer to eat once a day, and that is ok. But most will like eating twice.
Pets really do not need snacks or treats in between meals. What they do need is your attention and interaction. This is what really matters to them. People equate food with love. Dogs and cats do not. We teach them to expect the treats. They learn routine and enjoy the snack, but they would be just as happy with your attention instead. They will adjust to new routines. Use affection instead of a cookie.
Cats and Food
Yes, we used to say dry food was better for their teeth. Turns out it doesn’t help the teeth at all.
Plus, cats need lots of water, more than they can drink on their own. Dehydrated kibble compounds this problem.
This is one reason (the other being stress) that we have so many urinary problems in cats!
Other benefits of canned Fancy Feast include… fewer calories compared to a similar volume of dry food, less highly processed, more protein, and fewer carbohydrates.
This is NOT true for every canned cat food. Fancy Feast, in particular, meets these criteria.
Beware of tricks from pet food manufacturers
Pet food companies are in the business of selling foods and there are tricks of the trade to sell more. Often, volumes to be fed on these bags are too large. This means you buy food more often than needed and your pet may become overweight.
Sometimes foods have more fat and salt in them than needed to enhance flavor. The more willing your pet is to eat a particular diet, the more likely you are to continue to purchase that brand.
The ingredients list on the package does not have to change every time the ingredients inside the bag change. Most foods will also list a minimum fat content. The label may say a minimum of 7% fat, but no maximum is listed. There could be 30% or more fat! Only the manufacturer knows for sure.
Many of the common phrases seen on packaging such as “Low Fat”, “Low Calorie”, Natural”, or Grain Free” have no legal implications. In other words, what is on the package, may not mean anything worthwhile.
Representatives in the stores that recommend certain brands of foods often work for those companies or have been trained by them.
Their advice may not be the most objective. Along this same line, those trusted celebrities that sell their names to pet food companies have no real control over the quality of the product they sell. Their name alone does not guarantee a product is a good one.
We do not recommend raw diets. Raw diets put both pets and owner at high risk for some infectious diseases. Our pets have been changed drastically through generations of breeding and are far removed from their wild ancestors.
The raw foods they would have eaten in the wild would have been fresh prey, not foods that have been through a rending or food processing plant collecting bacteria as it goes. (see 5 Food Myths)
Grain Free Diets
This is more a marketing ploy than anything else. Yes, dogs can be allergic to grains but food allergies themselves make up less than 10% of all dog allergies. Of that 10%, proteins (chicken, beef, lamb, soy) make up the largest percentage of the allergens. The grain is often replaced with soy which as mentioned, can be a common food allergen.
Decreasing carbohydrates (grains) means those lost calories have to be made up through either proteins or fats. Proteins are the most expensive part of a diet. This often leads to a higher fat content in grain free diets.
New studies have linked Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) to grain free diets. This may be due to a lack of sufficient taurine (a critical amino acid that must come from the diet) though it is suspected that there is a more complex reason that grain-free diets are causing this heart disease. We are in fact, seeing an increase in the frequency of DCM cases over the last few years. Please do not feed grain-free diets. We are happy to discuss this in greater detail if you have additional questions.
Home Cooked Diets
There are some exceptions, but for the average pet, commercial diets are best even if they make up at least a good portion of a pet’s daily intake. It is very difficult to provide all necessary nutritional support long-term in a home-cooked diet. There are diseases caused by missing a single amino acid or vitamin!
We would be happy to answer specific questions or address special circumstances involving these two topics. You can also check out the Top 5 Pet Food Myths