What should I feed my pet?
If you have felt overwhelmed in the pet food aisle lately, you are not alone! There are so many options that it can be difficult to discern what is best. Is grain free better? Are by-products bad? What about preservatives? How high should the protein level be? What does "all natural" mean?
Contrary to what you may read on the Internet or hear from a salesperson, there is no single brand or type of food which is best for every pet. Self-proclaimed experts and clever marketing strategists often present anecdotes and propaganda as facts. As a result, many pet owners feel pressured to buy the most expensive food available or switch to a certain diet. While some pets do need specialty or prescription foods, many pets thrive on reasonably priced diets.
My veterinary nutrition professor used to say, “Animals need nutrients, not ingredients.” Unfortunately, companies design pet food labels for marketing purposes and no one can determine if a food provides optimum nutrition based solely on an ingredient list. Selecting the right food merits an in-depth discussion with your family vet, as each patient has unique nutritional needs.
One common misconception is that grain-free diets are universally superior. It may surprise you that grains used in pet food are, in fact, very nutritious. They contain complex carbohydrates, proteins, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Unless your pet has a food allergy or digestive disorder, there is no reason to avoid all grains. Animal by-products are also commonly vilified but high quality by-products such as organ meats are an excellent source of nutrients.
The most important factor for grains, by-products, preservatives and other ingredients is their quality, which can vary tremendously from product to product. Quality cannot be determined from a price tag or ingredient list. Therefore, it is important to buy food from a manufacturer with an outstanding history of nutrition research, live animal feeding trials, quality control and food safety protocols. Some of the newer, more popular foods on the market do not have these attributes while some long-standing brands available at the grocery store do.
Choosing the best food for your pet requires thorough research, followed by careful monitoring of your pet’s response. A diet could be good for one pet and bad for another. So listen to your pet, listen to your vet & try not to buy into the hype! - Written by: Dr. Elizabeth Chosa