A good diet is a great way to help keep your furry family member happy and to help avoid or decrease the chances of many problems in the future, such as obesity which make your pet more prone to arthritis and many other illnesses later in life.
With all of the many diets out there, how can you choose what to feed your fuzzy family member? Here are some helpful tips:
1. Do your research. As always, your vet is a great source of information regarding your pet’s needs. There are many major factors in your pet’s nutrition: your pet’s age, how active your pet is, your pet’s reproductive status (spayed/neutered or not), your pet’s health (certain diseases can require certain diets), etc. Each pet is different, so they each require different diets. A Great Dane puppy will not have the same nutritional needs as an older Chihuahua. Your vet is the best place to start when searching for the perfect diet for your four-legged companion, as they can help you assess your pet’s specific dietary needs.
Also look for information from the pet food company that should be supplied by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. This information shows many of the most important components of the company’s diet: fat, nutrients, proteins, etc. This is often found on the bag label or in brochures supplied by the company. AAHA supplies some great information on how to look for the proper nutrition for your pet here.
2. Don’t be lulled by marketing. Many pet food companies will play commercials showing show dogs with beautiful coats and use terms such as natural food source, organic, vegetarian, etc. Like us, our furry family members do require a balanced diet, which means we need to be sure that our pets have all of the necessary nutrients in their diet. Unlike us, there are some components of our four-legged friends’ diet that they sorely need and are unable to produce themselves, such as Taurine.
3. Consult your veterinarian to find out how much to feed your pet. The amount each pet is fed should be tailored to their specific needs. For instance, an elderly cat is not going to be fed the same amount of food as a kitten. Also, an overweight dog will need a different amount of food from a thinner dog. The information on the bag of food often is a generalized suggestion and your vet will be better able to tell you if your pet is in need of more or less calories, dependent upon your pet’s individual needs. Also, “Purina” provides a terrific way to evaluate whether or not your pet may be overweight, thin, or just right. You can check their site here for dogs and here for cats.
Like many things in life, when it comes to your pet’s diet, you tend to “get what you pay for”. Most of the higher quality diets tend to be a little more expensive, but they are also more likely to have all of the nutrition your pet needs. Many of the store brands or generic pet foods tend to be higher in fat and have less protein in them, so it is similar to feeding your pet fast food for every meal. Hopefully these helpful tips will help you pick the best diet plan for your pet.