Important Info About Your Pet’s Nutrition and Feeding

Posted on: September 18th, 2012 by PetMAC

What should I feed my pet?

Most likely your pet has come from a shelter where he was eating a low-quality donated food. Sadly, many of the animals we rescue have poor feeding histories – many having had to eat scraps, garbage and poor quality food. A bad diet can affect your pet’s health, energy and outlook on life (both in the short and long term). So this is your chance to start your pet out on a positive, healthy path for the rest of his life.

“We are what we eat”, so they say.  Healthy eating makes for a long and healthy life.  And a good diet can (literally) save you thousands of dollars in vet bills. Most commercial pet foods have effective marketing campaigns designed to make you believe that their foods are good quality, but most are not. Even the more expensive commercial foods can/do contain ingredients that can be harmful to your pet on a number of levels. Foods containing any kind of by-products, chemical preservatives such as BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin, or inferior ingredients such as wheat and corn gluten, which are cheap sources of protein, can harm your pet by not providing the healthy nutrition he/she needs.  Many animals have grain allergies that are never properly diagnosed – and yet grains are found in most commercial foods.

Many people say, “But my dog lived till he was 15 on XYZ Commercial food.” Yes, that is true, and some of us could live long lives eating McDonald’s. However, our doctor bills would be higher, our energy levels lower and our medical issues more numerous. The same goes for your pet. Why not do better for your pet?

Benefits to feeding natural foods include: reduction/elimination of common allergies (often caused by foods but not always diagnosed by vets); reduction in inflammation of joints; stronger/healthier digestive tracts; cleaner/healthier teeth; decreased infections of ears and mouth; less shedding; smaller/firmer stools and a happier, healthier pet!!!

Also consider that the USDA does not regulate the quality of ingredients that go into commercial pet food. 4-D animals (dead, dying, diseased and down) animals can be used in your pet’s food with no restrictions. And many commercial pet food companies use such animals to save money. Do you want your pet eating diseased or badly-handled meat? All-natural and organic foods are strictly regulated and must meet standards of care and feeding for the animals that go into such foods. These regulations not only dictate a safer, healthier food for your pet, but also more humane treatment of the animals that go into the food.

Should I feed dry kibble or canned food?

Generally, canned food is healthier for your pet, as it is less-processed and closer to their natural diet.  Cats evolved in the desert and do not have a well-developed thirst mechanism like people and dogs do, so often don’t drink enough water.  The lack of moisture in their diet can contribute to urinary problems, kidney problems and crystals. For these reasons, canned food for cats is a must for good health, either instead of or in addition to dry food. Contrary to what most folks have been told about the benefits of kibble (scraping of teeth to clean tartar), vets today are actually finding that a canned or soft diet is healthier for teeth and gums (especially when used in conjunction with strong chewing objects like bones.) The carbohydrates in kibble get caught between their teeth much like crackers do in human teeth.  If we’re not diligent and brush their teeth every day, then the carbs turn to sugars, then tartar, ultimately causing gum disease and producing bacteria that can damage the heart. Using kibble is still quite common, as most people have schedules that limit the time they spend preparing their pet’s food. And so using a high-quality, all-natural kibble in conjunction with canned food is certainly acceptable. Be sure to consider brushing your pet’s teeth and/or providing hard, safe objects for them to chew on. We will be happy to make suggestions on specific foods, toothpaste and safe chewing objects for your pet.  Beware of bones that could splinter easily – always give them under supervision.  Raw marrow bones provide safe chewing (they are softer and don’t splinter) and offer hours of entertainment for the dog working the marrow out!

What is the BARF Diet?

BARF stands for Bones and Raw Food. This diet most closely emulates what your pet would eat in the wild. Pure raw food with no additives, preservatives or harmful by-products makes the BARF diet a fantastic choice, and pets love it. You can purchase raw food in a variety of forms: frozen in patties and nuggets; dehydrated (you add water); or you can purchase human food at your local grocery store and cook for your pet. At PetMAC, we sell raw foods in both the frozen and dehydrated forms.  You can feed these exclusively, or in conjunction with a canned or kibble diet if necessary.

My pet is overweight – should I switch him to a Light food?

Unless your pet has some medical reason for needing a lower protein food, then there is no reason to put them on a Light diet.  Most Light or Weight Management foods simply reduce the protein and fat, therefore increasing the carbohydrates.  Dogs and cats (especially cats) are not designed to get their nutrients from carbs, and carbs make us ALL fat!  The best option is to keep him/her on a regular adult diet and adjust the serving size as necessary.  Feeding a canned food also helps with weight control as the water in the canned food helps to fill him/her up faster with fewer calories. Also consider feeding your pet several small meals throughout the day and supplement with healthy snacks (fruits and vegetables or dried meat treats, as opposed to carb-heavy biscuits.) A lot of dietary tricks that work for people also work for pets.  We have had success with some of the high-protein, low-carb weight management foods, such as EVO Weight Management.

What is the best food for my senior pet?

As with Light foods, most Senior foods have lower protein and fat and higher carbohydrates.  If your pet has no medical reason to need low protein and fat, then it’s best to leave him or her on a regular adult diet and modify the portion as necessary.  Some older pets can benefit from Glucosamine and/or Chondroitin to prevent or treat arthritis.  We recommend feeding this via a treat or supplement, as Senior foods don’t list how much G/C is actually in the food as fed.  Older pets need a very healthy diet, and getting the by-products and additives out of your dog’s system will only help to make him healthier. It’s never too late to switch your pet to a healthier diet!

Where Can I  Learn More?

www.dogaware.com – A great website to check out for comprehensive information on many foods, health issues, supplements and other important tidbits on animal health and diet.

pets.webmd.com/features/pet-nutrition – excellent website giving a quick overview of what dogs and cats need and don’t  need.

www.catinfo.org – a great resource for cat nutrition and health.

pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/K9Nutrition/ – a great listserv for people wanting to learn more about dog health and nutrition, and for sharing ideas on feeding and supplements for daily use and for special needs, such as puppies, seniors, and dogs with specific medical conditions.

www.whole-dog-journal.com – excellent magazine, kind of the Consumer Reports for pets!

www.animalwellnessmagazine.com – excellent magazine!

b-naturals.com/newsletters – interesting list of articles about all aspects of pet health

What’s Really in Pet Food – by the Animal Protection Institute (Now Born Free USA) (http://www.bornfreeusa.org/facts.php?more=1&p=359)

Selecting a Commercial Pet Food – by Animal Protection Institute (Now Born Free USA) (http://www.bornfreeusa.org/articles.php?p=361&more=1)