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What to feed my dog/cat?

A surprisingly tough question for many pet owners is “what kind of food is your pet cat/dog eating?”  Most owners can recall the kind of food, while others need a little prompting - “it’s got the word blue in it,” or “I know it’s in a green bag on the second shelf...”  It’s something we look at every day, sometimes 2 or 3 times a day, but how much thought have we given to what we are feeding our pets?  The pet food industry has grown and it can be quite overwhelming standing in the pet food aisle trying to decide which food is the best option.  It’s easy to buy the biggest bang for your buck or to be persuaded to purchase a food based on the flashy design on the bag.  The marketing industry knows exactly how to sell the food based on our emotions and current diet fads, without much consideration to what our pets really may need.

Understanding the current trends in the pet food industry can help you decide which food is right for your fluffy friend.  Three popular diets right now are grain-free, raw, and homemade diets.  A grain-free diet is similar to a gluten free diet for humans.  A lot of owners feel that a grain-free diet is important for allergy management in their pets. Food allergies in general are low in cats and dogs and those with food allergies are more likely to have an allergy to the protein source in the diet (beef, chicken, pork, etc), not the grain.  Many people also see grains as a filler in the diet, a cheap ingredient. There is important nutritional value to a grain source.  There are many  grain-free diets out there and for some pets, the difference in ingredients does help reduce their body’s response to allergens.

Raw diets are prepackaged diets that are made with fresh ingredients. These diets include meat, bones, eggs, vegetables, fruit, grains and dairy products.  The fresh ingredients require the diets to be kept in the fridge or frozen.  Commercial raw diets are usually balanced diet and your pet may really enjoy the diet.  However, cats and dogs have come a long way from their ancestors, and for many these diets are too rich for their digestive systems to be fed long term.  There is also a human health risk of improperly handling the diet (such as salmonella or e. coli).

Homemade diets are gaining popularity.  They allow owners to pick what they want their pets to be eating and in some cases, can be very cost effective for the owner.  The biggest concern with a homemade diet is ensuring that the diet is balanced and contains all of the proper nutrients that are required.  There are good websites available to help owners make homemade diets and supply the additional oral nutritional supplements needed to balance the diet.  Homemade diets can also be helpful for pets that have medical conditions that make them picky or resistant to eating commercial diets.

In the clinic we are often asked for advice on what diets to feed.  There is nothing wrong with any of the above diets if they are nutritionally balanced and fed correctly.  If you’re currently feeding one of these diets and your pet is happy and healthy, wonderful!! Professionally, we tend to recommend diets that have been well researched by the manufacturer – scientifically tested along with food trials.  As the pet food industry continues to grow, the types of diets available may also continue to expand.  Each pet has a different preference and for some owners finding a diet their pet loves may take a little extra effort.  Don’t be overwhelmed by all of the options and if you ever have questions regarding a diet, feel free to give us a call.  A way to your pet’s heart may be through their stomach so feed them well!

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