There are so many brands of dog and cat food on the market it’s hard to know as an owner which one is best? If you’re standing at the pet store scratching your head at the endless options, you are not alone. Raw food, home-cooked, grain-free, meat-based, poultry-based… the list goes on and on.
So how do you choose what’s best for your pet? The answer is simple but layered depending on your pet’s breed, stage of life and any existing conditions such as skin or tummy allergies.
The simple end of the answer is that your pet’s food needs to, at a minimum, comply with Australian standards and ideally the food should be ‘complete & balanced’. Meaning it provides all nutrients required for the labelled stage of life. If the food is just ‘complete’ or ‘balanced’ or neither than your pet requires additional food sources to meet all of their nutritional needs. Food that meets the dietary requirements provides everything your pet needs, not only for their stage of life e.g puppy versus adult but also for specific disease conditions or even areas where your pet might need a bit of a boost such as their skin and coat.
The more complex part of the answer is that every animal is individual in their needs and requirements. What might agree with one pet may cause itching or vomiting in another and sometimes this takes a lot of investigation with the help of food trials and veterinary advice. Food allergies are a common occurrence and often to protein sources that can form part of many foods available. For example, if your pet has a beef allergy, even just beef flavouring can cause a flare-up of their allergies. To determine whether your pet has an allergy to a particular food, a specific food trial needs to be performed and closely monitored. In our practice, we place patients on a specifically formulated, low allergen diet for a minimum of 6 weeks then introduce different protein sources to assess the patient’s response. Speak to your vet to determine the best plan of action if you suspect a food allergy with your dog or cat.
Did you also know…? There are specific diets which are packed full of goodies to assist with:
- Bladder health and bladder stone dissolution
- Liver disease
- Dental disease
- Skin disease
- Weight management
- Kidney disease
If you are considering a diet change for your healthy pet or simply want to try something new, stick to basics. A high quality, complete and balanced dry food is best. Dry food will encourage your pet to chew their food properly and act as an abrasive surface to help their teeth and gums. Quality dry foods are also made with correct ratios of protein, fats, carbohydrates and essential vitamins and minerals. These exact ratios are hard to achieve if you are feeding solely a home-cooked diet and can end up in your pet having deficiencies. If your pet is fussy or a dry food seems too boring for them, add a sprinkle of warm water to help bring out the flavour of the dry food or a tablespoon of tinned tuna mixed through, if tuna agrees with your pet’s digestive tract that is. Just remember not to make an abrupt change to your pet’s diet and instead introduce the new food slowly over one week starting with 10% of the new food to 90% of the existing diet.
We are what we eat and that goes for our pets too. We all know the benefits of an excellent diet and our domestic pets rely on us to provide them with everything they need. Sure they might lap up the ‘fast food’ we give them (poor quality tinned food or run of the mill dry food) but this is like our fast food dining options, taste great at the time but if we ate this every night we would be extremely unhealthy. Even consider the high-quality steak that some owners prepare each night … This alone will not be meeting their dietary needs. A little note on treats and table scraps, not only do these add to your pet’s daily calorie intake but see my blog post on ‘Household Toxins’ for unexpected nasties in table scraps which can cause your pet to become very sick.