Your pet adds so much to your life, and you want to feed him a healthy food, but with all of the choices out there, how do you know which food is best?
First of all, keep in mind that there is no one food that is best for every dog or cat. Pets are individuals just like people, which means that you could feed a brand of very well-formulated food to a group of dogs and find that most of them do great on it, some not as well, and it may actually cause some gastrointestinal upset in a few dogs. Luckily, there are many well-formulated dog foods to choose from today, and it is fine to try which one works best for your dog.
- Check for the AAFCO statement
Pet foods labeled as ‘complete and balanced’ must meet standards established by AAFCO, either by meeting a nutrient profile or by passing a feeding trial.
Meeting the nutrient profile (Formulation Method) is less expensive and the results are determined more quickly since a feeding trial is not required.
The feeding trial method is the “gold Standard” and the best way to determining nutritional adequacy and how a pet will perform when fed a specific food.
- Consider your dog’s stage of life
Make sure that the food you choose is appropriate for your dog’s stage of life. A puppy eating an adult food will not get the higher amounts of calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals he needs for proper growth. An adult cat eating kitten food is likely to become overweight. An older dog may need a senior food that is more easily digested. When it comes to nutrition, one size does not fit all.
- Select a food type
People often wonder if they should feed dry food, semi-moist or canned. The answer is that it depends on the individual animal, although dry food is recommended most often.
- Look at the ingredients
High-quality ingredients are essential for a healthy food. Some economy brands of pet food are made from inexpensive ingredients that are not easily digested, and therefore, do not provide the best nutrition. While they may technically meet the legal specifications for percentages of protein, fat, carbohydrates, etc., these foods have lower energy values and lower-grade proteins. Because of this, many health-building nutrients may pass right through your pet’s system without being absorbed. It also means that you have to feed larger amounts of that lower quality food to provide your pet with the same nutrition as a smaller amount of premium food. When you compare the cost of these foods on a per-serving basis, and realize how quickly you go through a bag, economy foods may actually cost more in the long run.
When you are looking for a healthy food for your dog, reviewing the list of ingredients on the back of the bag is a good place to start.
- Compare the Guaranteed Analysis
The next thing to look at is the Guaranteed Analysis on the back of the bag. It is a chart that lists the percentages of various ingredients contained in that food. However, the numbers given in the Guaranteed Analysis are on an “as fed” basis and do not take into account the amount of moisture in that food. All pet foods have different levels of moisture; canned foods can have up to 80%, and dry foods can have as little as 6%. To determine the actual amount of an ingredient in a food, or to compare between brands or between wet and dry foods, call us to schedule a complimentary appointment with one of our Nutritional Advocates.
- Take your time in switching foods
When you have done some comparison and picked out a well-formulated food, make sure you allow ample time for your dog to make the transition from his current food to the new one. Normal bacteria in the intestine help your dog digest food. A sudden change in food can lead to changes in the number and type of these bacteria, making it harder for food to be digested, and resulting in intestinal upset. To avoid problems, switch to a new food slowly, over the course of at least 7-10 days. Start by mixing 25% new and 75% old food, and feed that for at least 3 days. If all goes well, go to 50% of each type of food for 3 days, then 75% new and 25% old for 3 days. By now, your pet should be ready to eat only the new food.
After you have done all you can to make sure a food is nutritionally sound, take a look at your pet after he has been on the new food for at least a month. Bright eyes, a shiny coat, good body condition (not too thin or overweight), and good energy will let you know you are doing a good job with your pet’s nutrition.