As part of my work, I've been educating clients about pet food for more than 25 years. There are more choices than ever before! Even with a great selection, I still like the idea of a natural diet for pets. By natural, I mean RAW. If that isn't your thing, or if you don't like the idea of raw feeding, there are many other good retail choices. More on RAW in a coming post.
What's important to you as a pet owner? Do you want to feed your dog the best commercially available food? Let's get on the same page right off by saying that there is no one "best" food for all dogs. By examining your personal preferences and values however, making choices is much easier.
The first rule of thumb is this: No corn, wheat, soy, or artificial colors. All of these ingredients not only top our most allergenic items, but they can contribute to a very gassy pet. Along with the gas comes large stool size & volume. A high grain content also means more shedding in the house. Be on the look out for one popular kibble brand that also uses 3-4 forms of sugar in it's semi-moist food. This product, by the way, will stay moist on the grocery shelves for two years!
Dogs share 99% of their DNA with the wolf, and therefore, should not be fed these huge amounts of cereal products. Cats certainly do not need the carbs either. Again, raw is a better choice, but high quality kibble can work. In nature, dogs and big cats will also consume the viscera, or gut of their kill. How do you feel about the by-products in your pet's food? Did you know that by AFCO standards, "Poultry By Product Meal" can contain up to 5% feathers? Yikes!
This is some debate over by-products, and whether they should be included in pet food. Keep in mind that by-products may also include things that we just don't like to talk about. And, that higher quality food which still contains by-products may cost 60$ per bag or more. The debate includes information that questions the digestibility of by-product material, as it should. Obviously, lean cuts of muscle tissue are more digestible. However, when a RAW or natural diet is fed, by-products such as tripe and organs may be included. This mimics the dog and large cat's tendencies to graze on bones, hide, and again, the viscera.
By following the rule of thumb above (no corn, wheat, soy, or artificial colors), you can do well choosing a healthier food for your pet. If you ever switch brands, it's HIGHLY recommended to mix the two foods, old and new, in increasing amounts, until you are feeding all new food. This may help avoid stomach upset and diarrhea.
To learn more about your dog's diet, and to see an actual score, visit www.dogfoodadvisor.com. Where does your diet rank?
Jen Ortman, owner of Holistipet (LLC) is a Professional Animal Communicator, Animal Reiki Master Teacher, author, and speaker.