Pet Food Primer
OK dear readers, I know we've been around this track before and I can't promise that this is the last time. However, the overwhelming volume of questions that I get in the office concerning pet food quality, safety, and just plain silliness has prompted another series on what to feed our dogs and cats.
First, I want you to think about what you feed yourself. True story. I was in the exam room with a young, exasperated mother, a younger exasperating toddler, and a terrier that just wouldn't hold still for anything. Between trying to restrain the dog, speak to the owner about pet food, and keep the afore mentioned toddler out of the garbage cans, I finally was able to get a word in edgewise. The owner was asking about some boutique food recommended by the kid at the local big box pet store and wanted to know if the food that I was telling her to feed wasn't killing her dog because it had by product meal in it. She really couldn't understand what I was saying because her attention was divided somewhat unequally between me, the dog and the now screaming kid. I can't say for sure, but if I was a betting man, I would be that there was at least one cell phone interruption as well. The point of the story is, that she finally got the rug rat quiet (child, not a breed of terrier) by promising a trip to McDonald's if the kid would shut up. Now, my intent is not to disparage this fine eating establishment, but rather to show that if you feed your kids fast food, perhaps you should reconsider why you think the commercial diet that you are feeding your dog is the most poisonous substance entering your family's food chain.
"Now, wait a minute" , you say. I don't eat that kind of crap and I won't feed it to my dog either, then I say read on.
If you are a dedicated, nutritionally savvy, pet owner, I will now admit in public, here for the first time in writing, that you can probably provide the best combination of fresh ingredients, superior nutrition, and aesthetically pleasing foods, if you cook for your pet. BUT, and notice the capitols and the incorrect grammar for emphasis, I maintain that the best way to do this is to consult with a nutritionist and allow them to formulate a diet, with appropriate supplements for your pet"s particular life style and nutritional needs. You can't do it well with table scraps and veggies. You cant do it well by taking a stock recipe from some on line source that you have no information on. And while I have given recipes to people over the years, I fear that this too is inferior to a nutritional consult for diet formulation.
Now, if this is too much trouble for you (Lord knows it is for me), there may be a compromise option. I'm exploring this now for my own dog as she is loosing weight after her second major surgery in less than a year and is reluctant to eat the foods that she has been eating for 15 years. Once I have a little more information, I will let you all know what I found out. Spoiler alert, I will probably post those experiences on our Facebook page in the next couple of weeks.
Until then, I am feeding a high quality, commercial diet, just as I have been recommending that you do for 30 years. As my clients know, I put a great amount of credence in facts versus opinions so here is a little list of things to consider. (Gosh I love to use bullet points)
- The diet should be formulated by a veterinary nutritionist.
- The diet should be tested by feeding trials, not just formulated to meet AAFCO standards.
- The diet should have a good safety record.
- Cats should get mostly canned food. Dogs can eat either canned or dry. (They are better drinkers so do not need to get all of their moisture from their food.
- The diet should be life stage specific. Puppy or kitten food for puppies or kittens. Adult maintenance for adults. Senior food for seniors.
- Your pet needs to like the food
Now, the only companies that currently meet all of the above points are Hills, the maker of Science Diet, and Purina, the maker of Proplan. These are currently the diets that I feed and recommend. And before you come after me with axes and knives, screaming about corn and by products, follow some of the above links to find out the science behind these ingredients. Oh, and just as my opinions on home cooking for pets has evolved, Hills has bowed to market pressure and has two food lines that are grain free. So there, who says the free market doesn't work.
So, if you can't or won't cook a nutritious food for your pet, then buy a diet from a company that will. If you want to cook a diet for your pet, let me know and I will get you the contact number for a nutritionist that will help you formulate a diet that is appropriate. If this other option that I am investigating is a good one, I will post the information on Facebook. Or, continue to do what you are doing and we can address your pet's health concerns as they crop up at our annual exams and consultations.