Taking a trip down the pet food aisle can be very overwhelming for any pet owner. With so many options, how can you ensure you are picking the right food for your pet? Here are a few tips to help you make an educated decision for your pet's nutritional needs:
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) regulates the sale and distribution of pet food and drug remedies. Every pet food label must have an AAFCO statement. This statement will indicate if the diet is complete and balanced, a snack or treat, which life stage it is appropriate for and if the diet was substantiated by a formula or feeding trial.
Pet owners should choose a diet that is complete and balanced, appropriate for the life stage of your pet and based on a feeding trial. A feeding trial indicates a study was performed by the pet food company to ensure the diet provides adequate nutrition.
Avoid pet foods that are meant for all life stages. Similar to people, pets nutritional requirements change with age. Puppies and kittens should be on puppy/kitten food until around one year of age. Senior pets should be transitioned to a senior pet food around seven years of age.
Choose a pet food brand that has a veterinarian on staff. During veterinary school, veterinarians receive training in animal nutrition. By hiring a veterinarian, a pet food company is demonstrating a dedication to the health of your pet. Do not hesitate to call a pet food company and ask if they have veterinarians on staff. Contact information for a pet food company can be found on the label.
If you elect to feed your pet a homemade diet, please consult with your veterinarian to ensure you are preparing a complete and balanced diet that will meet your pet's nutritional needs.
A growing number of our pets today are overweight. By keeping your pet in ideal body condition, you can extend the life of your pet. Your pet should be fed at least twice a day. The amount you feed your pet should be based on recommendations on the pet food label and the body condition of your pet. Remember, that just like people, each individual pet has a different metabolism. Therefore, the recommended feeding amounts may need to be adjusted.
Your veterinarian may recommend a special diet based on the overall health of your pet and specific diseases that may be affecting your pet. Pet food companies that provide these prescription diets have performed studies to ensure the prescription diets will meet the nutritional requirements of pets with various medical conditions.
The amount of treats your pet consumes should be less than 10% of your pet's nutritional intake. Carrots and green beans are excellent and healthy treat options. Avoid chicken jerky treats and other types of treats that may have been manufactured outside the United States. Avoid feeding your pet human food that is high in calories and fat such as potato chips, your fast food hamburger or leftovers from dinner.
When in doubt, talk to your veterinarian
While there are many myths about pet nutrition, including myths about your veterinarian's knowledge of nutrition, your veterinarian received four years of education in veterinary medicine. These four years of education included training in pet nutrition. There are even veterinarians who are board certified in pet nutrition. Your veterinarian is the best source of information regarding the nutritional needs of your pet. Never hesitate to consult your veterinarian about the type of food you should feed your beloved pet.