High-quality, natural, wholesome, and nutritious pet foods and treats are vitally important in improving the health and well-being of pets. With so many choices to consider, here are some factors to keep in mind when choosing food for your pet.
Why Food Matters.
Dogs and Cats Should Get Most of Their Nutrients From Meat-Based Diets.
Dogs are Opportunistic Carnivores. They get nutrition from meats, fruits, vegetables, grains,
Cats are Obligate (true) Carnivores. They need meat-based protein to survive.
Taurine, Cysteine and Methionine. These nutrients are vital to the health and well-being of dogs and cats. Found only in animal products, deficiencies in these amino acids have been linked to health problems, such as blindness (specifically in cats), and heart disease in dogs and cats.
Higher Quality Diet Benefits.
Less Food Per Feeding. Better ingredients pack more nutrients and are more digestible, so you don’t need to use as much food to get optimum nutritional benefit.
Less Stool. Smaller portions and more digestible ingredients means less output.
Improved Skin and Coat. High meat content and the inclusion of high-quality oils or fatty acids means less shedding and improved skin and coat quality.
Fewer Allergy Symptoms. Although pets can suffer from both environmental and food allergies, a change in diet can help reduce itching and improve overall skin and coat quality.
How to Choose a High-Quality Diet.
A food’s quality is not determined on one element alone. High-quality diets should be meat-based, complete, balanced and contain all of the nutrients needed to support the health of your pet.
When nutrient balances are off, your pet could become sick. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) sets minimums and maximums nutrient levels required for our pets and define what an ingredient may legally contain when listed on the label. It is important to look at nutrient and ingredient contents to determine food quality.
Understanding the Guaranteed Analysis.
Every food package includes a guaranteed analysis chart that highlights the food’s minimum/maximum crude percentage of protein, fat, fiber and moisture.
The Guaranteed Analysis (GA) may look like a statement of quality. Don’t stop there. Also read the ingredient list to determine the quality of the food.
A deeper look into the various nutrient groups.
Not all Proteins are Created Equal.
Dogs and cats are built to get protein from meat versus plants. Look for named meat sources, such as “Chicken” versus more generic terms like “Poultry”. The dehydrated version of “Chicken” – “Chicken Meal” – is also a good choice. Both are considered high-quality ingredients that are easier to digest, more palatable and provide more essential nutrients than plant-based proteins.
Plant-Based Ingredients are Better as a Carbohydrate Source.
Manufacturers may use plant-based ingredients such as corn gluten meal, wheat gluten, lentils or soybean meal, to raise the protein percentage. These plant-based proteins do not have the same nutritional value or amino acid profile as a meat-based protein. Grains and vegetables are a better carbohydrate source.
Not all Carbohydrates are Equal Either.
Processed grains, such as flours, bran, wheat middlings and other grain fractions, have lower nutrient value and higher risks of contamination. Look for whole grains sources such as brown rice, oatmeal, barley, potato and millet. These are considered a better source of vitamins and nutrients than their highly processed counterparts.
Dogs get important nutrients and energy from grains, as well as vegetables, while cats get nutrients from these ingredients to a lesser extent.
There are two types of preservatives, natural (preferred) and Chemical (try to avoid). Natural preservatives are effective at preventing oxidation, have a shorter shelf life than chemical preservatives and are generally better tolerated. They also prevent rancidity and bacteria growth, stabilize the ingredients’ color, taste and flavor. Natural preservatives include vitamins C & E and are also listed as mixed tocopherols, citric acid and Rosemary. Chemical preservatives include Ethoxyquin, BHA, or BHT.
Ingredient Lists Reveal Quality.
When it comes to making food choices for your pet, ingredients don’t lie. Food packaging lists ingredients in descending order based on weight prior to processing.
What to Look For.
Look for fresh meat or meat meal as the first ingredient, followed by other meat-based protein sources. This points to a meat-based diet that pets thrive on.
Next see if there are whole food sources listed. Whole grains or vegetables offer more complete nutrition than grain flour, grain fractions or vegetables used as a protein source.
What to Avoid.
High Carbs. If fresh meat is listed first, but followed by multiple carbohydrate sources, it is likely not a high meat content diet.
Product Splitting. This gives the illusion of higher meat percentages. For example, rather than list rice as the first ingredient, they may list Chicken, Ground Rice, Rice Flour, Rice Bran. This is not a high meat content diet.
By-Products. These are not necessarily bad, but quality varies. Nutritious organs such as hearts or livers can be included as by-products, but so can feet and other less nutrient dense parts. Listings with named organs versus the more general ‘By-Product’ term are a better bet.
Beyond Ingredient Lists.
Take a look at who is making the food. Has the company had many recalls? Do they manufacture their own food? Companies who manufacture their own food tend to have better quality control over ingredients and the manufacturing process.
For more info on nutrients, ingredients, and more, visit the AAFCO webpage at https://talkspetfood.aafco.org/
Your Partner in Better Pet Nutrition.
PetPeople are firm believers in the benefits of high-quality diets. We believe that no one diet or type of food is right for every dog or cat. That’s why we carry a variety of foods from dry, canned, grain-free, grain-inclusive, raw, dehydrated and freeze-dried. Your pet may need a new food if your pet is overweight, licks their paws, or experiences loose stools, itchy skin, gas or ear infections. We’ll continue to be your pet nutrition partner, working with you to find foods that your pet will love and that you can feel good about.
Not Sure What Food Your Pet Will Like? We’re Here to Help.
Our experts can help you find the food that fits your pet’s nutritional needs, flavor profile and lifestyle — 100% guaranteed. If it doesn’t work for your pet, bring it back and we’ll find one that does!