Feed Your Pet Well – It’s National Nutrition Month!

What is the best food for my pet?  What is the best diet for my overweight pet?  Can I feed my dog grains?  Is a raw food diet the way to go?  What ingredients should be in my pet’s food?  Can I tell by reading the label if this is a good food for my pet?  

These are just a few of the questions we hear from pet parents looking to ensure they are providing the best care and nutrition for their beloved family member.  Just as there are differing schools of thought on nutrition for people, there are an equal number of varying opinions on nutrition for your pets.

There is no “best diet” for your pet, just like there is no “best diet” for all humans.  Every pet is unique and will have different nutritional needs.  These needs will change depending on your pet’s age and health.  Don’t equate expense with quality.  There are inexpensive diets that have rigorous testing behind them and there are expensive diets that are lacking in vital nutrients.

AAFCO, The Association of American Feed Control Officials,is a voluntary membership association of local, state and federal agencies that work together cooperatively to support the recognition of ingredients and the language found in state laws.  They have developed and maintain a very extensive website that covers topics from selecting the right food and how to read a label, to ingredient standards and what to do when things go wrong.

Just want the basics?

Protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water are all essential for good health.  The energy content of food is measured by how much protein, fat and carbohydrates the food contains.  Vitamins and minerals are essential for bodily functions.  And, water is critical as a large percentage of our bodies and our pets’ bodies are made up of water.

Protein

Proteins are made up of amino acids, the building blocks of cell growth, maintenance and repair.  In our furry friends, one of the biggest demands for protein comes from maintenance of fur and hair, which can use up to 30% of daily protein intake.

There are 20 unique amino acids that make up protein molecules.  About half of these are produced internally in people, dogs and cats the others need to be provided by the diet.  These are termed essential amino acids.  The 10 essential amino acids are:

  • Arginine
  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine

Proteins from meat, most meat by-products, eggs and dairy products are high value proteins for dogs.  They provide amino acids in the right proportions and dogs digest them efficiently.  The value of plant proteins for dogs is low due to lower digestibility and insufficiencies in specific amino acids.

Fats

Fats provide a concentrated source of energy, supply fatty acids, aid in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins particularly A, E, D and K. Fatty acids make up a portion of every cell and are required by all animals.

Essential Fatty Acids include:

  • Linoleic acid – the source of omega-6 fatty acid
  • Linolenic acid – the source of omega-3 fatty acid
  • Arachidonic acid

Carbohydrates

Dogs don’t necessarily need carbohydrates because they can get their energy from protein and fats alone.  However, carbohydrates that can be broken down by the digestive system and converted to glucose can be used as a source of energy.

Carbohydrates from whole grains can supply iron, minerals, fiber, and other beneficial nutrients.  Starches need to be well cooked to avoid fermentation in the large intestine.

What to look for in your Dogs Food

When you are standing in the dog food aisle at your local grocery or pet food store, and the choices seem overwhelming here are a few tips:

  • Look for high quality named animal protein as the first ingredient.
  • Avoid foods that use generic meat meal.  The type of meat should always be named:  lamb meal or chicken meal are two examples.
  • Fats should also come from a named source.  Avoid the generic “animal fat”.
  • Look for whole fruit, vegetables and whole grains which contain the entire grain kernel.  Rice not rice flour or rice bran. 
  • Avoid refined grain products, gluten and mill runs.
  • Look for natural preservatives like tocopherols (vitamin E), vitamin C, or antioxidants such as rosemary extract.
  • Avoid ALL by-products
  • Avoid added sweeteners (usually listed as grain fragments)
  • Avoid artificial preservatives such as BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin, propylene glycol and artificial flavors or colors.

Changing Your Pet’s Diet

So, you’ve looked at your pet’s current diet and decided to make some changes.  What’s the best way to switch your pet’s food?

  • Go Slow – give your pet’s digestive system the time to adjust.  Diet changes should be made gradually over a period of at least a week.
  • Choose the right time and place – pets rely heavily on their sense of smell and connect the scent of a diet to how they feel when they smell the food.  A pet that feels poorly when introduced to a new diet, may associate feeling poorly with that diet.  This may cause a food aversion.  If this happens your pet may be reluctant to eat that diet later.
  • Choose your strategy
    • Mix the two diets together, starting with 10% of the new diet and 90% of the old.  Gradually shift the proportions each day until your pet has transitioned to the new diet.
    • Offer the new diet and the old diet in two different bowls at mealtime.  When meals are done, dispose of the uneaten new food.  After a week, increase the amount of the new diet, and decrease the old.  Continue until your pet is fully transitioned to the new diet.
  • Monitor your pets’ weight – if your pet should be maintaining, gaining or losing weight with the new diet you’ll want to ensure you are on track.  Sometimes pets will eat less during a diet transition which may not be cause for alarm.
  • Be prepared – make a plan for yourself.  How will you monitor your pets’ intake of the new diet? Will your feeding change for other pets?  If you have multiple pets will they all be transitioning?  Where will you purchase the new food?  How often will you need to purchase or re-order?

Even with a well-thought out and executed transition plan, digestive upset may occur.  PetAlive® offers an all-natural solution for digestive health and symptoms of gastritis. 

Digestive Support™

  • Promotes digestive health and functioning
  • Helps maintain gastric mucus membranes to support digestion problems
  • Supports routine absorption of nutrients
  • Includes:  Certified Organic Licorice root, Wild-crafted Slippery Elm Bark, and Certified Organic Marshmallow Root

To help relieve occasional constipation, homeopathic PetMoves™ can help.

PetMoves™

  • Helps restore balance in the digestive system
  • Supports regular and healthy elimination
  • Encourages firm, yet soft, easy-to-pass stools in pets with hard, dark stools
  • Encourages bowel movements for pets with occasional constipation

If your pet is expiring the flip side of constipation – diarrhea, PetAlive can help slow things down.

RuniPoo Relief™

  • Supports healthy, firm stool formation and bowel functioning
  • Promotes a healthy, balanced digestive system and digestive tract
  • Soothes upset stomachs in cats and dogs
  • Includes:  Certified Organic Plantain Leaf, Selectively Imported Lady’s Mantle Herb and Wild harvested Fresh Black Walnut Hull

To your pet’s health!

BY MARY ELLEN KOSANKE

Sources:

http://vetnutrition.tufts.edu/faqs/about-general-pet-nutrition/ https://thebark.com/content/canine-nutrition-basics http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/need-to-switch-your-pets-food-here-are-key-steps-to-take

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