Guest Blogger: Many of our pet parents are interested in feeding their furry friends a healthy & natural diet so we thought we’d check in with the experts over at Boulder’s Natural Animal Hospital for some advice. Boulder’s Natural Animal Hospital is a full service veterinary hospital located in Boulder, CO.
If you take some time to think about the trends and changes in the food products you find at your grocery store, you’ll notice that things are very different than they were even 5 years ago.
With more consumers adopting health-conscious and environmentally-conscious eating habits, natural and organic options have sprung up everywhere! Similarly, many companies have introduced ‘healthier’ options such as natural and fortified foods for your pet. With so many options to choose from, it can be hard to know what foods are right for your pet and what’s just plain hype. Have no fear: in this post, your friends at Boulder’s Natural Animal Hospital would like to help shed some light on the tricky subject of pet nutrition. We’ll discuss some things to look for as well as those to avoid and why, so you can be a savvy shopper and the best possible pet parent. Bon appetit!
Things to Look for
- AAFCO Approved Foods: The motto of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is “Feed Safety & Consumer Protection – Over a Century of Partnership & Progress”. This organization certifies pet foods that meet at least the minimum requirements for nutritional content. As such, seeking foods that are approved by the AAFCO is a good baseline. It’s also important to note that the AAFCO has not established official definition for the words ‘holistic’ and ‘organic’. So don’t be fooled by fancy language on the side of a bag.
- Please Pass the Meat! Many people have made the choice to eliminate the consumption of meat from their diets. Some may also choose to feed their pet’s vegetarian fare. As a pet owner who places your companion’s well-being at the top of your list of priorities, it is imperative to note that dogs and cats are carnivores. Biologically, they need real meat and the proteins that come along with it to thrive. On the same note, Fido and Fluffy have not evolved to utilize grains as a source of nutrition. This means that rice, corn, and other carbohydrates are unhelpful at best and downright dangerous at worst. The only reason they are added to most pet foods is because they are less expensive and make the meal chunkier.
- Watery Food: Though it may sound a little bit strange, the “waterier” your pet’s food the better. Dogs and cat’s alike need a large amount of water in their diets to stay hydrated. For their more wild relatives, a large amount of their daily water comes not just from drinking, but eating as well. This is because the bodies of prey animals are composed of up to 70% water! Compare that to your standard dry kibble and you might see a problem developing. If possible, feed your pet wet food at least a few times per week, but strive to make the mushy stuff a daily part of their diet if possible.
Things to Avoid
- Enhanced, Fortified, Blah Blah Blah: If you put our ‘Things to Look for’ list into practice, you can forget all of the hype-filled claims that fortified foods come with. Remember that dogs and cats are biologically programmed to derive everything they need for optimal health from a natural diet. Additives can be harmful whether they present a short term danger or cause complications over time. In dog foods you should strictly avoid any brands that contain BHT, BHA, ethoxyquin and propyl gallate, as they are known to be harmful and some are even carcinogens. For both dogs and cats, avoid foods that contain artificial preservatives in favor of those preserved with vitamins E and C.
- By-products: The first ingredient in your pet’s food should be meat… and we’re talking REAL meat. Remember that your pet is a carnivore by nature and his body is fine-tuned to receive the maximum benefit by processing and using the nutrients from prey animals. Fillers and meat by-products sometimes contains additives that can be harmful to your animal companion. A good rule of thumb to follow is that if the meat isn’t human-grade, you shouldn’t feed it to your pet.
- Overfeeding: This tip might be a bit different than the others that we’ve discussed so far, but we feel that it is just as important. America’s pets have a weight problem, just like many of our people. The key to a happy and healthy pet is feeding them the right things in the right amounts. Pets don’t have the mechanisms in their minds to turn town a delicious bowl full of food if it’s sitting on the floor in front of them all day. Make sure you feed your pet the proper amount of food for their particular size and breed and you’ll have a much happier camper on your hands.
We hope that you’ve found these tips to be helpful and informative. Some pet parents may decide that trying to navigate the complex world of pet food brands is too risky and preparing a home-cooked diet is the way to go. If you would like to explore the home-feeding option, schedule an appointment with one of the skilled veterinarians at Boulder’s Natural Animal Hospital – just call 303-494-7877.
– The Boulder’s Natural Animal Hospital Staff