Our pets are more than just pets they are our family members. It’s then natural to want to feed them nothing but the best. But when it comes to navigating the pet food aisle, the choices can be daunting, particularly for first time pet owners. And like first time parents, new dog and cat owners are often inundated with advice on what to feed and what not to feed their precious pooches and cuddly kittens. Should you go grain free? Which meat option is best? Can dogs be vegetarian? How do I tell if my pet has food allergies? How many times can I feed my pet? Should I allow my pet to snack with me? Read on to find out what dogs and cats need for optimal health.
Picking healthy food
When picking out pet food, stick to a commercial brand that’s been tested on dogs and cats. You can follow these rules for selecting pet food: the food should be complete, balanced, digestible by your pet, palatable, and safe. It’s also important to monitor how your pet responds to certain foods. But there’s a ‘placebo effect’ between animals and their owners. If someone is feeding an animal a diet that they are worried about, the animal will sense the worry from the owner, and may not eat the food. If they do something they think is lifesaving for a pet, pets pick up on that too.
As far the wet vs dry debate goes, some people believe that as long as the animal has free access to water, wet or dry food doesn’t make a difference. However, some animal experts recommend wet food because it likely has higher protein content and helps the animals stay hydrated. I am also a proponent of feeding pets home cooked fresh meals – plainly cooked meat with vegetables and rice.
Some people try to feed their animals based on their own preferences but vegetarian diets are not okay for animals. Animals should get a lot of protein, and it should be from an animal source. Dogs, but not cats, can safely be fed vegetarian diets because they can safely get protein from legumes, beans and soy. However, consult with a animal nutritionist or your vet before trying any diet change with your pet.
Raw diets are en vogue with some pet owners who believe it is better for the animals to return to the diets of their ancestors. Still, raw diets come with some risks and no benefits. There is an increased risk of microbial disease with raw diet, but it’s not huge. Still, pet owners need to find animal-tested raw diets that are appropriate. It’s also important to remember that a raw diet is 10 times as expensive as grocery store food with no benefits and some health risks for your pet.
Putting your dog on a diet
Take one of your hands and put the palm down and make a fist. Run your other hand over your knuckles. Then, imagine that’s the rib of your pet. If the ribs stick up like your knuckles, your pet it too skinny. Next, flatten your hand, and run your opposite hand over your knuckles, it’s nice and smooth with some bumps for your knuckles, which is how you want your pet’s ribs to feel. Then feel the fleshy part just below your thumb. If your pet’s ribs fell like that, that’s too fat. The way to tell if your animal needs a diet is if it feels like the palm of your hand and not the knuckle.
If you do believe your pet needs to lose weight, create a diet plan with your vet, and help your pet become more active.
Loss of appetite
If you can tell your dog or cat is feeling a little off, there are many factors that may be in play. But it might be a mistake to automatically assume that the food you are feeding is the problem. Unpredictable schedules of owners can cause animals to throw up. Sometimes eating too fast can cause them to be sick. Or it could just be the food.
If the problem persists, it’s a good idea to take your animal to the vet to see if there is an underlying medical issue. If your pet suddenly becomes a picky eater, it’s important to take a step back to try to identify the cause. If you are feeding table scraps every night, experts agree that it makes sense your pet will begin to refuse their boring chow when they know there’s human food available. Cats in particular, like to eat in safe environments, so if they are missing meals, it may be because they feel threatened. On the whole, though, if your pet misses a meal but acts otherwise normal, it’s probably not cause for alarm.
Vitamins and supplements
Companies have started selling vitamins and nutritional supplements for dogs and cats, but both experts agree these over the counter treatments are a big no-no. Feed your pet a good quality commercial diet, and there’s no need to add anything else. In fact, if you do supplement with certain fat soluble vitamins you do run the risk for toxicity in the animal’s blood.