Dog and Cat Foods

I’m sure you are aware of how important it is for your health to have a proper diet. The same can be said for your pet’s health as well. Although, I’ll admit I make sure my pets have a better diet than I do. This week’s blog is going to discuss dog food, most of which is the same cats. Bear with me because this will cover a lot of information.


One of the major issues I have with pet food manufactures is some of them put dyes in their foods. There is no reason to add the dyes to their food. Dogs and cats can’t see those colors.  The real reason they put dyes in their food is to make the humans that buy it think that those little pieces of kibble are the meat and veggies they are made to look like. I’ve seen a lot of pets who have had diarrhea, skin issues, ear issues and a host of other problems due to the dyes in their food. Once the owner switched foods, there was improvement with their health. Now, those changes don’t happen overnight because you will need to gradually switch from the old diet to the new one or other issues could arise. I will discuss how to properly switch your pet’s food in next week’s blog. If there is one thing that you can do to show that you really love your pet, please avoid food with dye in it – especially the red dyes. It is one of the worst!


Before getting into the different formulas of pet food, a word of advice – it is recommended to not give your pet free choice feeding. Allowing your pet to eat as much as they want, whenever they want can lead to: puppies growing too fast, excessive stools, overweight pets, bad bones and joints – just to name a few issues.


There are so MANY options of pet food out there. There is dry, canned, freeze-dried, fresh…puppy, adult, senior…small breed, large breed, specific breed…indoor, weight control, sensitive systems…the list goes on and on and on. It can get overwhelming very quickly. Honestly, with all the pets that I have had, each one is unique and have needed different foods throughout their lives. There are two things that I utilize to make sure my furkids are getting the best diets that I can afford. The first being my veterinarians. For an example, I adopted a Persian mix – he was a kitten who acted normal but had terrible diarrhea. After taking him to the vet to rule out any health issues, we decided to try different foods. It took some time and several different brands of food before I was able to find a food that  allowed him to have normal stools. The next thing that I use is the dog food advisor website. Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with nor getting paid to promote this website. I just find this to be a very useful website. There is a lot of information there. They have many different brands of food, quality ranked with 1-5 stars and pet food recall alert. With that being said, there are a few things to consider to help you narrow down your search before going to the vet and the website.


Dry or Canned?

Both canned and dry foods offer their own unique benefits and disadvantages. With proper storage, dry food can safely be used until it reaches its “best by” date. It  is recommended to keep air and moisture away from dry pet food. If you use a resealable  container, either try to keep the food in its original package or save the package information that identifies the product in case of a recall. As long as your pet doesn’t swallow the kibble whole, the dry kibble can help a little with dental care by massaging the gums and making the teeth work against the hard pieces. Canned food, once opened, can last up to 3 days if it is tightly sealed and immediately refrigerated. Canned food can help increase the amount of water your pet intakes.


Puppy – Adult -Senior

Choosing the correct life stage of pet food depends on what breed of dog you have. The nutritional needs of large and giant breed puppies are different from those of small to medium breeds. Large breed puppies are those whose adult weight will ultimately exceed 50 pounds. If you know the breed of your pup, you can Google that breed to see what the ideal weight of that breed is when they are full-grown. Compared to smaller breeds, there are two important factors about the way large breeds grow that make them more prone to skeletal problems: they grow faster and remain puppies longer. I read an interesting comparison about a growing Labrador Retriever verses a growing human. A lab can grow from just under a pound at birth to over 70 pounds in a year. That is a 70-fold increase in size in just 12 months! Whereas, a human can take 18 years to achieve less than half that result. Smaller breeds can begin switching from puppy formula to adult formula between 9-12 months of age. Larger breeds will continue to grow up to 2 years of age and should be switching from a puppy formula to adult formula around a year of age.


Again, the breed depends on when they are considered seniors. Large breeds reach senior status as early as 5 years of age. Small to medium breed seniors are approximately 7 years of age. A lot of experts agree that senior dog food formulas are not actually the best for them. Most recipes are designed to reduce calories by reducing meat content, however senior dogs need dog foods higher in protein content and lower in fat, carbs and calories.


Alternatives to regular dog foods

I was have trouble labeling this section of the blog because it has become more mainstream to feed grain-free and holistic diets. This section will discuss the differences between the different types of foods that are available. Both dogs’ and cats’ ancestors were carnivores, so I used to think that they should have a meat protein as their first ingredient in their food. Plant-based foods (grains listed as the first ingredient) generate more stool volume than meat-based products. Although there are some pets out there that due to their health condition, they may not have a meat protein as the first ingredient.


Quick side note: Food allergies / food sensitives can develop suddenly or from a long-term diet (meaning it has been fed for a while). The most common proven allergies in dogs are beef, chicken, milk, eggs, corn, wheat and soy. To read more about allergies and food sensitives refer to our allergy handout.


Compared to canned dog foods, dry kibble cannot be made with just meat. During the process of making kibble, a notable amount of carbohydrates are needed to bind everything together. Carbohydrates are not nutritionally required by a dog to sustain life. The two major nutrients that dogs need are protein and fat. Yet carbs represent the dominant nutrient found in most dry dog foods. Carbohydrates are not necessarily bad for most dogs – it can provide a practical source of energy in reasonable amounts. Besides needing carbs to make the kibble, dog food manufacturers use carbs because they are: abundant, durable (long shelf life) and cheaper (per calorie than protein or fat).


Other formulas:


  • Grain-free – Just because a product says grain-free doesn’t mean it is necessarily better for your pet. Pet formulas that indicates “grain-free” refers to not using cereal grains like wheat, corn, barley and oats. These formulas use other carbohydrates like potatoes and legumes.


  •  Carbohydrate-free – There are very few dry dog food choices for carbohydrate-free formulas. Most dog food manufacturers do not disclose the percentage of carbohydrates in their products. If you need to find a low carbohydrate dry kibble, you can check the different options on the dog food advisor website and then discuss those options with the veterinarian.


  • Holistic – The term “holistic” doesn’t necessarily mean anything on a pet food label since there is no legal definition and pet food companies can use it as they wish.


  • Raw – A raw dog food diet is designed to mimic a dog’s natural ancestral menu. In the wild, it is completely natural for wolves to consume the entire prey animal (meat, bones, organs and all). Advocates for raw diets will tell you that there are many benefits to feeding a raw diet including: firmer stools, improved digestion, healthier skin/coat, reduced allergy symptoms and better weight management. Although, raw diets are not as convenient as dry kibble and it is more expensive. Feeding a raw diet can also expose the person feeding the meal to Salmonella and E. coli germs. Proper handling and hand-washing will reduce this risk.


  •  Home cooked meals – Falls along the same lines as feeding a raw diet.


**Just make sure with Raw and Home cooked meals that you do your research! You can do more harm than good by not having a balanced and nutritionally complete diet to maintain proper health. Also, there are certain foods such as garlic, onions, grapes, coconuts and milk products that can be really dangerous if ingested in higher numbers.


  • Hypoallergenic – Hypoallergenic dog foods typically share one basic dietary design: limited ingredients, and/or novel ingredients. Limited ingredient dog foods can make it easier to pin down specific allergens to which a pet may be allergic. Novel ingredient dog foods contain components your dog might not have been previously exposed to such as buffalo, pheasant, kangaroo or millet.


  • Prescription Diets – Due to certain health conditions, some pets may require a specialized diet. Diabetic, urinary health, digestive health and kidney health are just a few of the different prescription diets. If the veterinarian has your pet on a prescription diet, for the sake of your beloved pet, you should leave them on it. For example, there is a big difference between the bags of urinary tract health that you can pick up at your local store verses the urinary tract health formula from a prescription diet. Prescription diets are monitored for quality and to assist your pet with how their body works with the disease it has.


There is a really interesting hand-out from DVM360 that explains how pet food companies call their products certain names and what that name means for the percentage of ingredients in those names. For example, a can of cat food labeled “Cat food with tuna” can have as little as 3% of tuna in it but “Tuna cat food” must contain at least 95% tuna.


Another site you can visit to aid you through pet ownership is Whole Dog journal.


While I’m on the subject of feeding your dog, I want to inform you about feeding your dog table scraps. If you are sharing your food with your pet there are a couple things to consider.

  1. You are putting you and your pet at risk for a zoonosis. Zoonosis is an illness or parasite that can transmit between animals and humans. Your pet could give you an intestinal parasite or if you are sick, you can give your pet strep throat.
  2. By feeding your pet table scraps, you are opening yourself up to costly health issues. Obesity, high cholesterol and pancreatitis can happen by feeding your pet table scraps.


Hopefully, this blog has you thinking about what you are feeding your pet and you are ready to do some research and discuss with your vet the best food you can provide for your pet.


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