Don’t Stress Over Pet Food Choices

We all want to feed our pets a high-quality diet, but in recent years, pet owners have experienced increasing pressure from brand marketers, breeders, trainers, and some veterinary health care providers to feed a wide range of specialty diets.  What are the best pet food choices?  Are the most expensive brands the best?   Will your pet be less healthy if you choose a less expensive brand?

Are some types of diets better pet food choices?

Every pet is different, and choice of diet will depend on species, breed, age, activity level, health status, and pet/owner preference. There are certainly differences in quality of ingredients among brands.  But pet foods labeled as “complete,” “balanced,” “100% nutritious,” or that claim to be adequate as a sole source of nutrition must all meet FDA  nutritional standards.

According to veterinary nutritionists, there is little evidence that a special diet such as grain free or raw is healthier for the average pet.  In fact, there is mounting evidence that such diets may be linked to dilated cardiomyopathy in susceptible breeds. There’s nothing wrong with feeding a nutritionally balanced raw or homemade diet.  But you shouldn’t feel guilty if you are not able to provide this type of specialty diet.

Are more expensive brands safer?

Other considerations, such as how pet food ingredients are produced and processed may be important to you.  Labeling  will not be very informative here.  The reputation of the brand or company may guide your choices. Pet foods labeled as organic must meet the USDA requirements. Expensive brands are not necessarily better, and more expensive brands are no less likely to be recalled due to contamination than their cheaper counterparts.

What is the most important nutritional problem in pets?

Obesity is the most important nutritional problem in pets today.  By far the most important aspect of any feed for your pet is how much you feed.  Obesity rates are rising in our pets. A pet carrying extra pounds also carries extra risk of developing medical conditions.  Some diseases related to obesity are osteoarthritis, pancreatitis, and exercise intolerance, according to veterinarians. Talk with your veterinarian about your pet’s physical condition and nutrient requirements.

In the end, your preferences and the advice of your veterinarian will inform the type of diet you feed your healthy pet.  Stop stressing. The pressure is off: choosing a pet food does not require certification as a nutritionist.  The best food choice is the one that keeps your pet happy and healthy, and the options are nearly endless.



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