Pet nutrition can run the gamut from being something that merely sustains a pet’s life to foods that can actually help manage certain health problems. Work with your veterinarian to strive for the optimal balance of nutrients for your pet’s individual needs. Remember, nutrition is a science and shouldn’t be left to chance. So how do you know what to feed that important furry family member? It’s best to start with the basics.
Nutrients vs. Ingredients
As with human nutrition, a body needs nutrients like protein, carbohydrates, fat and vitamins and minerals to function properly. Ingredients are simply the vehicles that deliver this mixture of nutrients to the body. When choosing the ingredients for pet food, it’s the total nutrient balance of ingredients that’s important to consider.
A nutrient is any food constituent that helps support life. Each of the six nutrient groups plays a critical role in your pet’s health:
* Proteins: Main element of body tissues like muscles, blood, skin, organs, hair and nails.
* Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates Provide energy for the body’s tissues.
* Fats: Fats absorb, store and transport vitamins, moisturize skin and coat; make healthy pet food taste great and supply energy.
* Water: The most critical nutrient for survival.
* Vitamins: Assist in maintaining an animal’s metabolism.
* Minerals: Necessary to develop healthy skin and hair, proper skeletal support and development. Minerals are usually abundant in pet food ingredients.
Remember that more nutrients are NOT always better in pet nutrition — many nutrients are actually toxic in excessive amounts and can certainly cause problems if unbalanced in the pet’s foods! Further, every dog and cat has unique nutritional needs based on age, health and activity level.
The Right Food For Your Pet
You choose your own food every day, why don’t you just do that for your pet? But would you feed a baby steak? Or eat salty potato chips if you had high blood pressure – of course not. Just like people, every pet has special nutritional needs. For example, a pet food formulated to meet the requirements of a growing puppy would not be appropriate for an older dog whose heart is stressed from age. Unfortunately, poor nutrition is almost an epidemic for pets. One recent veterinary study showed one out of every two pets in the United States suffers from obesity.
Too little or too much of certain nutrients can be detrimental to a pet’s health. To make matters difficult, nutrients of importance, and the amount that is ideal, vary by life stage, activity level and health condition. Nutrient control is the basis for a healthy life so ask your veterinarian to assess your pet’s health and recommend a food that provides the optimum balance of nutrients.
The Best Way to Compare Pet Foods
Your best source for finding the ideal pet food is to talk with an expert, such as your veterinarian. But the choice is ultimately up to you, so be an informed consumer. A couple of tips to keep in mind when shopping for the perfect pet food:
* It is VERY important to compare foods on a dry matter basis, not by the guaranteed analysis on the package. It’s best to obtain dry matter information from the manufacturer. If it is unavailable, a rough approximation can be made from label guarantees.
* Make cost comparisons on a “per feeding” basis using feeding directions rather than a cost “per bag”. This is important because pet foods recommend different feeding amounts based on the amount of energy in their food. The same size bag of food may last only half as long if many of the nutrients are not absorbed.
* Talk with your veterinarian about total nutrient control, quality of ingredients, clinical research, and get their professional recommendation. You may want to ask them what they feed their pet.
* Compare manufacturers’ expertise, as well as their commitment to delivering nutritionally superior products.