What food is best for your pet?

How do you choose the best food for your canine companion? The commercial dog food options seem endless. Just turn on your TV and you’ll be guaranteed to see a dog food commercial touting the “highest quality ingredients.” Walk into any of the retail pet stores to see the shelves stuffed with bags and cans of food.

Just as the FDA regulates our food the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) regulate all the dog food and drugs in the United States. According to the AAFCO their three main goals are:

1. “Safeguarding the health of animals and humans”
2. “Ensure consumer protection”
3. “Providing a level playing field of orderly commerce for the animal feed industry”
In short, they help determine the minimum levels of nutrients that must be present in food sold for our pets. Puppies, adult dogs and senior dogs require different amounts and types of nutrients so providing a high quality diet is very important.

Before commercial dog food, animals either hunted their own prey or were given table scraps. The first processed dog food emerged in 1860 and slowly the commercial dog food industry has evolved into what it is today. Many veterinary diets have a lot of scientific research behind them and are often more appropriate for your four-legged friends, but that’s not to say you can’t feed them wholesome human grade food. After all, what were they eating hundreds of years ago?

There are different classifications of commercial dog food- basic, valued added, premium, super-premium x2, and super premium x3. They typically range from the inexpensive stuff you find at the grocery store to the very expensive stuff often only available through specialty stores. Many “super premium” foods have been recalled and re-labeled as “basic” or “value added” foods in recent years.

It’s important to look at the ingredients in your dog’s food. For example the meat in their food can come from leftover animal parts. Many common ingredients found in pet food are often things we wouldn’t eat ourselves. Corn, meat by-products, propylene glycol, soy, wheat, animal fats preserved with tocopherols, added preservatives, artificial colors and brewer’s rice are some of the most common and some of them are difficult for our pets to digest. People have been discovering that the ingredients in our own food can ultimately affect our health so why wouldn’t it affects our pets?

The way dog foods are processed can help you choose the best food for your pet. Dry kibble is changed from its original form during the processing method to highly preserved and highly processed food. During the processing method nutrients and live enzymes are destroyed through the extrusion process. The kibble is then preserved with animal fat and vitamins to replace what they lost through the extrusion process. Fresh or frozen foods do not go through that process, therefore stay whole and natural. Which would you prefer to eat?

Naturally, there are people foods your pets should not eat such as grapes/raisins, chocolate, caffeine, onions, alcohol, avocados to name a few. They can be toxic and dangerous to your pet! But there’s a lot of people food your pet can eat. Your veterinarian should be able to give you a good food recommendation. A well-balanced diet along with exercise will help your pet live a long and healthy life!

By Karen Maricle, Riverbrook Animal Hospital, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Love, The PetsWell Team

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