This information reflects my knowledge and experience gathered from many years of providing pet care. I am not a vet or a nutritionist, but a lifelong student of what works to keep our pets healthy. The first line of defense is always a good veterinarian, then your own informed care.
It’s important to pay attention to what your pet is eating, mainly because the commercial pet food industry is not well regulated. We’ve experienced a cultural shift in how we think of our pets, sharing our homes with them and claiming them as members of our families. Now the challenge is to bring our care of them up to a level that reflects that.
As a pet sitter, I have the advantage of seeing how (and what) many people feed their dogs and cats. I continue to learn, from well-informed clients, from my own research, and from caring from my own pets. (I’m sure they sometimes feel more like guinea pigs.)
Although dogs and cats are very different creatures, there are a few general guidelines that pertain to both.
* Feed the best food you can afford. I know you! You buy the best for yourself, so do it for your pets. You’ll have healthier, happier pets. You’ll be able to buy less and feed them less, too, and they will produce less waste. You may be amazed how little they need when you feed them really good food. My 25-lb. Beagle eats this meal twice a day – 1/8 cup dry food and two TBs of moist food. She is not skinny. My cats each get ¼ cup moist food twice a day. They get a treat of a spoonful of yogurt at night.
* Please ignore the marketing nonsense on the front of the package. Skip right to the list of ingredients.
* Avoid corn, soy, wheat, and any animal/protein source that isn’t named. If it isn’t named, the maker isn’t proud of it. Whole Dog Journal recently reported that such ingredients as found in cheaper commercial foods and treats not only contribute to joint inflammation, but also to chronic ear infections.
* Good quality kibble is NOT multi-colored. It is brown. Any other color is dye, which can be an irritant.
* About the only standard for treats is that they cannot be outright poisonous. They are not food, and usually have no benefit. Check the ingredients, just as for food. Many contain wheat, dye and rancid oils. Some are okay, such as Merrick.
* A fad being promoted by vets right now (don’t ask me why) is Greenies. Read the label – Greenies are junk food with no redeeming value whatsoever. Good for their teeth? No. They, like kibble, are starchy and contribute to plaque. Use a water additive like FreshBreath by TropiClean for fresh breath and cleaner teeth.
* Dogs and cats should be fed on a schedule. I’m a believer in feeding dogs and cats twice a day. If they leave food, that’s a sign you’ve put down too much food. Adjust the amount next time.
* Feeding your pets on a schedule gives them a sense of anticipation, which you can use. If they don’t show an interest at meal time, that may be a sign of illness. If you are free-feeding, you cannot see this symptom. Free-feeding also puts pet owners out of touch with the quantity they are feeding, sometimes leading to a pet’s obesity.
* With dogs, we’re always looking for a training opportunity and here you have it. Years ago, I noticed with my sweet, untrained dog that when I put down her food bowl I sometimes felt her teeth! She never bit me, but I knew I had to do something. I trained her to hold a sit stay while I prepared her meal. She waited until she heard her release word (“okay”) when I set the bowl on the floor. And yes, I have known of dogs that people gave up, having labeled their dogs “biters” because of this easily remedied problem. Tragic.
* So-called “prescriptive” food from the vet is not that. It is usually a corn-laden product that the vet benefits from. Remember that you are the best advocate for your pet. Anytime my vet has suggested a “prescription” food, I have said, “Let’s think harder about how we’re going to resolve this.” Vets are smart. Don’t let them off the hook with an easy, less-than-useless answer.
* Quick story – a few years ago, when I took a client’s obese kitty to the vet and was given a bag of “prescription” diet food, he said, “This is the only prescription food that actually does what it claims to do.” I should have been wearing a wire.
Well, there’s lots more, but if any of this is new to you, you have your homework.