Nutrition is critical to your pet's health, at all life stages. Weight management is one of the most critical factors in maintaining pet health. We do not recommend giving your pet unlimited access to food (free feeding) as very few pets will maintain a lean body condition. Keeping your pet lean for life has been shown to extend their lifespan! During a routine exam, we can discuss dietary recommendations based on breed, activity level, and current body condition. Remember that overweight pets are more likely to suffer from arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and skin problems.
Pet food classifications:
The following pet food classifications are as defined by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
By-products – Animal by-products are what's left of a slaughtered animal after the parts intended for human consumption have been removed. This includes some highly nutritious organ meats such as liver, spleen, heart and kidneys. (These organ meats are highly valued by wild animals and are often the first eaten). By-products may be labeled by the type of meat, such as "chicken by-product', or they may be labeled "by-product meal". Pet food grade by-product meal has been cooked down and processed into a protein powder. These are all acceptable and nutritious. Generic or unlabeled by-product meal should be avoided.
Natural – Natural pet food is defined as having ingredients that are obtained entirely from plants, animals, and/or mined sources. Natural pet food is free from all chemical processing or chemically synthesized ingredients (such as propylene glycol, a common additive)
Organic* – Organic pet food is, at minimum, 95% produced and handled in observance of all USDA National Organic Program requirements. If advertised as 100% organic, then 100% of the ingredients (including additives) must be organic.
Keep in mind that a pet food classification does not dictate superiority. Many pet food manufacturers market their natural or organic foods as being better than pet foods with by-product, but that is not the case. Some organic and natural foods lack the vitamins and minerals that a food with by-product can offer. The main goal of pet food is to maintain a nutritious and balanced diet; this is best obtained from a food company that does rigorous research, testing and feeding trials with their diets. If you need help choosing proper pet food, our veterinary staff will happily provide you with our recommendations.
Medicated diets are created to augment nutritional needs for pets dealing with illness or disease. A variety of manufacturers design pet food specifically for pets suffering from allergies, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, pancreatitis, and more.
Common pet food questions
Q: Is there a significant difference between puppy food, adult dog food, and senior dog food? Or is there a substantial difference between kitten food, adult cat food, and senior cat food?
A: Young pets, adults, and elderly animals all have different nutritional needs, and therefore need different diets. Puppies and kittens need higher proteins and more fats, while elderly pets need more supplements integrated into their diet. Neglecting to acknowledge your pet’s specific nutritional needs could result in negative health effects.
Q: How do I know if my pet has a food allergy? And what do I do next?
A: Many food allergies result in ear infections, skin problems, or intermittent gastrointestinal upset. Some tell-tale signs of food allergy may include excessive licking of the paws, recurrent ear infections, chronic itching or skin infections that don't respond to medications, or recurrent gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, vomiting, or excessive gas. Food allergies are diagnosed by a food elimination trial using an appropriate prescription diet under veterinary supervision.
Q: Can my pet benefit from a raw diet or homemade meals?
A: Because raw meats can contain E. coli, Salmonella and other bacteria, we recommend that you do not feed your pet raw meat. While a raw diet can provide an abundance of protein, it is often unbalanced and lacking in other essential nutrients. Raw meat that is contaminated with bacteria can be especially harmful to young or older pets, as well as their owners. Careful handling and appropriate supplements are essential if you choose to feed a raw diet.
Homemade meals can be beneficial for your pet when prepared in coordination with a veterinary nutritionist. Homemade diets also have to be prepared carefully and appropriately balanced with the necessary supplements.
Q: Are there pet treats meant for obese animals?
A: While many pet treats are high in fat and calories, there are many options available. There are weight management dog treats available that offer low-sodium, sugar-free, or grain-free options. Other pet treats may include dehydrated or natural vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, peas, carrots, or green beans. A good rule of thumb is that treats should never consume more than 10% of your pet’s total food consumption.
Q: I have heard that corn is unhealthy for my pet’s diet. Is this true?
A: No. It used to be commonly believed that corn was the number one cause for pet food allergies. However, current studies show that less than 3% of pet food allergies are caused by corn, and more than 70% are the result of chicken, beef, dairy, or wheat. If your pet is not allergic to corn, it is highly beneficial to include it in a pet’s diet, because it offers several antioxidants and is an excellent source of proteins that help with muscle and tissue growth.