Your Pet’s Plate
Venture to the food section of any pet store and you’re faced with an almost dizzying assortment of brands, flavors, and preparations to choose from—all wrapped in packaging that promises it’s the “best” for your pet.
“With all the options of food out there today—organic, grain-free, limited ingredient—choosing food for your pet can be overwhelming,” says Dr. Gary Weitzman, San Diego Humane Society president and CEO. “But it’s much simpler than it seems. Pay attention to the first ingredients on the label and look for good sources of protein, fats, and carbohydrates, not foods that include ‘meal’ after the protein source.”
This guide to good food simplifies the selection and answers all your questions about animal nutrition to help you have well-fed, fulfilled pets.
The Dog and Cat Food Pyramid
When it comes to dogs and cats, proper nutrition is essential to maintaining weight and optimal health. With all the choices of food on the market, you might be tempted to ditch the bagged food and make your own. However, according to Veterinary Nutritional Consultations, doing so may miss the mark, as there are 40 essential nutrients required for a complete and balanced diet for your pet. Pet food companies follow regulations set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials to ensure they’re offering this balanced diet. Use caution if following a raw food diet, to reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses. Instead of taking chances, look at the label and make good choices, opting for foods for your dog or cat that contain the following, with protein as the first ingredient:
• Protein: Chicken, beef, lamb, and fish
• Carbohydrates: Whole-grain barley, sorghum, rice; grain-free carbohydrates can include potatoes and vegetables
•Fats: Fish oil or other oils containing omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
“Allergy symptoms vary depending on the type of allergy, but the most common symptom is itchiness,” says Dr. Ginny Bischel of Eastlake Village Veterinary Clinic.
Additional symptoms include:
• Watery or tear-stained eyes
• Pink or itchy/infected ears
• Itchy rear ends
• Chewing or licking of the feet, underleg, groin, or belly
According to Dr. Bischel, many pets with food allergies are also allergic to inhalants—such as pollen, mold, and dust—and treatment also varies: “I treat food allergies with hydrolyzed diets, eliminating common foods for eight to 12 weeks, while inhalant allergies are treated with medications that suppress the centers that control the allergic reaction,” she says. “Essential fatty acids are also helpful.”
Beware! These foods are toxic to pets:
• Chocolate • Grapes • Raisins • Onions • Garlic • Macadamia nuts • Xylitol (sweetener)
If your pet ingests any of these foods after hours, contact a veterinary emergency hospital like VCA Emergency Animal Hospital (vcaspecialtyvets.com/emergency) or Animal Emergency Clinic (animalemergencysd.com).
Wet or Dry How to Decide
“Both wet and dry food can be equally nutritious, but sometimes what to feed depends on the pet,” says Dr. Ginny Bischel. “Dry food is a great choice to keep pets’ teeth and gums healthy. However, older pets that are missing teeth or can’t smell their food as well do better on canned food; the same goes for pets that are not big water drinkers, because canned food provides more moisture.”