Proper nutrition is the number one protection against disease in dogs and cats. Feeding a high-quality dog food or cat food will keep your pet healthy and in good condition throughout its life How do you know what dog/cat food is right? For many the choice is a homemade diet. If you have the time and the resources, I agree that this is the preferred way to go. This is usually the best, and occasionally the only choice for animals with multiple food allergies.
The choice is yours whether to go cooked or raw, with bones or without. Basically, a homemade diet should consist of 40-60% meat for dogs, 60%-90% for cats, 20-50% vegetables (dogs, or 10%-40% for cats), and the rest, optionally, grains. The choice within each category is vast, and depends on your budget, availability, and what the dog or cat prefers.
Often allergies to certain foods will determine the diet. Each dog and cat is unique and what is best for one may not work well for another. Feeding a variety of foods is the best way to provide all or most of the nutrients that your pet needs. A good quality multi-vitamin and calcium supplements will help make sure the diet is complete. Because it can be tricky to get the right balance of calcium and phosphorus when making your own pet food, you will need to add a calcium supplement. If you like the idea of homemade pet food, but lack the time, there are pre-mixes available, or complete ready-to-serve meals.
Pre-mixes come freeze-dried, dehydrated or frozen. Usually they are grain and vegetable mixes, along with some supplements such as calcium, to which you add the meat. Ground meats, sometimes with bone, are also available where pet foods are sold. You can then add your own vegetables and/or grains if you so desire.
Complete raw-foods diets are also sold as frozen, dry or freeze-dried. Some areas may have local entrepreneurs who make and sell these diets fresh. They may also custom make meals to your pets specifications. If you prefer to feed a commercial product, choose one of the many premium dog foods now available. though the cost may be higher than grocery store brands, what you save in vet bills will more than make up for the difference.
Whether to feed canned or dry pet food will depend on you and your dog or cat. Canned food is usually more expensive, kibble is more convenient. Pets usually prefer canned foods and some need the softer, wetter consistency. Canned pet foods generally contain higher quality proteins than dry pet food, and a higher percentage of protein and fat. The higher moisture content of canned foods can be beneficial to dogs and cats with kidney or urinary tract problems.
Dry pet foods contain more preservatives. Some people choose to use both. The most important criteria in choosing a pet food is the list of ingredients. Whole meats are always better then meat meals, and meat meals are preferable to by-products. Single source meals, such as “beef meal” or “chicken meal” are more wholesome than those marked simple “meat” or “poultry” meals. Single source meals contain the muscle meat from that animal, along with accompanying tissues, such as nerves, blood vessels and skin.
Generic meals may contain other organ tissues and fatty tissue. By-product meal is a catch-all term for anything that doesn’t fit the other meal definitions - avoid these at all costs! Look for the meat source (or sources) to be listed first on the label. If grains are included (which they always are in kibbles), they should be whole grains, rather than fractions, such as wheat bran, brewer’s rice, etc. Watch out for multiple listings of grains, they may add up to be more than the meat portion! Avoid foods containing artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.
Colors are added for your benefit, not to appeal to dogs. Artificial flavors are added to enhance palatability or cover up off tastes of poorer quality ingredients. Most natural foods stores and holistic pet supply stores will carry premium brands of pet food.
If you are unable to find a satisfactory dog food in stores near you, many of them can be found on the internet.
Elyse Grau is an herbalist and a long-time pet owner, well-versed in pet nutrition and feeding. She is the author of Pet Health Resource, your web guide to a healthy, happy dog or cat. The website strives to answer your holistic pet health questions through a large collection of articles. http://www.pethealthresource.com