What’s Really In Your Pet’s Food?
What You Need to Know About Pet Food Ingredients
Feeding their pets with a high-quality diet is one of the top priorities of pet owners. As such, they don’t mind spending a good fortune on pet foods that claim to provide good nutrition to their beloved, close friends. Every cat or dog has unique nutrition needs because of variations in size, breed, age, physical activity and environment. That’s one reason why it’s important to discuss the best way to feed your dog or cat with your veterinarian. But, do these products really stand up to their claims? What to look for on the label before purchasing any pet food? What ingredients in these products are considered the most vital and least important for the pet nutrition? Well, in this article, we try to give answers to all these questions to help you make an informed decision on pet foods.
Different Types of Pet Foods
Pet foods today arrive in a variety of forms including, dry, wet, raw frozen or freeze-dried foods. Since every type of pet food carries its own advantages, pet owners aren’t reluctant to buy all of these in order to feed their pets with fresher or high-quality ingredients. Let’s have a look at how these different types of pet foods differ from each other:
Dry Foods: These are the foods that have low moisture content. They come in the form of shaped pellets or kibbles, biscuits/mixers and flaked cereals. Dry foods are especially popular among pet owners because they are the most economical type of commercial pet food that lasts for a long time. Dry foods may contain meat, either in a fresh or dried state. Depending on the manufacturer’s instructions, pet owners usually add water or gravy to the food to add some moisture to it.
Wet Foods: These are the foods with high moisture content. They come in the form of foil trays, cans, and pouches and the contents can be meat chunks in gravy, jelly or it can also be in meatloaf formats. Most pets love canned wet foods. Although they can be more expensive than dry foods, they have a longer shelf life. Most canned wet foods have up to 75% water content and less nutrient content. Therefore, your pets may consume more of it to fulfill their nutritional requirements.
Raw Foods: These foods are available in frozen or freeze-dried formats. The raw diet mainly comprises of raw meat with some raw bones and organs mixed in. These meats and bones must be used with caution because meat and bones are capable of harboring infectious bacteria and other organisms that may harm your pet’s health. Because bones are a natural source of phosphorus and calcium, this type of food is often served to dogs. Moreover, since dogs have short intestinal tracts and strong stomach acids, they are easily consumed and digested by dogs. However, it’s still important to discuss the benefits and risks of raw food with your veterinarian before giving it to your pet.
Dry Food Vs. Wet Food: Which One Should You Choose?
There’s a significant debate over which food is best for your pet – dry or canned. It is advised by some to give a combination of both wet and dry to your pets.
Following are a few reasons why dry foods alone may not be good for the health of your pets:
1) Because dry foods don’t contain water, they can cause dehydration in some pets, leading to more health issues. Chronic dehydration in cats, for example, may cause kidney problems..
2) Also, it’s a common myth among people that dry food is good for your pet’s oral health, which may not be true in all cases. In fact, some pets who are raised on a dry food diet alone may have dental diseases that are not related to the food they eat.
3) Obesity is another concern associated with dry foods. Many pet foods, especially the dry ones, have high carbohydrate and high calorie content, which isn’t good for your pet’s health. On top of that, some pet food manufacturers suggest giving your pet more food than they need so you’ll buy more of their product. This further contributes toward making your pet gain weight.In order to efficiently use dry foods, it may be better to leave them out all day for your cats and dogs to eat. This way, they can snack on them whenever they feel hungry. At regular intervals, consider giving them canned foods that contain water in order to keep your pets hydrated, which is a vital part of their nutrition. This will also help alleviate food boredom in them and your pets would enjoy their meals more.
What to Look for on the Pet Food Label?
When reading pet food labels, keep in mind that ingredients are listed in order of importance. This means that the main ingredient is always listed first, and trace ingredients are listed last. For example, pet food which is advertised as “Chicken and Rice” should contain chicken and rice listed as the first ingredients on the label. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued detailed guidelines on how to interpret pet food labels.
In general, following are a few things that you should look for on a pet food label:
1) Look for food that specifies a specific protein source, not just the generic term “meat.” The protein source should be listed as the first ingredient because this is the most important nutrient in dog or cat foods.
2) Avoid food with the words “byproducts,” “meal,” “digest,” or “cornmeal” in the ingredients. Corn is a filler and has minimal nutritional value for cats and dogs. Though they are still included in dry foods to hold the other ingredients together and serve as bulk to fill hungry dogs and cats up.
3) Pet food packaging cannot say “all” or “100%” if the food contains more than one ingredient, not including water for processing, trace amounts of preservatives, and recharacterizing agents. The “95% Rule” occurs when the total food weight is made up of at least 95 percent meat, poultry, or fish. The “25% Rule” applies to foods marked “dinner” and means that an ingredient, or a combination of ingredients, makes up 25 percent of the total weight, or 10 percent of the dry matter weight.
4) If a food uses “with,” as in “with real beef,” the ingredient must constitute at least three percent of the food’s weight.
5) The word “Flavor” on the label means something in the food is imparting a distinctive flavor. For example, “Chicken flavor” may not contain the real chicken and instead may come from chicken tissue extracts or some other byproduct.
Why Homemade Food can be Utilized in Feeding Your Pet?
While dry or canned foods are convenient meal options that are easily accessible in supermarkets, some people choose the authenticity and nutritional value present in homemade foods. Homemade foods give pet owners some control over their pet’s diet. Because they know what’s exactly in the food, they can with the close interactions with their veterinarian be sure that the foods they are giving to their pets are meeting their pet’s nutritional requirements. Although it is time-consuming and expensive to cook food at home for your pets, this extra effort can pay off when you see your cat or dog becoming more active and healthier.
In the end, it’s important to note that whatever food you choose, you should have all the information necessary about pet nutrition to provide adequate nutritional elements to your pets. This is imperative to ensure that your little friend is not missing out on any vital nutrients and you are feeding him the right way. The best way to do this is to consult with your veterinarian at least annually to access your pet’s nutritional balance.