As health care providers, one of the many challenges that we face on a daily basis, is to customize individualized care/treatment plans every 20-40 minute or less, and be able to explain/deliver them in a clear and an effective way. There are general concepts, but there are no one-fits-all formulas, and therefore no matter how well a specific type of food works on your friend’s diabetic cat, and your cat has the similar symptoms as that cat, it doesn’t mean that the same food will help your cat. As a result, please consult with a veterinarian if you have any concerns regarding your pet, as well as before making any drastic changes on the way you care for your fur babies.
“But doctor, which food should I feed my dog/cat?” “What do you think about raw food?” “Is people food bad for Fluffy?” “Should I avoid chicken?” “Is grain-free really better?” “What should I feed my 9 week old puppy/kitten” “Should I switch food now that my dog/cat is a senior?” ….
We will answer all those most frequently asked questions, but let’s take a step back to the basics first. More common than not, you will be able to answer many questions by yourself once you have a general idea on why and what to look for.
- Read the labels. There are three things to pay attention to when reading the labels. Ingredients, caloric content, and if the food is nutritionally balanced.
– Ingredients: Besides how many additives and chemicals you can clearly tell from the labels, the manufacturers are also required to list the ingredients based on weight. Therefore, you know if Fluffy truly ingests mostly beef or cornmeals by just reading the ingredients list on the label.
– Caloric content: Pet obesity is an epidemic nowadays. Overly conditioned pets are more prone to back pain, joint diseases, endocrine abnormalities, cardiovascular and respiratory issues. What most people don’t know, is actually that one cup of kibbles contains more calories compared to one can of wet food, and fresh food contains even less calories per cup.
– Nutritionally balanced: Any pet food that’s approved by American Feed control Officials (AAFCO) should be nutritionally balanced.
- Balanced diet. Clinically, a pet is more likely to get sick more quickly from eating imbalanced meals long term, than eating processed food. Fresh, natural, and organic are very important as well, and we definitely encourage strongly to offer those elements as much as possible. However, if we have to prioritize due to finance and time, nutritionally balanced should be the deciding factor of what to feed as maintenance.
- Species and conditions appropriate diet. For example, we strongly discourage “vegetarian meals” for cats because they are obligated carnivores, meaning that they can only digest and utilize animal protein. Unnecessary carbohydrates will increase the risks of indigestions, obesity, diabetes, inflammatory diseases, and many other illnesses. Large breeds versus small breeds puppy foods actually contain different calcium to phosphate ratios to better accommodate the different growth rates. Many skin allergies or sensitive digestive tract diets are formulated with either novel or hydrolyzed proteins, so it’s actually not beneficial to offer those specific diets to a healthy pet. An appropriate diet needs to fits an individual pet’s specific age, health conditions, and the lifestyle. As a result, it requires not only a diligent owner’s observations and care, but also a veterinarian or sometimes even a board certified veterinary nutritionist’s input.
Hope these guidelines help! We will discuss more specific concerns in the future. Let us know what confuses you the most too when choosing what to feed your beloved pets!
More for references:
Offers home cook recipes that are designed by board certified veterinary nutritionists.
Learn more about what the terms used on the pet food labels mean.
3. Association for Pet Obesity Prevention
Approximate daily caloric needs for average indoor dogs and cats.
—-Helen Chiu, DVM, CVA