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But with a plethora of products now flooding the pet industry, it’s becoming harder and harder for anyone to know where to begin and what sources to trust. So we’ve done a little digging and collected some tips on choosing healthy food for pets—a guide that we too follow as fellow pet parents!
AT A GLANCEA. KNOW WHAT YOUR PET NEEDS
C. FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Each pet is unique and so are their nutritional needs. You want to choose a diet that caters to these four:
Dogs and cats have different nutritional requirements. Find a diet that is specially formulated for each. For example, while both require a meat-based diet, cats have a special requirement for taurine which they cannot make themselves in their body.
Be sure to look out for popular pet food myths. For example, some cats are lactose intolerant and should not be fed milk. Hence, it’s a must that you do your research well. If you have concerns or doubts about what your pet needs, do connect with a canine or feline nutritionist or your nearby vet.
How old is your pet? Are they growing older and reaching their senior years? Neonatal puppies and kittens require their mother’s milk and a lot of calcium while growing. Older dogs will need adjusted food quantities and key supplements for bone, joint, heart and cognitive health.
Pregnant or lactating (nursing) female dogs and cats require a good diet to maintain their ideal weight and ensure their offspring get enough nutrition too.
Does your pet suffer from any acute or chronic illness or allergies? It’s important to stay updated with their vaccinations and have regular vet-visits in order to track these down. Remember to double check all food requirements, especially if your dog struggles with conditions like kidney dysfunction, pancreatitis or hepatic diseases.
The packaging label of any food brand is how you can determine if a pet food is safe and healthy for your pet. It’s important to look out for mis-information. The more transparent the information on the packaging is, the more you will know what you are feeding your dogs. Here’s how you can read the packaging label of a pet food the right way:
There are many types of diets available for your pet. Know what the terms on the packaging mean.
HUFT TIP: These three diets can be presented as dry pet food (kibble) or wet pet food (contains water). Always remember to check the label/packaging and see if they ask the product to be fed with other foods.
Check the ingredients to make sure they're all fit to be consumed by your dog and/or cat. A meat, poultry or fish based diet is ideally suitable for dogs and cats. Ensure your cat food has protein and taurine while your dog food has a high percentage of protein and fat content.
The ingredient list on any packaging is displayed from most to least by weight, meaning the first five ingredients are the ones that are used the most. For example, if ingredient A is used more than ingredient B during preparation, A is displayed first followed by B. Look for ingredients that your pet is specifically allergic to.
Read More: The Fuss About Grain Free Dog Food
Reading and understanding the “Guaranteed Analysis” section of packaging is important. You want your pet’s food to include nutrition such as calcium, phosphorus, taurine (for cats), at least 30% protein, Omega-3 & Omega 6 fatty acid, at least 18% fat and preservatives via Vitamin E and/or C, vitamins and minerals.
A good rule of thumb is to search for diets that follow the 95% rule. These are foods that include at least two ingredients that are the hero of the diet. Eg: “Tuna with Shrimps” or “Chicken with Pumpkin”. This means that 95% of the diet consists of these ingredients (not counting any water added during processing).
Depending on their species, breed and life stage, the feeding quantities will differ. To avoid underfeeding or overfeeding (which can lead to obesity), follow the feeding directions given on the product label. These are basic guidelines that should be adjusted according to your pet’s level of activity, health problems and special conditions.
While some labels might give basic instructions, some will have this information in the forms of tables. A good green flag is if the label has mentioned specific guidelines. For example, if it’s suitable for all pet ages, it should ideally specify feeding directions for each of these life stages. Or if they’re a supplementary food, they should specifically mention the ratio of the food that is to be mixed.
HUFT Tip: If you observe your pet gaining or losing weight, consult your vet and adjust their food intake accordingly.
Selecting the food that suits your pet’s immune system is all about trial and error. There’s no one right pet food solution that fits all dogs. Research about branded food that suits your dog’s tailored needs, read and decode the packaging label well and remember to consult your vet before making any changes to your pet’s diet.
Your pet’s immune system will take some time to adjust to their new diet. Once you select the pet food you wish to transition to, remember to gradually make the change. Begin by mixing 3/4th of your pet’s old food with 1/4th of new food for over 7-10 days. Eventually increase the quantity of the new food while simultaneously decreasing the quantity of the old food. Remember to consult your vet before making any changes to your pet’s diet.
Some signs to observe are - Is your pet having a regular bowel movement? What are their energy levels? Do they have a good appetite? Do you observe any changes in their coat or shedding patterns?
If you have positive answers to these questions, your new pet food is making a good difference in your pet’s health.
Pet supplements are not complete meals. They are products that are intended to be fed in addition to a complete diet for additional nutrition. Always remember to ask if your pet needs them in the first place. Generally, healthy dogs and cats that receive a healthy and complete balanced meal do not require supplements. Consult your vet before giving your pet any supplements. Choose only vet-recommended pet supplements for your pet and strictly adhere to the dosage specified by them.
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