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What should I feed my pet? Should it be grain-free? Gluten-free?

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What should I feed my pet? Should it be grain-free? Gluten-free? What about raw diets?

With the dizzying array of choices in pet food available, this can be an overwhelming decision. Let’s break down a few of the latest fads, trends, marketing tactics, and common misconceptions.

Don’t be fooled by the term “Veterinarian Approved.” According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), this term is not even allowed to be on pet food labels. Veterinarians do not approve labels or products; only state regulatory agencies can do that. Pet food manufacturers can, however, use terms such as “veterinarian recommended,” “veterinarian developed,” and “veterinarian formulated.”

Are the label ingredients present in the food? A recent article reported that 20 of the 52 foods tested showed a discrepancy between labeled ingredients and what was actually in the food. Chicken was the most common ingredient, and pork was the most common undeclared protein. Two foods claiming to have beef had none at all. Another study found four over the counter venison diets also contained beef, corn, and soy, which were not listed on the label. This can all be a problem if you’re trying to rule out food allergies, so it’s best to stick with larger pet food manufacturers such as Hill’s Science Diet, Iams, Royal Canin, and Purina. They make their products, consult with board-certified veterinary nutritionists, and have strict quality control measures in place.

“Grain-free” and “gluten-free” diets have quickly gained popularity among pet owners. What many owners don’t realize is complex carbohydrates are actually necessary for stool formation. While sensitivities and allergies to a specific food ingredient are possible, it’s less common than you may think. Gluten intolerance is rare in cats and dogs, so we don’t really have to worry about gluten-free diets for pets. Pets typically thrive on a diet of good quality dry kibble (sometimes mixed with canned) that contain the correct balance of meat, grain, and nutrients.

“Homemade” diets are another new trend. It’s possible to do, but it can be very time consuming and challenging to make sure you’re including all the necessary vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients. Prescription supplements are available to help with this.

“Raw” is a current buzzword as well. Because of the high risk of contamination and bacteria to the food, the pet, and even the preparer, the American Veterinary Medical Association advises against feeding a raw diet.

How much should you feed your pet? The suggested amounts listed on the label are a helpful guide, but adjustments should be made to allow for age, size, and lifestyle. For example, a small lap dog will need fewer calories than a large dog that likes to run and play. Use a measuring cup to be sure they’re getting the right amount. The ASPCA recommends all dogs be fed twice daily, around 8-12 hours apart.

Are treats bad? Absolutely not! But they should be given in moderation, as they can be full of sugar and fat. You can also substitute store-bought treats with pet-friendly fruits and vegetable such as slices of carrots, apples, or green beans. It can be easy to fall for those puppy dog eyes begging you for table scraps but stick with it. By refraining from giving them table food and extra treats, you’re doing them a favor even if they aren’t happy about it at the moment.

In conclusion, you should discuss your pet’s nutritional needs at your next veterinarian visit. We’re are striving to make healthy choices for ourselves, and need to do the same for our pets.  You can find several pet food brands at Sienna at 6 Veterinary Hospital.

Sienna at 6 Veterinary Hospital
8790 Hwy 6 #100
Missouri City, Texas 77459

Written by Amy Curbello – Hospital Supervisor at Sienna at 6 Veterinary Hospital

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