March 8, 2011
Pet Food for Thought
By: Ashley Owen Hill, guest columnist
THE MERIDIAN STAR
See Spot. See Spot run. See Spot stop running, because he is overweight. Or underweight. Or unhealthy from a low-quality dog food. See Spot looking at you like, ‘Come on. Would you eat this stuff?’ See Felix the Cat say, ‘Amen, brother.’
Most pet owners have an understanding that food is a must for their pet. Dogs and cats should be fed an adequate amount each day based on their weight and energy needs. Duh, right? But will any ole food suffice? Believe it or not, your pet food decision determines their health.
Many people choose to buy the cheapest pet food on the shelf, because clearly, a cheap price means higher quality, right? Wrong. The quality of your pet’s food has a direct impact on their health and lifespan. If you spend more money on food now, you’ll likely spend less on medical conditions later.
You might be surprised to hear that the most popular pet food brands are actually made with the poorest quality ingredients, and your pet’s health depends on the ingredients! The first or second ingredient listed should be an animal protein such as beef, lamb, chicken, or turkey. Concentrated sources of protein known as ‘meal’ (such as ‘lamb meal’) are actually preferred over whole meats (‘lamb’). Whole grains, vegetable and fruit fiber, and quality fat sources (vegetable or fish oils) should also be present. Great brands include Blue Buffalo, Wellness, and Nutro. Avoid foods with lots of crazy-long-word ingredients. If you can’t pronounce the ingredient list with some minimum level of intelligence, consider the food unfit for a stuffed animal.
While high-quality brands may cost a little more money, these foods actually provide more bang for your buck. With fewer filler ingredients (non-digestible additives), you’ll be able to feed your pet smaller portions providing more nutrition. Not to mention the reduction in vet expenses down the road!
In addition, many low-quality foods can cause a multitude of skin issues. If your pet has hair loss or skin irritation, they may be experiencing an allergic reaction to their diet. Consult with your veterinarian and consider switching to a higher-quality formula.
Also, never over- or under-feed your pet. Pet obesity can lead to diabetes, joint pain, heart disease, and decreased lifespan. You aren’t doing your pets any favors by treating them like garbage disposals. Underweight pets can experience many painful health problems and low energy. Therefore, base daily feedings on your pet’s weight and energy needs.
One last point, providing water for your pet seems obvious, but so many people forget this necessity. Dogs and cats should always have access to fresh, clean water. If there are unknown organisms throwing a pool party in your pet’s water bowl, then it’s time to wash and refill with fresh water.
Our pets’ health depends on our choices for their diet. The best decision for your pocketbook now may be the worst decision for your pet’s health later. So put the fancy clothes back on the rack, and put your money where your pet’s mouth is.
Ashley Owen Hill is the owner of Lucky Dog Retreat, 8659 Hillview Dr, Meridian. Email her at Ashley@luckydogretreatmeridian.com. Follow her blog at www.luckydogrescueblog.blogspot.com.