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Posted on 02-01-2016

There are many choices for pet foods today and the number of options can be overwhelming. Some of these foods are well-balanced but some are not, and can even cause stomach upset, skin problems, and overall nutritional deficits.  There is also a fair amount of advertising going on with little research to support some of the claims, making the choice even more confusing.

When buying your pet’s food, choose a formula that best fits your pet’s age and lifestyle. Puppy and kitten formulas should be fed until approximately 1 year of age, when nutritional demands are highest. A basic maintenance formula is best until approximately age 7. After age 7 a senior diet is most appropriate.  If your pet has a  highly active lifestyle, you are planning to breed, or has been diagnosed with a medical condition, talk to your veterinarian about which diet would be best. When deciding how much food to feed, always start on the low end of the range listed on the bag to prevent weight gain. Always make sure the diet you choose meets the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) requirements- this will be stamped directly on the food bag itself. But remember- AAFCO guidelines are MINIMAL requirements. A good dog food should go above and beyond. Avoid diets that claim to be good “for all life stages”. Nutritional requirements vary significantly with age and these diets are often too calorie dense.  Be wary of over the counter diets that claim to be “hypoallergenic” or “holistic”. DNA studies have proven that many of these diets are contaminated with all sorts of protein products and are not in fact truly hypoallergenic.  Despite common misconceptions, “by products” included on ingredient lists actually consist of organ meats in addition to bones and muscle, which are the most nutrient-rich portion of an animal. This, combined with grain and fats, most closely matches the ancestral diets of our feline and canine friends. Raw diets can be beneficial but can also pose a significant risk of infectious diseases. In many circumstances the risks can  outweigh the benefits, as there may be safer choices for your pet. Overall, animal nutrition is complex. Call your family veterinarian if you have more questions or need guidance on what to feed to promote a long and healthy life. Your veterinarian is your most knowledgeable resource on this topic!

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