Pet Food Nutrition: Dos and Don’ts

Have you ever tried reading the ingredient label on a bag of dog or cat food? I have and I can tell you that you pretty much have to be a scientist to understand what it means. Most labels will tell you the amount of protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, and other nutrients in the bag of food, but does it really tell you anything about pet food nutrition? Not really. Did you know that a 40 pound bag of dog food can contain less nutrition than a 5 pound bag of dog food? When it comes to pet food nutrition, it is the quality of the food that counts, not the quantity. Unfortunately, most of the time the 40 pound bag of food costs much less per pound than the 5 pound bag of food so we buy the cheap stuff.

So how can you know that your dog or cat is getting the all the nutrition it needs to stay healthy and happy? It’s pretty hard to tell by reading the ingredients labels, but here’s a quick guide that might help you translate the stuff on the label to find out just what kind of pet food nutrition is being offered. Basically, you want to avoid as many of the following as possible:

BHA, Ethoxyquin, BHT: these are chemical preservatives
Low quality protein: corn, wheat, and soy are examples
Fats: most fats added to pet food are indigestible
Artificial flavors or colors
Corn syrup or sugar: just as bad for your pet as for you
Byproducts: these include animal beaks, hooves, and guts
If you were to go to the grocery store and pick out fresh food for your pet, you wouldn’t really include any of these items so try not to buy foods for your dog or cat that have these ingredients. There are commercially available dog and cat foods that do not have these ingredients and are not much more expensive than the cheaper brands. Check the internet or with your veterinarian for these brands that offer the right kind of pet food nutrition.

Another way to consider pet food nutrition is to look at basic biological requirements for cats and dogs. They are actually the same as for humans. Cats, dogs, and humans all need three basics to be healthy: probiotics, food enzymes, and minerals and trace minerals. No matter what brand of food you feed your pet, you can ensure that your cat or dog thrives by supplementing the feed with these ingredients. Here’s what each one does:

Probiotics: support the balance of natural ‘friendly’ bacteria present in the body of all organisms (an example is Lactobacillus acidophilus)
Food Enzymes: aid in breaking down food into forms your dog or cat can use (examples include protease, amylase, and lipase)
Minerals and Trace Minerals: used in almost every function of the body and are more easily assimilated than synthetic minerals
By adding small amounts of these natural ingredients to your pet’s food (and you will be surprised at how little your pet needs on a daily basis) you can boost the nutrition in your pet’s food no matter what brand of food you feed. Pet food nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated. Just learn to read the labels, avoid foods with a lot of harmful or artificial ingredients, and supplement with probiotics, enzymes, minerals, and trace minerals as needed.
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