Considerations for Choosing a “Healthy” Pet Food

Numerous factors play into the long, happy life of your pet, but a high-quality and nutritious pet food is where it begins. Well-balanced food contains nutrients that keep your pet’s coat healthy and shiny, strengthen the immune system, and keep the digestive system working properly.  That can help your pet maintain a healthier lifestyle.

But with dozens of choices at your disposal, how can you figure out which food is the smartest choice for your dog or cat? Here’s what to consider when it comes to pet nutrition: the quality of the manufacturer, the nutrients in the diet, the stage of your pet’s life, activity level, allergies, and other special health conditions that should affect the food in the bowl.

Commitment to Quality

When deciding on a pet food, it’s a good idea to consider the quality of the manufacturer. How can you determine if they are committed to producing healthy pet food? 

One way to tell if a manufacturer is meeting standards, is by determining whether its food meets guidelines established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). For example, in order for a dog food to be marketed as “complete and balanced” it must meet the nutritional standards established by AAFCO.

But quality doesn’t stop at balanced. It comes in the form of safety, too.  The best manufacturers conduct clinical feeding trials–during which time products are tested by vets who conduct feeding studies involving both dogs and cats. This work helps determine not only the right nutrient levels, but how much pets like the food, whether the density and consistency are appropriate for each life stage, and even how much gas a given product creates. After all, food should be as pleasant going out as it is going in.

In their pursuit of research and innovation in the pet food industry, the best pet food manufacturers employ the insight of veterinarians, PhD nutritionists, and food scientists to create new products and improve existing ones so your pet lives a long, fulfilling life as a direct result of the great food you feed them. Guided by their research, these companies formulate their foods with a precise balance of nutrients to meet needs that vary with your pet’s size, special needs, and age.

Nutrients

A high-quality pet food provides each of the nutrients needed for your dog or cat to thrive.

Protein: You’ll see chicken, beef, lamb, and fish, or grains, vegetables, and soy as protein sources in pet food. Proteins are essential to animal nutrition because they are the building blocks of the tissues that comprise all the organs in the body. They can help your pet grow strong, lean muscle, but beware of foods that contain too much or too little protein as that can lead to health problems.

Carbohydrates: In a high-quality pet food you might see ingredients like barley, soy, and oats. These grains help provide your pet with energy and fiber.

Fats: The right amount of healthy fat is essential to providing energy and maintaining healthy skin.

Mineral and vitamin supplements: Just like humans, dogs and cats require vitamins and minerals for metabolic, digestive, and immune system health. Adding vegetables and high-quality grains to pet food provides some of these vitamins and minerals. You will likely see antioxidant-rich vitamins E and C, along with essential vitamins like B, A, D, and K. Minerals such as sodium, zinc, phosphorous, and calcium are also found in balanced dog foods. If you want to feed your cat or dog a natural pet food, make sure to look for brands like Ideal Balance that are made with natural ingredients, but also contain needed vitamins or supplements. This will ensure your pet is getting proper nutrition with all of the building blocks to help your pet be healthier.

Life stage, Activity Level, Medical Conditions

It’s no surprise that pets have different nutritional needs depending on their stage of life, allergies, and other health issues. For instance, an overweight pet might benefit from food that helps manage weight. If your dog has food sensitivities, your vet might suggest a hypoallergenic diet.

Even while fighting these conditions, it’s important that you start your pet on the right food and then continue to update his or her nutritional needs as he or she ages. Puppies and kittens require a different amount and mix of nutrients than their adult and senior counterparts. Puppy and kitten foods should be easily digested and specially formulated for healthy development, including controlled bone and joint growth and healthy brain development. The shape and density of the kibble also cater specifically to baby teeth.

Senior pets have special needs as well, which the right healthy pet food meets with products for older dogs and older cats who require nutrition to support vitality and mobility, a healthy immune function, and easy digestion.

Every dog and cat is different, each with his or her own distinct personality. Similarly, there is no one-size-fits-all food profile for pets. Your choice in pet nutrition for your four-legged friend requires thought and care that’s as unique as your relationship. By doing your research and thoughtfully choosing a food, you go a long way to ensuring that you’re helping keep the pet that showers you with love and devotion happy and healthy every day.

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