My research into pet foods began when I came across a video with some very frightening statements about what is included in commercial pet foods, this was something that I really didn’t want to accept and yet it lead me down the path of researching the types of pet foods available and the best choices for my dog.So if I am no longer satisfied that the food I have been feeding my dogs is healthy – what do I do? There are people who recommend raw food or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (BARF for short) stating that it most closely replicates the diets our pets would have had in the wild. It makes sense and sounds promising until I came across another article where qualified vets were saying how dangerous this diet is for both dogs and cats and how it could lead to their sudden and painful death.We all want the best for our pets and the right food can make a very big difference to your pets’ health and behaviour, not to mention the money it can save you on vet bills later in your pets life.There are many tell-tale signs that the food you are feeding your pet is not suited to their individual needs. These include being too thin or too fat, excessive farting, constipation or diarrhoea, itching, sores, patchy fur, weepy eyes, incessant self-grooming. If your pet is displaying of these symptoms then it is time to change their food.With so many choices and so much conflicting advice how to you choose the best food for your pet?It’s time to get educated and make an informed decision! How do you choose the best food for your pet? Would you use the same logic as when choosing for your family? Lots of things need to be considered, costs, ease of preparation, nutritional value…. So where to beginReading labels is something I have often done when trying to decide if a food was good for my family so I began reading labels on pet foods, once again this can be confusing so here are some terms to become familiar with so you can understand what is included in the foods you are feeding your pets. As with all ingredient lists the ingredients are listed in weight order so the biggest ingredient is listed first.A named animal protein – it is especially important to have the animal protein specified such as chicken, beef, lamb and so on. Anything that is listed as animal protein or meat is of a very low quality and should probably be avoided.Protein meals – again these should specify the origin of the protein by stating beef meal, chicken meal but avoid “meat meal”Fresh or frozen meat – if this is listed high on the ingredients list you should also look for quality specific animal protein to also be included as fresh and frozen meat contains a lot of water and will only contain as little as 15 – 20% protein. In contrast ani9mal meals protein will contain as much as 65% protein.Whole vegetables, fruits and grains – Fresh, unprocessed vegetables, fruits and grains contain nutrients, fragile vitamins, enzymes, and antioxidants intact. Many ingredients will be listed as a by-product or part of a natural ingredient such as rice bran. It’s OK to find one or two of these especially if they are low down on the ingredient list. But it’s not desirable to have several of these, or have them high on the ingredients list.Best Before Date – a best by date that is about one year away indicates that the product has been recently made, which is good. However foods containing preservatives (BHA, BHT and ethoxyuin) may have a date that is two years out.Meat by-products or poultry by-products – these should be avoided as they are lower quality and are generally not stored as carefully (kept as cold or as clean) as the higher value ingredients.Animal Fat – this is a generic term and be fat from any source including road kill, used cooking grease and all kinds of animals. Poultry fat is not quite so questionable but you are better with chicken fat or duck fat.Added sweeteners – dogs especially have a sweet tooth and these chemical sweeteners are used to make many nutritionally devoid foods taste and smell appealing.Artificial colours, flavours or preservatives – there should be enough flavours from the quality ingredients to entice your pet to eat it, the colour of the food doesn’t matter to your pet, it is mostly added to make you feel good about it. There are many natural preservatives that can be used such as vitamin C, tocopherols from vitamin E and rosemary extract, these will not preserve foods as long as the artificial ones so check use by dates.Boneless or deboned – this would indicate that there was less bone present than the ingredient listed without the adjective. Since most pet food is comprised of bone, skin, fat, connective tissue and muscle meat ingredients that are boneless or debones would seem to be more appealing.Natural – here is the official definition…. “A feed or ingredient derived solely from plant, animal, or mined sources, either in its unprocessed state or having been subject to physical processing, heat processing, rendering, purification, extraction, hydrolysis, enzymolysis, or fermentation, but not having been produced by or subject to a chemically synthetic process and not containing any additives or processing aids that are chemically synthetic except in amounts as might occur unavoidably in good manufacturing practices.” Doesn’t really sound very natural to me……Organic – this must be certifiable by a recognised third party and is fairly rare in pet foods.Now, hopefully you will be able to understand the ingredients that go into the food you are serving your pet and will be able to narrow the choice but ultimately you must consider your pets’ individual needs.If your dog is overweight you would be better to select a food that has a higher protein but lower fat content than what you are currently feeding her.If your cat is too thin, then change to a food that has a higher fat content than what you are using.Some experts believe that changing your pets’ diet can be harmful, however with most pets the more you change their foods the more robust their digestive system becomes. If you are concerned about changing your pets’ diet you can add digestive enzymes and probiotics as a supplement to help them adjust to a new digestive method.The final part of this puzzle is to watch your pet. Let her tell you if the new food works, look for improvement in physical condition, energy levels and mental awareness, keep track and adjust when necessary.
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