The Importance of Good Nutrition

Good nutrition is the cornerstone of your pet’s good health and general well being. A well-balanced diet not only translates into a thick, glossy coat, strong teeth and nails, and shining eyes, but also results in your pet being both mentally and physically fit.

With dogs, this means lots of energy to play games and interact with other pets, both at home and in the dog park, as well as with his favorite people. And as far as cats are concerned, it means having energy to practice their instinctive prey drive and hunting skills. Cats are not supposed to be couch potatoes, asleep all day.

Your pet’s diet needs to be tailored to age, breed characteristics and activity levels.

It’s also important to be able to read food labels to ensure exactly what you are feeding your pet. The first five ingredients are the biggest clues to the content of the bag or can.

By law, pet food ingredients must be listed on the label in descending order by weight, with the protein at the top of the list. However, it’s important to remember that the moisture content affects weight. So ingredients that are moisture heavy, such as chicken or lamb, are listed higher on the ingredient list than the same ingredient that is added in a dry form.

In addition, similar materials listed as separate ingredients might outweigh other ingredients that precede them on the list. For example, chicken might be listed as the first ingredient, then wheat flour, ground wheat and wheat middling. In this instance, although chicken appears to be the predominant ingredient, when added together, all three wheat products could weigh more than the poultry. It gets more complicated because for a food to be called chicken, the ingredients have to be 95 percent or more of the total weight of the product. Then there are a variety of fancy names that crop up on the shelves — e.g., dinner, platter, delight and formula — that in fact means only 25 percent of the content is that particular ingredient.

Because ingredient definitions and designations are not standardized, it is difficult to determine the quality of ingredients. Ingredient quality can only be determined from laboratory analysis and animal feeding tests. It is up to the pet owner to research various food manufacturers’ websites to get an idea of what they are offering. Once you’ve narrowed down the field, you should then discuss the diet with a very knowledgeable pet food retailer or, better still, with your pet’s veterinarian.

Since the pet food recall of 2007, pet food ingredients have come under scrutiny more than ever before. Accordingly, companies are going to great lengths to discuss their quality such as human-grade contents. And in line with human food trends, organic ingredients are growing in popularity.

According to Pete Brace, vice president of communications and pet parent relations for Castor & Pollux, a manufacturer of natural and organic food for pets,  a product with 70 to 94 percent organic ingredients can state on its label, “Made with organic…” It cannot include the USDA logo, however, states the USDA’s National Organic Program.

These ingredients must still be certified by an independent third party. Products with 95 to 100 percent certified organic ingredients can use “organic” in the product name and bear the USDA logo. Both categories of organic products must include the name and contact information for the certifying agency on the back of the package.

Another growing trend is for single ingredient foods — making it much easier to read a label.

Editor’s Note: Treats are always a great way to reward your pet, too! Try Pur Luv Healthy Support Bones. They are a wheat-free blend of multi-grains, chicken, tomato and carrot. These treats provide more than just a tasty way to reward your dog. Each Healthy Support treat combines important ingredients like flax seed and glucosamine, which provide multiple benefits to help improve the healthy lifestyle of your pet. The perfect size for smaller mouths!

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