By Amanda K. Vogt
Most of us care a great deal about what our pets eat! We read labels, shop veterinarian-recommended brands and try in general to make our pet’s meals interesting and varied.
But are we feeding our four-legged family members a balanced diet?
Most of us don’t even think that hard about whether or not our pets are eating a balanced diet. What does that even mean? It’s hard enough to feed our families a balanced diet!
But the truth is if you guess at what “balanced” entails, you might be failing to meet your pet’s nutritional needs. Deficiencies happen fast, especially with cats. The health of a cat deprived of a moisture-rich diet, for example, can quickly degenerate into chronic organ failure.
And feeding your pet a nutritious diet is not as difficult as you think. Because cats and dogs are carnivores, like us, they need a similar diet. In fact, for the most part, you can serve the same or a similar healthy meal to your pet that you do to your family. A balanced diet is high in protein, moisture-rich and low in starches or carbohydrates. It is home-made, raw, organic and unprocessed and includes a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Wait! I know. I just rolled my eyes with you. How many of us have the time and money to put together this kind of diet day after day? Relax. It’s not as hard as it sounds. And you can do a little here and there and still make a difference.
Ideally, you can make your pets food along with your own. For example, dogs really only need protein and fat. So, for example, you can include unprocessed meat (without bones), canned pink salmon, jack mackerel or sardines with a combination of vegetables and voila! you have a pretty well-balanced diet. Organ meats like beef liver and kidneys are a great source of protein. Ditto eggs and cheese. Plain yogurt is a great probiotic.
There are commercially-available raw food diets proven to be nutritionally complete and moisture dense in the freezer section of high-end pet stores. They are expensive, but time saving.
Or, as mentioned above, when you cook a nutritionally balanced meal for your family, add a helping for your pet. That doesn’t mean you should feed your dog pizza and table scraps, folks. That is not a balanced diet.
If you are incredibly busy and not particularly budget conscious, you can feed your pet the so-called “super premium” canned and dried foods. These alternatives provide a balanced diet, too.
If you are like most people trying to do what’s right for your pet, you might chose a veterinarian-recommended diet, wet and dry. And there is nothing wrong with that. You won’t find ASPCA knocking on your door!
The two big no-no’s that you shouldn’t feed your pet are the semi-moist pouch foods and as mentioned earlier, junk food that is nutritionally unbalanced. The pouch foods often contain propylene glycol, a second cousin to anti-freeze (propylene glycol has been banned from cat foods; but it is allowed in dog foods).
Read the ingredients on the label before you buy. Generally buy pet food made in the U.S. and avoid the following ingredients, as they are toxins or may contain toxins:
- Corn and wheat gluten
- Meat and grain meals and by-products
- Food Dyes
- Rendered fat