Food is the most important factor in your pet's life. Through diet, they have to get everything the body needs: from the energy needed to keep chasing those toys to the incredible array of nutrients that form every tissue and keep every cellular process going, it must all be delivered through their diet.
Too much or too little of any one nutrient can quickly cause upsets and if something gets into your pet's diet that shouldn't be there, you can be sure that problems won't be far away. From weaning right through to old age, your pet’s diet will help determine the quality and the length of your pet's life.
Choosing a food suitable for your pet is one of the first decisions you will have to make. Unsurprisingly, as your pet ages, their needs will alter. Making sure you are always feeding food that is right for your pet is an important part of supporting their health, and this may mean changing their diet several times throughout their life. The nutrition demands of your dog or cat are affected by:
State of health
Choosing the right food can make all the difference to the health and happiness of your dog or cat. Signs that your pet is eating a nutritious diet include clear and bright eyes, a shiny and dandruff-free coat, plenty of enthusiasm for life and a lack of excess body fat – you should be able to feel their ribs and see their waist.
Raw, hypoallergenic, home-made, kibble, puppy, senior, vegetarian; there’s an overwhelming amount of choice when it comes to picking the right food for your dog or cat. Here are some pointers to help lead you in the right direction:
Food ingredients - food that says it is ‘with chicken’ must contain at least 4% chicken, but a ‘chicken-flavoured’ product doesn’t have to contain any at all. High-quality pet foods tend to contain more meat. The higher up the list of ingredients meat is, the more it contains. But while proteins from meat can be better used than plant matter in the body once it’s been digested, a mixture of plant and meat protein is important in a diet.
Cats aren’t vegetarians – they have to eat meat to be healthy because their bodies need certain amino acids, such as taurine, that can only be found in meat and fish. Without them, your cat could become very ill. The easiest way to make sure your cat is getting all the nutrients they need is to feed them a complete commercial cat food.
Try to avoid pet foods where the first listed ingredient is labelled as ‘animal derivative’ or ‘meal’ as these products are much lower in quality.
Some pet foods are marketed as ‘complete’, meaning they contain all the nutrients an animal needs, while others are complementary, meaning they should be given to your pet alongside a complete food. All complete foods have to meet certain feeding requirements, so your dog or cat should be getting all the nutrition that it needs, regardless of how much the product costs. Complete foods – which can be wet or dry and contain all the nutrients your pet needs to stay healthy. These don’t necessarily cost more, but there may be an element of false economy with cheaper foods, as each individual kibble can contain fewer nutrients.
Wet or Dry Food?
You can feed your animals wet food or dry food, or a mixture of both. Wet cat food is normally available in tins or pouches either with gravy or jelly. It has a high moisture content which will help keep your pet hydrated. You should also monitor your pet's teeth as wet foods tend to predispose them to dental disease.
Dry foods are usually the most economical and easiest for you to feed and store. Dry cat food can be left out all day for your cat to nibble on and is beneficial for their teeth and gums. Dry dog food has a much lower water content, so it takes less to provide your dog with everything they need. The best dry dog food will be high in protein, low in carbohydrates and made with good-quality ingredients. The best dry cat food will include meat and fish, vegetables, cereals, vitamins and minerals.
In general, it’s better not to give your pet any variety, which could cause havoc with its digestion. The most suitable diet should be easily digested and produce dark brown, firm, formed stools.