What do I feed my healthy pet?

At Mclean Animal Hospital, we are often asked by our clients, what is the best diet to feed my healthy pet? The answer to what should I feed my sick pet can be easier. As we carry many Veterinary Prescription diets that are fed to prevent, maintain, even treat specific medical conditions.

Nutrition is such an important part of our animals overall health. The quality of the food we feed daily every day, can enhance the quality and quantity of life for our pet. At McLean Animal Hospital we only carry Veterinary specific diets. These include diets for healthy pets. They are standard maintenance diets formulated for adult healthy pets and offer benefits from weight management to reducing tarter to helping with mobility. My dogs are 13 years old now. Several years ago my girl “Buffy’ tore her cruciate ligament in her back leg. It was surgically repaired at a specialist with plates and pins put into place. Both her and my boy “Jasper” are healthy dogs. However I thought best to start feeding a diet that would help their joints and hopefully prevent more problems as both are genetically prone to this. They both eat a veterinary prescribed mobility diet even into their senior years and so far so good!

We certainly understand at McLean Animal Hospital that all pet owners want to feed their pets quality nutrition. That Veterinary exclusive diets are not always a realistic choice. It can be more convenient to purchase pet food at the local pet store or grocery store. This leaves us as pet owners with a great deal of choices! How do we choose? Here are some general guidelines I like to advise our clients of to help narrow this choice.

1) Looking for AAFCO statements on the bag of food. AAFCO stands for Association of American Feed Control Officials. This organization sets the nutritional standards for pet foods sold in the United States. These standards are also recognized in Canada. There are two methods they use to determine nutritional value of a food. One is the formula of the food, who is the food formulated for? If you are purchasing an adult maintenance food, you would like to see that it is formulated for adults. Just the same, if you are purchasing a senior food, that it is formulated for seniors. Many foods say they are formulated for all life stages. This may not be the best formulation for your pet as that means the food can be fed to puppies/kittens, adults, and seniors. Best to purchase a food formulated for your pets age. The second is whether feeding trials were done. Feeding trials are the best way to document how a pet will perform when fed a specific diet. Is the food you are looking to purchase been through any feeding trials? This is important knowledge. It is important that you are feeding the right level of nutrients that meet the life stage of your pet.

2) By-products. Most pet owners look into diets without by-products. However, it helps to know that by-products can be the kidney, liver, and heart. These are very beneficial and are an excellent source of nutrients. When you purchase a high quality food like Hills or Royal Canin you can be sure their by-products are top quality. By-products are a great source of animal fats, animal proteins, and nutrients. It helps to know that when you see meat versus by-product as the first ingredient that skin, bones and tail are considered chicken (meat) not by-product. Thus it is possible that a diet with meat as its first ingredient is skin and bones where a diet with by-product as its first ingredient is liver and kidney.

3) Holistic versus Organic versus Natural Pet foods. It is important to know that “Holistic” is not defined in the pet food industry and thus there is zero regulation to having this label on your pet food. Anyone can put Holistic on their pet food. The regulations are more strict for Organic and All Natural. Again these are AAFCO standards that set the regulations. In Canada, our food manufacturers are not required to comply.

There are lots of foods out there to choose from. I hope this helps educate you on what questions to ask about what food is right for your precious pet. Personally, I trust Veterinary Exclusive diets as I know they adhere to AAFCO standards for formula and for feeding trials, they have strict quality of control measures, and they provide an entire nutrient analysis. Most importantly to me, is how well my own two 13 year old dogs have done on these diets their entire life. However, I understand for many of you the right choice is to purchase food elsewhere then your Veterinary Clinic. I’m sure there are many great foods to choose from, from a variety of places. Hopefully this education helps you choose the right diet for your pet.

Lastly, an important consideration in what food to choose is how does your pet do on this food. Does he/she like the food? Does his/her skin and coat look good? Are we maintaining a good weight ? Does your cat and/or dogs tummy tolerate this food well? Meaning no vomiting and normal bowel movements. If you are already seeing all these positives with the diet your pet is on, then likely there is no reason to change it!

Thank you for reading!

Allison Burgess
Clinic Manager, McLean Animal Hospital