I thought I could compare pet foods by comparing labels. Based on the "Guaranteed Analysis" and ingredient list, it appears to me that diets available through veterinary hospitals are essentially the same as pet food sold elsewhere.
You are absolutely right - it appears to be so! The "Guaranteed Analysis" is an analysis performed in a laboratory. It tells us nothing about ingredient quality. Shoe leather, hair, feathers, beaks and chicken feet would be high in crude protein, but provide poor nutrient value for your pet.
There are many different quality classifications (grades) of ingredients. An excellent example is poultry meal, a common ingredient. Top grade poultry meal (chicken meal) is often double the cost of regular poultry meal - and the digestibility and nutrients provided to your pet are significantly better. However, you cannot determine what the grade of an ingredient is in pet food based on label information.
What about different diets that are approved by certifying bodies? Aren't they good enough for my pet?
Certifying bodies ensure that diets meet nutritional requirements for adequacy. But we can do better than adequate -with diets that contain unique and beneficial ingredients to optimize your pet's health and lifespan.
If I can't compare food based on labels, how can I decide what's best for my pet?
Talk to us! Nutrition is an important part of keeping your pet as healthy as possible. We can recommend what is best for your individual pet. To best evaluate the diet we have recommended, you really need to feed it for about 8 weeks. Wean your pet slowly on the diet (over a week or so), and note how much your dog or cat enjoys their meal. Measure the amount of food carefully, and be prepared to adjust the amount fed over 3 to 4 weeks (high quality = reduced quantity of food required). Often your pet's stool will become smaller, and will be easier to pick up. Note your animal's attitude over two months - happier, perkier, and more playful are typical comments that we hear. Watch for improvements in skin and coat quality. Reduced dandruff, shinier, more lustrous coats and fewer skin irritations are what you have to look forward to with excellent nutrition.
What about corn? I've hard that I should stay away from diets with corn as the first ingredient.
Again, this is misleading. High-grade corn, properly cooked, provides a digestibility greater than 80%. Lower grade corn will be significantly less digestible. Corn is an excellent carbohydrate (energy) source in dry diets.
What is important is the combination of high quality ingredients that make up the TOTAL diet!
I've heard that the first ingredient in a diet should be meat - that this indicates a higher quality of diet. Is this true?
Not necessarily! Quality protein sources can have a significant benefit over quantity! Ingredients are listed in order of decreasing weight (prior to processing). So, for example, whole chicken may be first on the list, but that is by weight - and 70% of that weight is water, which evaporates in the cooking process. In addition, the breakdown of the product groups can be misleading, i.e. wheat flour, wheat midds, wheat shorts and wheat. They might all be added as separate weights, lowering their order in the ingredient list. However, if you added them up (they're all wheat!), they would rise to the top of the ingredient list. Be careful about falling into the "more is better" trap. Higher amounts of poor quality proteins are not as beneficial to your pet as appropriate amounts of high quality protein! Additionally, several different protein sources may actually result in a better variety of amino acids for your pet's benefit.
Many commercially available cat foods now advertise that they will help prevent urinary tract problems. Why wouldn't I use one of those?
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) continues to be a concern for cats. We now know, through ongoing research efforts, that FLUTD is not a simple disease caused by a singular factor. There are a number of disorders that make up this complex disease, including idiopathic cystitis, infection, crystals and stones (struvite, oxalate, urate, etc.). It is increasingly important that we make dietary recommendations and changes on an individual cat basis. Physical exam findings, laboratory results, environmental considerations, age of cat and body condition all impact diet choice. As your pet's health care provider, we can monitor diet influences and make appropriate changes and recommendations to best meet your cat's needs.
I am reluctant to use commercial pet food because I am worried about safety.
Exceptional companies closely monitor their suppliers and test for potentially harmful substances, such as pesticides, salmonella and heavy metals. We would be pleased to provide you with safety data on the diets we recommend - ask us.
Why choose dry vs. canned, and what about flavours?
Dry diets are more economical and are easier to store and keep fresh. Canned diets tend to be more palatable for the fussy eater. We may recommend canned diets to help increase water intake for pets with certain medical conditions. Combining a little bit of canned food with some dry food is a popular way to feed pets. Flavour tends to be a marketing focus directed to owners and what appeals to us. Most pets, once accustomed to and thriving on an excellent diet, do not require change.
What about raw food?
Raw foods (particularly meat and eggs) are not recommended. Food poisoning, parasitic infection and nutrient deficiencies are all potential outcomes of feeding raw food. Additionally, many of the microorganisms present in raw meat can be passed on to people. These present a very real hazard to the health of your family. Bones, both raw and cooked, are not safe for your pet. Bones can damage teeth and cause obstruction in the mouth, throat, stomach and gastrointestinal tract in both dogs and cats. A raw food diet can result in improper bone development, where normal growth is not supported. The outcome can be pain, compromised mobility and poor quality of life. There are simply too many risks associated with raw food diets for us to support their use.
Why do veterinarians offer specific diets?
Our role, like that of many professions, is changing. Veterinarians used to treat disease. Now, our approach focuses much more on working with our clients to prevent disease in their pets. Together, we can improve the quality of pets' lives and increase their life span. It is our responsibility to assure our clients that the diets we recommend are extensively researched and monitored, incorporate unique ingredients, and are of exceptional quality. We see tremendous improvements in pets fed these foods. The regular interactions you have with your hospital staff allow us to monitor and ensure your pet's optimal health and provide you with opportunities to ask questions of animal health professionals. We believe nutrition plays a vital role in improving quality of life and longevity.
Monday - Thursday: 8:00am - 7:00pm
Friday: 8:00am - 5:00pm
Saturday: 9:00am - 1:00pm
Note: Closed on Statutory Holidays