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Norwich Bulletin - 8/7/2005

Nutrition For Our Pets

Since we, as a society, are more nutritionally aware at this point and time, and understand how much difference good nutrition can make on our own health, it is only natural that we would be looking for the same good nutrition for our beloved pets. We now expect that those companies that provide us with food for our cats and dogs will use ingredients that will help manage a proper diet for our pet, no matter what age they are.

It is never too late to start a nutritionally balanced diet, whether it be for human or animal consumption. When it comes to our pet, the first thing we need to do is assess our animal. If our animal companions are healthy, then we are looking to provide a diet that will prevent obesity and help prevent disease.

We want our pets to be muscular, lean and strong, with great body condition, much like little animal athletes! We need to be aware of what our pet's age group requires for optimum health; for instance a puppy or kitten would need more protein and fat in their diet, while a twelve year old cat or dog would have completely different dietary and vitamin needs.

Next we need to be able to evaluate the food by studying the information on the label and the form of food we are feeding (canned or dry). We need to know the recommended nutrient profiles for our pet's particular life stage, and see how much of these products are contained in the food we are using or considering changing to.

I personally use Nutro Products dry foods for my cats and dogs. I have never been disappointed in the results that Nutro has given me. My animals have coats that shine and they have healthy bodies; even the few that are a bit overweight.

My dogs are on pretty much a complete dry diet, while the cats get canned food once a day. The canned foods that we use are those that have a higher Taurene count, because our high energy cats need this. We also feed some of our cats raw hamburger for a treat (note that not all of our cats like raw meat). With a combination of three different types of feeding, we have put together a nutritional way of feeding our animals that works for us.

When reading pet food labels, one must be aware that there are only four nutrients required by law on the label (moisture, crude protein, crude fat and crude fiber). These are only stated as legal minimums or maximums and should not be taken as the actual content. In order to find out exactly how much of what is in your pet's foods, you need to contact the manufacturer and ask them! Many of the nutrients are available through the manufacturer's website, but they all won't be. I had send quite a few emails before I got the information I needed about taurene.

The ingredients that are listed on your pet food label is in descending order by weight. That means that ingredients containing moisture will weigh more and be listed at the top of the list - but will provide less nutrients. Those ingredients that have less moisture and yet contribute more nutritional value to the diet, will be listed further down the list.

So pet owners who read the first few ingredients and base their decision on the food they are going to use that way, oftentimes miss the mark. Pet owners think they understand what they are reading, but the information necessary to make an intelligent choice on a food type for your pet, is not as easy as one would imagine it to be.

Before changing the food that you are now using, take the food that you have in your pantry and contact the manufacturer. Their address and phone number should be on the label. Ask them if they have a nutritionist on staff and if that person is available to answer your questions. Ask who puts together the ingredients in the food you are using and what are their credentials for doing so.

Ask them what quality control measures they use and where the food is manufactured. See if they allow visitors to their plant. And ask for a complete product analysis of their best selling cat or dog food. Tell them you want specifics and not just a blanket statement that it is the minimum or maximum required by law. Contact at least one other food company (use a higher end product like Nutro) and ask the same questions. See what you find out and what you think is best for your pet.

Also remember that if you feed too much or too little it doesn't matter how good your food choice is, your pet will be under or overweight, no matter what your choice of food. You need to know the correct amount of food to be fed and you need to monitor your cat or dog's weight. Obesity in any companion animal is unhealthy.

If you presently have an obese pet, a diet formulated specifically for weight loss should be used and these types of diets are found only through a vet or animal health care clinic. A weight loss program should always be undertaken with supervision by a vet.

Proper care and nutrition can add to the life of your animal best friend which is all of our goals.

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