Dogs and cats can’t read pet food labels, and they don’t know what ingredients are good for them. As a result, the food we buy is important for their health. It is important that you know what your pet needs to stay healthy and active. If you want your pets to live a long and healthy life, then it is best to feed them with high-quality pet food. The best pet food is tailored to your dog or cat's unique requirements. And what that is will depend on the kind of animal you have, its age, and even what it likes to eat! That's why we're going to give you a guide to finding the right food for any type of pet.

What Is The Best Food For My Pets?

When you're shopping for pet food, the most important thing to consider is quality. You want to find a brand that will provide your pet with all the nutrients they need for a long and healthy life. Vaguely, the best food for your pet is the food that he or she does the best on. You want to look a the quality of their hair coat, energy levels, body condition, and the effects it has on their digestive system to make determinations as to if the pet food their on is a good one.

Unfortunately, reading the ingredient list does not necessarily give us information about the quality of pet food. There is something that will be printed on the bag however that you can use to help determine quality; This is called the Nutritional Adequacy Statement. This statement will tell you the quality of the food based on the standards set out by the AAFCO Food Safety Committee. AAFCO is an organization that's in charge of setting standards for pet foods. Here are examples of what the statement may read:

"This product has been formulated to meet the needs of your pet". Another example would be related to using feeding trials, "Through the use of feeding trials, we can substantiate the use of this food for your pet".

AAFCO nutritional statement
AAFCO nutritional statement

After reading this statement, you can make determinations as to if the pet food you have your pet on has been formulated using quality ingredients and if it has been tested for safety by AAFCO. It will also help you understand what you should be looking for when choosing your next bag of pet food. Generally speaking, pet foods that have been tested using feeding trials to gather information about the food are better. It is true that pet foods that are "formulated to meet the needs of your pet" can be sold to you without any prior testing.

Pet Food Ingredients

The most important thing to remember when shopping for pet food is that it's not just about the brand. You should always read the ingredients list and look at the nutritional facts of every brand you consider buying. You don't want to feed your pets with anything that will make them sick or unhealthy in any way. Your objective should be to discover a brand that can fulfill your dogs' nutritional requirements while also being as healthy as feasible.

The ingredients used in pet food can vary a lot depending on the specific product and brand you choose. Some products are made out of 100% natural ingredients while others include preservatives and chemicals that shouldn't be ingested by animals. When it comes to ingredients, the following are some of the most common ones you will find.

Meat: Meat is one of the most important ingredients found in pet food because it provides your pet with all the protein, fat, and nutrients it needs to stay strong and healthy. Meat from animals like chicken, beef, lamb, and fish is often used because they are rich in essential fatty acids, proteins, and more.

Poultry: Poultry is another very common ingredient found in pet food. As with meat, poultry is often used as an ingredient even though it doesn't have to come from chickens or other birds. Poultry can also refer to eggs, ducklings, and turkeys among other things.

Grains: No, grains are NOT bad for dogs! Grains are an essential part of any pet's diet because they provide the necessary carbohydrates and proteins that keep your pet healthy. Grains are also used to add texture to dry food, so you should choose a brand that uses whole grains instead of refined ones. Deliberately withholding grains from your dog's diet will put them at risk for developing heart disease and failure.

Fish: Fish is another popular ingredient found in dog and cat food. Fish like salmon and tuna are used often because they are rich in nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamins, minerals and more. However, it is important to note that fish should be fed to pets only in small amounts since it can be highly toxic if ingested in large quantities.

Food Additives: Food additives are used in pet foods to improve the overall quality and taste of the food while also keeping it fresh for a longer period of time. These additives include things like preservatives (to prevent the growth of bacteria) and vitamins (to add nutrients).

Fruits: Fruits are a great source of vitamins and minerals, but they also contain natural sugars and cellulose that can cause digestive issues in pets. The fruits will be de-stemmed, sliced, pureed, and/or chopped before being put into high-quality pet foods, therefore making them digestible. This is why it is important to choose a pet food brand that uses fruits as an ingredient instead of just dumping fruit into the food.

Oils: Oils are an essential part of any cat or dog's diet because they help keep your pet's skin and coat healthy by providing them with essential fatty acids like omega-3. Oils also help keep your pet's organs healthy by providing them with omega-6 fatty acids. Certain types of oils such as tocopherols can act as a more natural way of preserving pet food as opposed to using chemicals.

How To Choose A Brand of Pet Food

You are now aware of what a big difference the kind of food you feed your cat or dog can make. But what makes one brand better than another? It's not just about the ingredients used in pet food. You should always read the ingredients list and look at the nutritional facts of every brand you consider buying. You don't want to feed your pets with anything that will make them sick or unhealthy in any way. Your goal should be to find a brand that will provide your pets with all the nutrients they need while also being as healthy as possible.

Here are some tips on what to look for when trying to determine what is the best pet food for your pet:

  • Read the AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement and if it says something to the effect of "feeding trials", this is what we would recommend as this means there are quality control standards that the pet food manufacturer used.
  • Who and where is the pet food manufactured - many pet foods are all manufactured in the same facility, each with slightly different ingredients and packaging. We would recommend feeding pet food from manufacturers that are local to your area and have their own manufacturing processes.
  • Ingredients - what ingredients are included in the pet food? Simple is best. If you read the label and you see 3-4 different types of proteins and carbohydrates, it would be best to use 1 protein source and 1 carbohydrate source. These diets are typically simpler to digest and easier to analyze if your pet has a dietary reaction of some sort.
  • Does the food acknowledge your pet's needs? - For example, if your pet is overweight, a low-calorie diet would be best. Does your pet need a specialized kibble to help brush its teeth while it eats? Is your pet very active and therefore has a high caloric demand that would require a high-energy pet food? It is ideal for senior pets to eat a senior or mature diet to meet their nutritional requirements.

Pet Food Feeding Guidelines

There are a lot of guidelines for feeding your pets. The best way to find the right one that fits your needs is to research and consult your veterinarian. If you want to know how much food your pet should eat, there are a few factors you need to consider. Your pet's age, weight, activity level, and health condition all play a role in how much they need to eat. Your veterinarian will be able to help you determine the best diet for your pet based on these factors and help you decide how much food your pet requires, especially if you are feeding a mix of kibble and soft/canned food as the calorie calculations can be tricky.

Here are some tips when it comes to how much to feed:

  1. Find the feeding guidelines on the bag of food.
  2. Determine your pet's IDEAL weight, not what he or she currently weighs. This will help to prevent accidental overfeeding.
  3. Split the amount that is recommended to be fed into 2-3 meals. What you are reading on the label is daily amounts for the day, not per meal!
  4. As every pet food has a different caloric density per cup, different foods will have different recommended amounts to be fed. If you change from one brand of food to the next, you will need to recalculate the amounts fed.
  5. Make room for treats! The guidelines on the pet food label do not account for any treats that may be given throughout the day. If you tend to give your pet a few treat snacks throughout the day, reduce daily feeding amounts by 10%.

FAQs and Tips for Pet Owners

How do I measure the calories my pet needs each day?

A general calculation to obtain your pet's Resting Energy Rate (RER) is 70*BW(kg)^0.75. This formula is based on your pet's ideal weight and then multiplied by an activity/lifestyle/lifestage factor. For spayed or neutered cats, multiply the value by 1.2, and for spayed or neutered dogs multiply the value by 1.6.

For example: An adult 15kg dog that is spayed or neutered with an average level of activity would receive 640 kcal/day. For a 5kg indoor cat, he or she would receive 280 kcal/day. Again, these are guidelines and adjustments would be needed for your individual pets.

What pet foods do vets recommend?

There are so many good quality pet foods available and is difficult to know every detail about every food. The following are some of the most reputable pet foods on the market with exceptional nutrition: but are not limited to Royal Canin™, Hills™ Prescription, Hills™ Science Diet, and Purina™ are the 3 most common quality pet food brands available.

Why does my pet need to be on prescription pet food?

If your pet has been prescribed a specific type of diet, it is very important that you adhere to those recommendations. Your pet has been prescribed a diet for a medical reason and your veterinarian is using nutrition to help keep your pet healthy. In many circumstances, feeding a prescription veterinary diet can improve patient outcomes and reduce the need for medications.

Is it safe to give my pets RAW food?

This is an often debated topic. Feeding raw food is a movement that promotes eating only uncooked foods, such as fruits and vegetables. Proponents claim that it can help you live longer, have better oral or general health, and even cure disease (particularly gastrointestinal and dermatological issues). As veterinarians, we rely on scientific studies and data to formulate an opinion. There are no unbiased, peer-reviewed studies that make a case FOR or AGAINST feeding raw diets to pets. The most frequent purported advantage of feeding raw food to pets is testimonials, which are frequently seen on the internet.

For those who are considering feeding a RAW diet, please read this resource on raw meat to educate yourself and make an educated decision. Please note that we are not debating the fact that you are feeding a raw diet to your pet, but only to ensure that you can do it responsibly and protect both your pets and family members.

Should you give your cat canned food every day?

Yes! Especially male cats. Cats have unique capability to concentrate their urine so we like to increase moisture consumption to help dilute the urine. The easiest way to do this is by using canned food. At least 50% of a cat's daily calories should come from moist canned food for males, and at least 25% for females.

What should I look for when shopping for dog or cat food?

Protein and carbohydrates are the two most essential components in dog or cat food (macronutrients). Proteins are good for building muscle mass and energy levels while carbohydrates are important for providing energy for daily activities. Pet food labels often list the crude percentage of moisture, protein, fat, fiber, and ash. To find the carbohydrate amount, add up the percentages and subtract by 100.
If you have a pet that is a picky eater, it would be best to find a food that has a higher caloric density, or kcal/cup. Therefore, even if they eat less food, they will still get all of their essential nutrients. Alternatively, if you have a pet that loves to eat, feeding something with a lower kcal/cup would be beneficial as there would be an increased feeling of being "full".

There are so many good quality pet foods available and it can be difficult to know what type of food is best for your pets. Consider what the label says about moisture content, protein levels, and carbohydrates to help you figure out how much energy your pet requires in a day.  If you have a picky eater on your hands, look for something with higher calories per cup because they'll still get their necessary requirements even if they only eat smaller quantities at each meal. And when in doubt, consult with your veterinarian who should always recommend brands that adhere strictly to quality control measures and provide exceptional nutrition like Royal Canin™, Hills™ Prescription, and Hills™ Science Diet and Purina ™. If you have a pet in Kitchener and would some more detailed advice, please contact us as we would be glad to help!