I recently counted all of the selections of dog food from three different stores in Seattle. I went to a large grocery store, a large pet supply store, and a smaller “natural” pet supply store, covering the range of quality from worst to best. I counted all the brand names available: Orijen, Wellness, Iams, Science Diet, Purina, etc. I also counted, within those brands, all the different formulas available: “Lamb and Rice,” “Chicken and Rice,” “Reduced Calorie,” “Senior Formula,” “Balanced Nutrition,” “Oral Care,” “Skin and Coat Formula,” and on and on and on (and on and on). My tally reached well over 300 options and I hadn’t even tapped into veterinary offices, raw food diets, and online distributors. No wonder conscientious pet owners feel overwhelmed when it comes to selecting their pet’s food!
My mission: To educate and empower pet owners to make confident and healthy choices regarding their pet’s diet.
“The Healthiest Food for Your Pet!” Here is an easy first step: Buy your pet’s food from a smaller store that boasts “natural,” human quality pet diets.
If you split up the entire industry into just two categories, they would be: “human-grade” and “pet-grade.” Pet-grade foods contain ingredients that are not fit for human consumption. A few examples: meat by-products, grain fractions, growth hormones, and dangerous preservatives. Human-grade, which is not an industry-accepted label, indicates the food was made with ingredients fit for human consumption, is preserved naturally with vitamins and fat, and generally contains higher quality, more digestible grains. Most of the local, independently owned stores are committed to carrying only human-grade foods. Yes, these foods are more expensive, but for a very important reason: They are simply better quality. Don’t worry! You don’t have to feed as much of the higher quality foods because they contain less grain filler. Compare the suggested daily feeding amounts listed on the back of an inexpensive grocery store brand versus the suggested amounts on a human-grade brand. You will find that you can feed significantly less of the high quality foods than you would the low quality brands.
One more thing: Stay away from any foods that contain corn, wheat or soy as a grain source. They are the three most troublesome grains to a dog’s digestive tract. They have a very low digestibility and often cause digestive upsets and allergic reactions. Symptoms can include, but are not limited to: loose, wet, large, stinky stools, gas, regurgitation, urinary tract infections/crystals, diabetes, itchy skin, hot spots, weepy ears, chronic ear infections. The list goes on. If you’re feeding pet-grade food, start transitioning your dog to a higher quality, healthier diet today.
REMEMBER: Introduce new foods slowly. Start with a proportion of roughly 10-20% new food and 80-90% old food. Observe your pet’s digestion for a day or two, and if all goes well, increase to 25-30% new and 70-75% old. Continue to gradually increase the new food content until you’ve completely phased out the old. Also, introduce one new thing at a time so you are easily able to identify what your pet is reacting to, good or bad. It is normal for dogs’ stool to change consistency and even get a little soft during the transition. Just go slow and if one brand doesn’t work out, try another!