No Need To Break The Bank For Healthy Pet Food
Chalk it up to much more screen time some days during the past several weeks. Or maybe it’s that my roster of new, recorded programs ran out and television is now in real time so I must watch the commercials.
Any way you look at it, I’ve lately been paying more attention to the selling of pet foods.
Food is love for many of us – love for us humans and love for our canine and feline family members. And, discussion of pet foods reveals many points where passion sometimes overrules good nutrition. Passion is great, but when we’re collectively spending nearly $32 billion on pet food in this country, let’s spend it wisely.
The price of an expensive food is not an indicator of increased quality, so you don’t need to break the bank.
A recent study conducted by boarded veterinary nutritionists and economists at Tufts University and generating more than 2,100 respondents found that more importance was placed on choosing healthy foods for pets over healthy food for humans. That’s huge – but how do you make good choices when there is so much marketing, misinformation and choice in products?
Here are some tips and guidance for best selecting pet food
1. Ingredient list: Look at the nutritional content and nutritional expertise of the producer, not that the ingredients always sound particularly appetizing to you.
2. Don’t fall for beautiful marketing. Most of the real estate of a pet food product label (or a commercial) is marketing. They are trying to persuade you with buzzwords and pretty pictures rather than a foundation of solid nutrition science and testing. Much is designed to target your pet care heartstrings rather than being based on species-specific nutritional considerations.
3. Ratings of food products are not necessarily reliable. The current websites on the internet base much of their critiques of products on the marketing points and popular myths of pet nutrition, and don’t give you data on best nutrition or quality.
4. In-store marketing by salespeople without nutrition education does not provide the best means for evaluating whether a diet is the best for your pet.
5. Your veterinarian is one of the best resources on nutrition and can help you to review a product. With many boutique and exotic ingredient diets creating some known health risks for our pets, we can guide you to well-informed, evidence-based resources to help select the best options for individual pets. (And, to bust one of my least favorite myths, there is no financial incentive for veterinarians to promote particular brands. We’re taught to look at the science of nutrition, not the producer.)
6. Remember that some of the criteria that you apply as a human to food choices, don’t have similar merit or benefits to our cats and dogs. Cats are obligate carnivores, for example, and should not be fed vegan or vegetarian diets.
There are many, many good choices out there, but if you truly want to maintain your pet’s health with good nutrition, educate yourself through smart sources, including your veterinarian.
Dr. Margot Vahrenwald is the owner of Park Hill Veterinary Medical Center at 2255 Oneida St. For more information, visit parkhillvet.com
Good Eating, Good Reading
Resources For Pet Nutrition
Petfoodology – vetnutrition.tufts.edu/petfoodology/. This is an in-depth resource provided through the nutrition service at the Tufts Cummings Veterinary School. The nutrition service is made up of boarded veterinary nutritionists and other nutrition scientists with more than 100 years of combined expertise.
SkeptVet Blog – skeptvet.com/Blog/. This blog is written by Dr. Brennen McKenzie, a practicing veterinarian who truly believes that medical therapies, including nutrition, need to be proven safe and effective for our patients.