With Skipper growing like a weed since the day we brought
him home, ensuring he gets the proper nutrition is key. The media has inundated advertising markets
with a plethora of feeding strategies for dogs and cats. Aside from what you decide to feed your pup, how you feed it, and when, are equally, if not more important. Pet
nutrition is a vast topic, and could warrant its very own blog! I’ll cover some
of the basics in the next two blogs, but always check with your pup’s
veterinarian about recommendations for his individual needs and lifestyle.
What you feed
The AAFCO label phrasing is the most important part of your
dog’s food bag to read. It verifies that the food will sustain a particular
life stage. Look for the phrase, “… Provides complete and balanced nutrition
for growth of puppies,” to ensure that the national feed guidelines are met by
After this, you may wish to review the ingredients. Ingredients are listed in order of their
inherent weight, including the natural water/moisture content. For example,
chicken will have more water contributing to its overall weight than something
like corn or rice. During the kibble-making
process, a portion of water is extruded. Therefore, if equal volumes of whole
chicken and corn are put in to the process, there will be less chicken weight
after the drying process. I’m outlining this to help you look past media
discussions, and understand the label. The ingredients listed earlier in the
list will comprise more of the food content than those lower down the list.
By-products are often also listed on the label, and can
sound very scary. By-products, by
definition, are the secondary products which remain after a meat source is
processed for its primary intention (usually human consumption). For example,
the nutrient-rich, internal organs left over after chickens or turkey are
processed for your dinner plate, are considered by-products. The term, “by-product” does not indicate a
source is unsafe for consumption, human or otherwise. In some cultures, by-products
like chicken livers, pigs’ feet, etc., are routinely enjoyed. The decision to feed by-products is personal.
Some owners prefer to feed only what they would eat themselves. However, taking into consideration the large
human population worldwide, and stress it puts on the animal agriculture
industry and environment, feeding appropriately cooked by-products to our
less-discerning canine companions is an environmentally friendly alternative to
waste. While I would elect to pass on chicken liver, I would also never choose
to eat the pony poops outside which seem to be a popular snack option at our
The grain vs. grain-free marketing has also been very strong
as of late. It’s important to note that
there is a difference in cat metabolism as compared to dog metabolism, and even
differences from dog metabolism compared to wolf metabolism. It is critically
important that all cats consume meat. They are considered obligate carnivores,
meaning they MUST derive nutrients from a meat source and will not survive or
thrive if fed vegetarian diets only. Dogs, on the other hand, are
omnivores. They have evolved from their
wolf cousins, and are far more capable of digesting grains and starches with
their digestive enzymes. Recently, there has also been a correlation between
dogs who were fed a grain-free diet, and a particular type of heart
disease. Dr. Barnes wrote a very
detailed blog on this topic earlier this year; please check it out for further
information. At this time, the veterinary cardiologists do NOT recommend
feeding a grain-free diet unless your dog has a documented grain allergy. As an
aside, most dogs with food allergies will be allergic to the protein source in
their food, like chicken, beef, or soy. Corn/grain allergies exist, but are
much less common than media sources and advertising would suggest.
Raw diets are NOT recommended for any pets. Raw foods put
both your pet and humans in the household at risk for contracting food-borne
and bacterial illnesses. Dogs and cats
are well equipped to metabolize processed foods, and these are recommended as a
safe alternative to raw foods.
There are also lots of dog treats on the market, as well as human foods which are safe to feed as treats. It is very easy to over-love our pets. They are happy to accept any/all treats, maybe even steal a few without permission, without ever thinking twice about their waistline. There are studies which show that lean pets live an average of almost 2 years longer than their overweight counterparts. The lean dogs in the study were also noted to develop orthopedic disease and graying muzzles later on. I recommend using small bits of treats, and often just toss a single kibble or two, rather than give a high calorie treat. Most dogs (and this definitely applies to Skipper and Lily!) don’t care what you’re feeding as a treat, just that they’re getting a snack! If you use human foods, stick to low calorie/low fat options, like boiled chicken bits, cucumbers, celery, or carrots. Do not give onions, raisins, or grapes. Be sure to review a full list of toxic foods list on Animal Poison Control’s website.
Feeding your dog is an integral part of their care, and the
human-animal bond you have with him. There
are many reputable brands with several different flavor options; we know this
can be over whelming as a pet parent. Please let our staff know if you have any
Other chronic conditions not responding to conventional therapy, including but not limited to: skin allergies and dermatitis; lick granulomas; epilepsy; respiratory conditions; hormonal imbalances; infertility and internal organ dysfunction
Prevention of disease and promotion of well-being, geriatric support, and performance enhancement
Let us pamper your pet at our Day Spa! We provide pet grooming for all breeds of dogs and cats. Our grooming services include:
Clipping and scissor cuts
We provide boarding services for our client’s dogs and cats. Our separate cat and dog wards ensure tranquility for the cats and companionship for the dogs. All of our cages and kennels are indoors and therefore, temperature controlled with installed smoke, heat, and motion detectors. Because boarding is supervised by a veterinarian, you can be comforted that all of your pet’s medications will be properly administered and he or she will receive prompt medical attention, if needed.
Diet and nutrition are important to maintaining your pet’s health. Feeding your pet a specially formulated diet to meet the needs of adulthood helps encourage a long and healthy life. We will provide guidance regarding your pet’s nutritional needs for each life stage, including dietary requirements for growth, weight loss and maintenance, and performance. Please feel free to consult our veterinarians to help you find the right food to fit with your pet’s lifestyle, body condition, and health needs.
If you choose, Aldie Vet will help you provide end-of-life comforting care, to your terminally ill or dying pet. This will allow you to spend quality time at home with your pet until such time as you decide to euthanize or until death occurs. We will provide assistance, as requested, as it relates to pain and symptom control, wound care, problems with incontinence and other aesthetics, and changes in behavior patterns.
When you have reached the extremely difficult decision that there is no quality of your pet’s life or that your pet is suffering, our veterinarians will be there to help you through the process of euthanasia. Please feel free to discuss the process and ask any questions to our veterinarians. They are very familiar with the experience and are able to talk with you about the process and feelings that go with it. Also, please click our Pet Bereavement link for additional information.
In-House Pharmacy – We maintain a complete inventory of pharmaceuticals, vitamins, shampoos, heartworm preventatives, prescription diets that require supervision of a licensed veterinarian, and flea and tick preventative to meet the needs of your pet. When your pet requires an ongoing prescription to refill, we recommend ordering from our online pharmacy.
It is important to know what is going into your pet’s food bowls. As our pets’ role in our lives is growing, so is the number of pet food companies and all the associated marketing. And there is a LOT of marketing out there! It is important to keep in mind that there is a lot of leniency on what can be written on the pet food bag. For example, the words “Natural” and “Holistic” have no definition that companies need to comply with. This means anyone can put these words on their label to make the product seem healthy without being any better than another product. Labeling and marketing are in part what drives some of the crazes and misconceptions in the pet nutrition world.
There is currently a fad in marketing that grains, corn, or other products are just “fillers” or are not good for your pets. Fillers would be described as something put into a food with no nutritional value. Corn is definitely NOT a filler product. Corn, when cooked and processed correctly is highly digestible. Corn is a great source of linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid, and vitamin E, which is a fat-soluble vitamin and antioxidant. Corn also provides a large quantity of amino acids essential for pet health. Corn should not be the only ingredient or the only protein source, but it can be an important ingredient in a pet’s diet.
Food allergies are also an important concern when selecting pet foods for dogs and cats. Corn, having protein components, could be something a pet is allergic to. However, corn is not considered one of the top allergens for pets. Top allergens in dogs are beef, wheat, and dairy products. Top allergens in cats are fish, wheat and dairy products. Other more common allergens than corn are chicken meat, chicken eggs, and soybeans. These ingredients should be a concern if your dog or cat has signs of food allergies such as skin irritation, excessive licking or chewing, and/or chronic diarrhea. Speak with your veterinarian if you are concerned you pet may have a food allergy.
Some companies play off the notion of dogs and cats are primitive animals that need large quantities of whole meat. Americans, in general, consider this to be just the muscles of the skeleton alone. In fact dogs and cats, as well as their ancestors and wild counterparts, consume nearly all of the prey animals that they kill. This would include the intestinal organs (which are mostly smooth muscle), liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, bits of bone and cartilage. In the wild this would also include anything inside the digestive tract that was consumed by the herbivore they are munching on. This means these predators are eating a lot of pre-digested vegetables and grains. Dogs and cats in a wild setting need to eat all these different parts to get a nutritionally balanced diet. So it is important for pet foods to contain some vegetables, starches or grains, and something more than skeletal muscles. The term meat “by-products” refer to the parts that are left over when you carve off the skeletal muscle for use in steaks, filets, and hamburger patties that humans tend to eat. So, by-products can contain less desirable cuts of meat like, cleaned intestines and organs, as well as some tendons and bone chips. Certain things are not allowed to be included in the by-products such as hooves, antlers, or feces.
The term “by-products” refers to the parts that are left over from the production or manufacturing of another item. For example, molasses is a by-product of sugar manufacturing. The term by-product has no bearing on its nutritional or monetary value. Other countries are keener to use a greater amount of the whole animal for food, either for humans or their pets without the stigma attached to it. Take a look at “natural” chew toys and treats for dogs: You’ll see tendons, knuckle bones, dehydrated liver, and bully-sticks (which are dried bull penises!) All of which are considered by-products of meat production. Additionally, meat by-products are important sources of nutrients which are required to be present in pet food to meet the AAFCO certification standards.
AAFCO or the Association of American Feed Control Officials is a regulatory agency to make sure that there is a level playing field amongst all the pet food companies. If you see the AAFCO certification logo or claim on the pet food label you can be sure that it is safe and meets the nutritional requirements for the stated life stage. These stages are growth (puppies or kittens), reproduction (usually referring the pregnant or lactating mom), or maintenance (adult animals). Not all pet food companies chose to participate in AAFCO regulations, so you’ll want to make sure the type you buy does.
You’ll notice that there is no life stage of senior in AAFCO regulations. This term can mean anything on a pet food label. “Senior” to some companies means there is a higher fat content and more easily digestible food for older pets that have trouble absorbing nutrients and have been losing weight. Other companies target older pets have lower metabolisms and don’t exercise as much and provide a low fat diet. Make sure to check the Kilocalories/cup (Kcal/cup) if you are thinking of switching from an adult to a senior food.
There are so many choices it can easily become confusing. The important qualities of any pet food that you chose is that your pet likes and wants to eat it, that it appeals to you, it is AAFCO certified, and that it doesn’t cause and gastrointestinal upset (smelly gas, chronic diarrhea or vomiting). Keep in mind that part of the reason there are so many options is that there are no single right choices for every animal. As always, you are more than welcome to ask your veterinarian if you have questions about different products or what is best for your pet’s specific needs.