What Food is Best?
This is a question that is often asked of the staff here at Brook Farm Veterinary Center. It sounds simple, and the answer many new and experienced pet owners are looking for is a simple one. That is exactly what we want to try to do here; Keep it simple, even though, as you might guess, it is not.
In the seventies, when dog food was thirty cents a pound, pet food companies cut corners and used cheap ingredients, because people weren’t watching. Things have changed, for the better. Nowadays dog and cat foods are not made with cheap ingredients, making it easier to provide higher quality, virtually human-grade diets. Most pet foods these days are, by far, made much better than they used to be. On the other hand, you're right to question what this 48 billion dollar industry is up to. Every week, there are recalls of pet food, often by the "premier" manufacturers that you've been told to trust for years on end. So let's address this.
The pet food industry has a long history of policing itself, and we all know how that goes. In the past, ingredients didn't come from so many, less regulated locations. Long term feeding trials are fewer than in the past, and advertising is slicker. We have been coerced into believing "grain free" is somehow superior, which there is no proof of, and in fact, many of these foods are implicated in inducing heart failure. There have been vitamin D additives that were improperly made and resulted in excessive calcium levels in our pets. Not everyone will agree with our recommendations, but that's OK.
When possible avoid ingredients from China, although it may not be easy, or even possible to ascertain this information. The Canadian brand, Orijen is one food that claims to get all of their ingredients locally sourced from Canada. Home cooked diets are great, but we strongly advise you to add small amounts of commercial food. Every home made diet tested seems to be deficient in something that could be critical. Feeding your cats a home made food can be difficult as their dietary needs are even harder to balance. If you really want to go the route of home cooking, send your diet into Balanceit.com to determine it’s a balanced diet for your pet. Frozen foods, from a reputable maker are a sensible alternative, though not inexpensive. Soy is another ingredient that, unfortunately, should be avoided. It wasn't always this way, but soy is now so genetically modified that it inhibits the absorption of several minerals, and is not well absorbed in itself. On the label, it may even be disguised as processed vegetable protein. For cats, moist food is better than dry-period. Moist is animal protein based, and cats are, and always will be, carnivores. Dry has to be made with a significant amount of carbs added, and carbs are the enemy of the feline pancreas, often leading to diabetes and excess weight gain.
As for dry vs. moist for dental health, your cats teeth are probably not going to notice the difference in the long run. Breed specific diets, even though there may be some marketing influence here, we believe they are probably a good idea since dogs vary tremendously in activity, size, and temperament. The brand, Royal Canin has emphasized this concept in their foods, and this is a company we recommend as well.
This is by no means a complete list but these are just a few of the foods our staff and doctors have used, and companies we have dealt with for decades. There are, like we said, many good foods on the market today.
Our top recommendations include:
There are several websites that can be helpful:
For special needs pets: There are many foods that have been extensively researched and are beneficial for pets with certain conditions including: epilepsy, obesity, anxiety, urinary tract disease , gastrointestinal disease, allergies, kidney problems, etc. We are here to help with any specific recommendations to maintain your pet’s best health.
Large Breed puppies: This is a special category, and therefore we recommend you ask us specifically about what your puppy needs. Large breed puppies have a lot of growing to do and because of this, it is recommended that we help you find the best fit.
Don't forget about exercise as health concerns relating to weight are very common for pets these days. Let us help you find a well balanced food for your pet to get them closest to their goal weight. Above all .... your biggest focus should be on enjoying your pet! There's nothing better than having a pet to come home to and snuggle, right?