The road to finding the right food for your dog or cat can be paved with many questions. In the wake of so many pet food recalls, it’s become more important than ever for pet owners to look beyond marketing and deeper into nutrition labels.
Consumers spend $21 billion annually on pet food according to the Pet Food Institute, but many of those dollars are spent without much consideration as to what’s actually in the food. When it comes to choosing pet food, it’s important to arm yourself with the knowledge that the presence of taste chemicals can render some pet foods less healthy than others.
Chemical-laced foods may taste good to a cat or dog, but that’s only because it’s essentially “junk food,” says Will Post, founder and CEO of Hounds & Gatos Pet Foods Corporation. Artificial flavor enhancers can taint pets’ palates, causing them to turn their nose up at healthy food when it’s presented.
To avoid this dilemma, start them out with healthy, high quality meals. Here are a few tips on what to look for and what to avoid when it comes to choosing pet food.
Read labels carefully
A short ingredients panel is a good sign, as it means there is less junk added. If you don’t know what something is, then chances are it’s not good for your dog or cat. Preservatives and flavor enhancers can cause problems in pets such as cancer, tumors, skin problems, allergies, and more, according to Reach Out Rescue.
The first ingredient should be a protein of some type of meat. After that, you’ll see a list of other healthy ingredients such as various vegetables, fruits, vitamins, and supplements that you recognize. Avoid products with corn and wheat, as these are fillers and offer no nutritional value.
Experts say to look for the presence of “human grade” food — not only is it better for pets, it’s better for your wallet. Because more nutrients will be absorbed by your pet, you’ll be feeding them less. One example provided by Reach Out Rescue: a dog that gets two cups a day of the lesser foods might only take one to one and a half cups of the better food.
Avoid rendered meat
With so many pets getting sick because of the food they eat, it’s more important than ever to know where the meat — ideally, the primary ingredient in your pet's food — is coming from.
Beef, chicken and poultry “by-products” are not required to include actual meat. Rendered meat includes dead, diseased, and dying animals (including dogs and cats euthanized at shelters), road kill, and leftover carcasses from processing plants that often have tumors, cancers, drugs, and flea and tick collars.
Feeding a dog or cat rendered meat can have a serious impact on their health and can lead to an early death. Be sure to know where the meat is from in order to avoid meat from an overseas manufacturer with lower standards.
You can find out about the quality of your pet's food with these resources:
Dog food: DogFoodAdvisor.com
Cat food: CatFoodReviews.com