It's impossible to overstate the importance choosing the right pet food when it comes to your faithful friend's health, wellbeing and behaviour. The right pet food will nourish your pet and set them up for a long and healthy life. The wrong pet food can do real harm, physically and even behaviourally. But with so much choice and contradictory advice, it can be a minefield out there. The People at Style & Tails have decided to bring you this essential guide to choosing the right food for your pet.
Breed, age & lifestyle
Your pet's breed and life-stage will play a huge part in deciding on the most appropriate food for them. Growing puppies and little kittens have very different nutritional needs to older animals; they require plenty of protein and fat to fuel their rapid development. Size, breed and lifestyle will also play a role in your decision as every dog and cat are different. Feeding a small, lower-activity dog like a French Bulldog a food designed for a larger, high-energy breed like a Pointer could result in obesity. Size also an important consideration when it comes to kibble, as your dog needs to be able to eat the food easily safely. Look for foods that offer targeted formulations for pets of different ages and breeds, rather than a one size fits all diet.
Quality & appropriateness of ingredients
For a long time, we pet parents were kept in the dark when it came to what actually goes into our pet's food, with undecipherable ingredients and mis-leading labelling. And with no shortage of horror stories in the press, it's no wonder we are now educating ourselves better when it comes to ingredients. The guiding principal for pet food is that it must be produced in hygienic conditions, fully traceable, as well as being safe and not harmful to pets or people. This is a great start but 'safe' is really the minimum you would expect when it comes to food. What we really want is food that's healthy, nutritious and beneficial to your pet's health. It's worth noting that what goes into your pet's food not only affects their physical health but can impact on their behaviour and trainability as well.
The key ingredients to look out for when it comes to a good quality pet food are:
1. Animal protein
2. Animal fats for a healthy brain, skin and coat
3. Carbohydrates – whilst these should be lower down the list for both cats and dogs, they need these to provide the right balance of dietary fibre and as sources of energy, but you should be looking for good quality carbohydrates like rice and oats, rather than nasty fillers. Cats are obligate carnivores, so carbohydrates should be further down the list of ingredients.
4. Vitamins and minerals – look for the right balance of vitamins and minerals for your pet. As a rule dogs and cats need a food that provides that provides essential Vitamins like A, D and E. The amount of calcium phosphorous and magnesium should also be carefully formulated to avoid health issues.
5. Omega 6 and 3 – which are essential for brain development, immune function and healthy skin and coat.
On the other hand, you should avoid Pea protein, Fillers ( ingredients like corn, wheat, soy and potatoes which are used to bulk up cheaper pet foods), Un-named meat sources, Allergens (like wheat, beef, pork, eggs and dairy) Salt, sugar, artificial colours, flavours or preservatives.
Who is behind the brand
More than ever, we pet parents are voting with our wallets, and we are more likely to buy from companies whose values and ethics align with our own. The type of company that makes your pet's food will in large-part determine their ethos when it comes to ingredients, standards and how they treat their staff and customers. Look for companies who do good, who have been awarded accreditation by the Ethical Company Organisation and also donate 10% of their annual profit to animal welfare causes.
Location, location, location
Knowing where your pet's food is made is an important step in not only ensuring certain quality and standards, but also in reducing your carbon footprint.
The yum factor
Regardless of how many wonderful ingredients are in your pet's food, it's of little use if your finickity friend won't eat it. This really is a case of trial, error and a little persistence. The most important thing is making sure your dog or cat is getting the best possible nutrition, so if at first, they don't take to their new healthy food – try and try again. It's always a good idea to introduce a new food gradually, over 7-10 days, giving your pet a chance to adjust.
As devoted pet parents, we all want the best for our furry friends, and there are pet foods out there to suit all budgets – from cheap supermarket brands, right up to freshly prepared, organic free-range meals. Look for the best quality ingredients you can find for the most competitive price.
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