what is the best food for your pet?

Absolutely everyone has an opinion on this, but who's right?

Well-meaning pet parents want to feed their furry companions the absolute best food they can, but with conditions like skin allergies, cancer, diabetes, obesity and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) on a meteoric rise, it's time to re-evaluate what we should be feeding our pets.

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Depending on who you ask, you'll get differing and contradictory opinions. And if you go online, it can be difficult to separate fact from opinion.

Not only that, but there are hundreds of product lines and thousands of recipes. If you're feeling overwhelmed by the choices, you're not alone!​

In our research, we found radically different views - everything from a completely raw diet of bones and animal flesh, to a vegan diet, to "just buy whatever's on sale."

Many of the opinions are based on ideological preferences, and in the case of the veterinarians we spoke with, their recommendations were based on which pet food company sponsored a training event at either their school or clinic. 

My recommendation involves two steps, and both are heavily influenced by logic and common sense.

1. I strive to feed my pet most closely what he would find in nature.

Dogs and cats are not evolved to eat corn, cereal, barley, "meat derivatives," artificial flavors, gravy, soy or sugar. So, naturally, I'm not going to feed my dog anything like that. 

If you check the food labels at your supermarket and mainstream pet stores, you'll find that many contain these ingredients. Common sense tells me to steer clear.

2. I always check the quality of dog food here: http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/

Granted, this is only for dog food, but most manufacturers make both dog and cat food, so it's still a useful guideline, even if you own a kitty cat.

Dog Food Advisor Home Page

The Dog Food Advisor home page is super easy to navigate!

What I absolutely love about Dog Food Advisor is that they rank the food from 1 star to 5 stars. Then, they list every single ingredient and highlight the controversial ones in bold red.  They evaluate wet food, dry food and even frozen food, so they really cover everything.

In addition to marking controversial ingredients in, they also provide an analysis of each item on the label by explaining the benefits and evaluating the quantities of each of these ingredients.​

I opt for 5-star premium brands, but if I was looking for a more economical option, I would take a look at some of the lower ranked brands and evaluate if the ingredients that Dog Food Advisor labeled as subpar were ingredients I would at least feel comfortable feeding my pet.

As a fun exercise, I took a look at the 1-star brands. Yikes! 

Please avoid those, my fellow pet parents!​

What about preparing meals for your pet?

A growing trend is making your pet's food each week (or even each day). This is actually something I have explored. Basically, my doggie would consume a diet very similar to mine, but there are enough caveats to this that I've decided against it. 

Chucko drinks from a water fountain

Chucko the Australian Shepherd may think he's human, but he's still a doggie.

Okay, I'll be honest. It's pretty hard work, and with a full time job and 3 hour-long walks a day, I'm not quite ready to take that on. Yet!​

On occasion, I'll prepare a meal for him when I make my own dinner. And he does get some meat and vegetable scraps, but I have too many concerns about him getting a complete and balanced diet to fully commit to preparing all of his meals myself. He used to snack on the pulp from my green juices, but as he's gotten increasingly picky, I've opted to simply feed him the best kibble I can possibly find. 

If you're curious, it's Orijen Regional Red Dog Food

Orijen pet food in a Vittles Vault by GAMMA2

Almost out of Orijen pet food, but it's still fresh in the Vittles Vault.

I do own a cookbook for pets that seems comprehensive. One of these days, I'll commit to making the recipes, but for now, I'm content to simply share the book with other doting pet parents. It's called "Dr. Becker's Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats."

Over the coming months, I'll test out some of the recipes in the book and share them. It'll be fun, right?

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About the Author

Jamaica Winship is Vice President of Business Development at GAMMA2, Inc. She loves all animals, but especially her Australian Shepherd, Chucko.

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