It seems that the entire world is obsessed with nutrition, diets, and superfoods. The variety of choices seem endless in the human world, and downright confusing when it comes to deciding what to feed our pets.
Nutrition is vital to the health and happiness of our pets and ourselves, so research is very important. Your best resource for your pet, by far, is your veterinarian. They have the training and the experience to know what is best for your pet and can provide you with a list of suitable options.
With so many choices, how do you narrow it down? Is “consistency the key,” or is “variety the spice of life.” In short, yes.
Through experience of the not-so-pleasant, aromatic kind we have found that changing our pets’ food on a whim, (or a sale) does a number on their digestive system. So any time you introduce a new food, do so slowly over about 10 days. This will allow your pets’ digestive system to adjust to the new protein source and digestive enzymes, keeping their gut in check. And, unless your pet has a specific health issue (for example: an allergy or kidney disease) it is ok to change their food, slowly, throughout their life to keep them interested and allow their bodies to absorb different nutrients.
If Petunia suddenly turns her nose up at her bowl, work with your vet to come up with a list of additives (like pureéd pumpkin or cottage cheese) that might entice her to tuck in once again. Or your vet may suggest another brand of food or a different formulation within the same brand that you could switch to… using the same 10-day formula, obviously.
We all know that waffles are delicious, but we certainly wouldn’t want to eat them twice a day, every day for the rest of our lives. Similarly, our bodies will crave different nutrients at different stages to keep our bodies balanced and working the way they should. Pet nutrition is similar, but we cannot directly relate their dietary needs to ours; for instance: their anatomy demands more meat protein, while our bodies do better with plant protein. In other words, if you are vegetarian or gluten-free or a pescatarian, that’s great! You do you, but help your pet do what is best for their bodies.
Your vet will help you understand the evolution of the animals we share our lives with, and why their bodies are designed to process different nutrients than ours. We are not suggesting you go out and hunt down the specific prey of a wolf, your dog is an evolved descendent, with a great deal of breeding and manipulation of genes that have altered his dietary needs. Your vet can help you understand how to read the labels and identify the percentages of fat content and protein content that would be appropriate to your pets’ specific needs during each stage of their life.
Limiting access to food processed for human consumption (AKA “people food”) and Treats will also help your pet stay fit and healthy. Especially for breeds that tend to be overweight, extra treats can lead to a variety of health issues. If we had someone to measure and provide our allowed caloric intake for every meal, and didn’t allow us access to the candy aisle at the local Kroger, we would not have any issues with weight gain.
It might help to recognize that our need to show our love for our pet through treats can lead to obesity, joint pain, pancreatitis, and more. Show your love through more walks, grooming sessions and play dates… it is a healthier choice that will lead to a longer life for both pet and owner.
Food Change Formula
Day 1: 90% Current Food/10% New Food
Days 2 - 3: 75% Current Food/25% New Food
Days 4-5: 50% Current Food/50% New Food
Days 6-9: 25% Current Food/75% New Food
Day 10: 10% Current Food/90% New Food