Making The Food Comparison

No two pets are alike, and neither are their nutritional needs. What works wonderfully for your lab mixes may not be the perfect choice for mine. Sadie has a rather sensitive tummy and Bailey just slowly works her way through whatever you put in front of her. They may look similar, but their appetites are completely different.

That's why there are so many different kinds of pet food on the market. Depending on your cat's weight, your dog's breed and your bird's age, there are specific foods for specific needs. Within those individual categories there are still more choices - active formula, high fiber, high protein...it can really make your head spin.

So what do you need to consider to make the best food choice for your own pet?

1. Stage of life. Puppies need different nutrients than an older dog. Senior cats don't need the same food as kittens. Read the packaging to find the recommended ages for each type of food.

2. Ingredients. The list of ingredients on the packaging is ordered by weight. Look for those good meat, fish, egg, meat meal or fish meals as the first or second ingredient. They have a high percentage of protein in the form of digestible, usable amino acids, which result in better digestive health. The others are processed and not as healthy in the long run.

3. Preservatives and by-products. Just like human diets should contain high amounts of fresh, natural food, so should your pet's. Even if the label gives protein as the first ingredient, check how many of the following ones are weird-sounding, man-made additives.

4. Talk to your vet. If your pet has any health conditions or diseases, the vet may have serious suggestions about food and supplements. We've had Sadie on special food and vitamins over the years because she has severe hip dysplasia in both back hips. Overweight animals, aged animals and those with certain ailments can make vast improvements when given certain foods, so ask and take good notes!

5. Price. Remember that you get what you pay for, but don't skimp on your pet's health. There are plenty of great foods that hit every price range, you just have to do some comparison shopping to find them. If you can find a food that your pet loves and you love the price, try to find it in bulk and save even more.

6. Dry, moist or canned? Again, every pet is different and some will take to different styles of pet food. Each type has examples of great, healthy food, so read the labels carefully. Vets will most often recommend dry food, but ask when you visit the office (see #4). Canned food can be more expensive, while dry can be more convenient. See what works for your pet and what fulfills their nutritional needs.

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