Does walking down the pet care aisle at the supermarket make you frustrated? I can help out.
You might think you are getting a bargain when you buy the cheaper brands. Think again. Those cheap bags of dog or cat food aren't balance diets, are loaded with fillers, don't guarantee the maximum amount of fat, protein and carbohydrates, contain poor quality ingredients and may be deficient in trace minerals. It's no wonder you need to feed twice as much and your pet ends up fat but have half the muscle. So you're really spending the same amount and going through twice as much leading to twice as much poo. Don't get me wrong, sometimes you want bulky stools. But that means high fiber which is a good thing especially when your pup has anal gland problems or is over weight.
Then there's all those varieties: puppy, maintenence, adult, high pro, less active, large breed, senior, indoor, natural, raw, etc, etc, etc. Calm down now.
Lets begin with puppies and kittens. Kittens should eat kitten food for their first year of life. Puppies under 60 pounds should eat puppy food for one year. Puppies that will weigh >60 pounds are considered large breeds and should eat large breed puppy food and be on large breed puppy food for a year and a half. Oh, almost forgot. Feed your pregnant mommies puppy or kitten (respectively) food the last three weeks of their pregnancy and until they are finished weaning those oh so cuddley little furballs that some how make you trip when least expected.
Adult are anywhere between 1 to 1 1/2 years until they are 7-8 years depending on their size. Large breed dogs should start on a senior diet at 7 years. Small and medium breeds can wait until they are 8 years.
Think about your pet and the way they live. Are they a bird dog like a labrador or weimeraner? Then you may want to consider large breed or more active type diets. Large breed diets take into account their size and activity levels. Some large breed diets also add glucosamine and other joint supplements into the food. How cool is that? Active diets are for dogs that are so active they just can't keep weight on. You may have a cocker spaniel that 12 years old. Senior diets would be a good choice unless they are overweight. When it comes to less active diets some are better than other. Check with your veterinarian or their technician and see which ones are the best. Natural and raw diets? Natural may seem like a good idea but you want to buy only as much as you will feed in a six week period because the lack of preservatives mean that those fats will go rancid. Definately not good eats (thanks Alton Brown). Raw diets are the new trend among the holistically minded folks.
Oh, back to cats. Here's my experience with my four indoor cats. I'd started feeding my cats an indoor diet about six months ago. I really like what it has done for them. There aren't as many hairballs coughed up, they like the taste and they've lost weight. I'd tried several different types of light and hairball and this is definately the better choice. Outdoor cats need more calories than indoor cats do. My parents noticed that when they fed the better quality cat food the reproduce more often. Is good quality cat food contributing to the over abundance of feral cats in our fair town? How should I know what you feed those alley cats that come meowing at your back door.
So, have I convinced you that good quality foods are the way to go? No? Did I mention they will be more resistant to disease? I know I mentioned that you will pay the same and feed 1/2 as much. And that there are better quality ingredients, you'll know just how much fat, protein and carbs your pet is eating.
I should also tell you cat shouldn't share their food with dogs. Cat food has too much protein for dogs and it makes a terribly expensive dog food no matter how much they enjoy it. Speaking of enjoying thing they shouldn't be eating. I could supply you with a big long list of don'ts for dogs but I'll narrow it down: Onions, grapes, raisins, bones (bone shards come out the other end and feel like passing ground glass and could possibly perforate the intestines), chocolate especially dark chocolate, human pain relievers, etc. Accept table snacks include: raw carrots, peas, green beans, potato. That would be those vegetables that most of america says YUCK! but my dog has to fight me for them. if you can't get them raw, buy frozen and steam them. Very yummy because they keep their flavor and their vitamins. Milk is somewhat of a pickle. Dogs and cats do not have the enzymes to break down milk sugars so if the are not acclimated to milk in their diet, they may suffer intestinal distress in their next splurge from the dairy shelf. Overall, table scraps are not recommended because they make pets finicky and obese.
Cats should also not have a steady diet of dog food. Their isn't enough protein or amino acids to keep them healthy. You also want to pay attention to ash content with cats. Ash in the wrong leads to urinary crystals and other problems.
Usually, the tastier the food, the higher the fat content. Read the label, know your pets weight and follow the feeding guide, don't feed more than they should eat in a day. Little dogs should have several meals, large dogs like one large meal usually in the evening. Don't feed large dogs before playtime. This may cause a problem commonly called Bloat but may be an mega-emergency called Gastric Dilated Volvulus aka twisted stomach.
So, I'm hoping this has clarified a bunch the great quandry that is pet food. If you still have questions call your veterinarian or their technician (they have nutrition classes as well).