Pets column: They are what they eatLet’s start with an easy question: What does your pet eat? Now here’s a question that may be more difficult to answer: How did you pick that food?
By: Amy Miller, For the Budgeteer News
Let’s start with an easy question: What does your pet eat?
Now here’s a question that may be more difficult to answer: How did you pick that food?
A walk down any pet food aisle can be overwhelming for new and seasoned pet owners alike. Pictures of happy dogs with gleaming coats surrounded by bits of meat and vegetables, or images of contented cats quietly licking their chops appear on bags and cans. Each brand promises to provide a tasty, balanced meal for your four-legged friend.
According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), Americans spent about $53 billion on their pets in 2012, $20 billion of which was spent on pet food and treats. With so many companies vying for a piece of this multi-billion dollar pie, how does a pet owner choose the best out of hundreds of options?
Earlier this month, I attended a three-hour class on pet nutrition, coordinated by Riley Rue Grooming and held at Animal Allies Humane Society in Duluth. The class was taught by two professionals from southern Minnesota: Katie K-9, a dog trainer from Hugo with over 30 years experience, and Dr. Jessica Levy, a veterinarian from Blaine who specializes in holistic veterinary care.
Over the course of the class, the two challenged the conventional concept of pet nutrition.
They first pointed out that if one compares the length of time humans have had companion animals to the length of time commercial pet food has been available, it becomes apparent that kibbled pet food is a relatively new concept. While the first dog biscuits were produced in the late 1800s, the habit of purchasing food produced specifically for pets didn’t become mainstream until the mid-1900s.
According to the class handout, “Our pets have moved from working outdoors and eating table scraps to living indoors eating commercial pet food — sometimes the same brand and flavor every day. What a change!” But, “what hasn’t changed is our love for our pets — we want them to live as long as possible.”
Both Dr. Levy and Katie encouraged pet owners to read the labels of both food and treats. Don’t recognize an ingredient? Research it! Decide if it is something you are comfortable feeding to your pet. Also, owners should be aware of recalls to make sure they aren’t feeding something that could cause harm.
The two stressed that the key to providing the best nutrition is “balance and variety over time.” For both cats and dogs, they not only recommend feeding a variety of brands, but also rotating whole diets from dehydrated, raw, freeze- dried, to grain-free canned foods. One can also include healthy table scraps — like cooked meats without bones, sweet potatoes, green beans, and carrots — to provide balanced nutrition. Transitions can be made slowly at first and owners should monitor their pet’s weight to make sure they remain in a healthy range. They also suggested giving additional supplements like essential fatty acids, vitamins, digestive enzymes and probiotics to support a healthier, longer life.
Although investigating ideal pet nutrition can be overwhelming, Dr. Levy and Katie reassured us that even one or two changes can make a positive impact on the health of your pet. The two invited pet owners to research and educate themselves and make those changes they felt comfortable making.
Because nutrition affects all aspects of health, a pet’s skin, coat, digestive and immune systems all reflect what they eat. Animal Allies Humane Society always encourages pet owners to work with their veterinarians to establish a regimen of care for their pet.
For more information on Katie K-9 and to listen to her past radio talk shows, visit her website at www.ktk9.com. To learn more about Dr.
Jessica Levy, visit her website at holistic-vet-care. com.
Amy Miller is the marketing and communications manager for Animal Allies Humane Society. She lives in Duluth with her husband and three adopted pets: dogs Maverick and Goose, and a cat named Buddy Love.