Are You Feeding Your Dog the Best Food?
PetSmart Dr. Mark Finke, Ph.D., Nutritional Sciences
As the old adage goes, you are what you eat. The same rings true for your pet. But with so many food options to choose from, how do you know you’re feeding your dog the very best? Mark Finke, Ph.D., a pet nutritionist and director of Merchandising Technical Services at PetSmart, gives us his expert opinion on how to choose the healthiest food for your pet.
According to Finke, even the best food is not perfect for every dog. When choosing a food, it’s important to understand your dog’s individual needs. As you are walking down the pet food aisle, consider your dog’s lifestage and life style and choose a food with high quality ingredients that optimize nutrient utilization.
High vs. low quality pet food
According to Finke, premium pet foods contain more protein and energy than lower quality foods. Also many lower quality foods contain high levels of cheaper ingredients that result in lower digestibility and more stools.
One of the most common misconceptions Pet Parents have about their pet’s food is the overemphasis placed on certain ingredients. Finke says, “While certain ingredients may indicate a high quality food, the overall balance of the ingredients used in the food is most important.” Unless your pet has developed an allergy or sensitivity to a particular ingredient, emphasis on a particular ingredient should be considered less important.
A food allergy or sensitivity?
Since dogs can develop allergies or sensitivities to particular ingredients in their food, how do you know the difference? Finke weighs in on the subject:
“Technically allergies are the body’s immune system reacting to a foreign protein in this case one that is consumed. Food sensitivities are less specific and generally should be considered when the food doesn’t seem to agree with your pet and causes vomiting and/or loose stools.”
The most common sign of pet food allergies are intense scratching sometimes accompanied by gastrointestinal signs. While an allergic reaction can occur on any part of the body, the most typical sign is excessive itching and scratching on your pet’s face and feet. If the symptoms are mild, Finke recommends trying a different diet and/or eliminating other potential allergens that might be in your pet’s treats or rawhide. If the symptoms are severe, you should talk with your veterinarian to help determine the cause. In some cases a veterinarian may put your pet on a prescription diet to relieve the symptoms and help determine the offending ingredient.
The benefits of a healthy diet
The benefits of feeding your dog a healthy, nutritious diet can be seen from the inside out. If your dog has a lively energy level and a healthy skin and coat condition, you know you’re on the right track. Another key indicator that you’re feeding your dog a healthy diet is the amount of backyard cleanup it results in. A nutritious food is more digestible, which results in a smaller stool size and better nutrition for your pet.
Your dog’s disposition, stool size and skin and coat are the best indicators that you’re feeding him a healthy, nutritious diet. Be sure to read the label and keep your dog’s lifestage and lifestyle in mind when you’re choosing a food. If you’re changing foods, make the change gradually. You can do this by mixing a small amount of the new food with the current food and gradually increase the new food over the course of a week.
For help selecting a nutritious brand of food for your pet, visit the interactive Pet Food Center on PetSmart.com.