If you haven’t read our first three tips in Part I, click here! If you’ve already read Part I, then here are our last three pet nutrition tips!
4. Food should be enjoyable.
Palatability is a very important aspect of diet choice. Some dogs and cats simply don’t like the taste of certain foods. You wouldn’t want to be forced to eat a food you despise for the rest of your life, so don’t make your pet do that either.
But sometimes it’s not a taste issue. There can be other reasons that your pet doesn’t eat his/her food, including behavioral and medical reasons. A few indicators that veterinary attention is needed:
- Your pet was previously eating well but now eats less or nothing at all.
- Your pet eats ravenously but is losing weight or muscle mass.
- Urgent veterinary attention is needed for any pet that has not eaten well for 5 days or has not eaten any food in 3 days. Cats that have not eaten in 24 hours should be assessed by a veterinarian promptly due to risk of a potentially life-threatening fatty liver disease.
5. Food Budget
The cost of a pet food certainly plays a role in which foods we can feed our pets, while still putting food on our dinner table. A higher cost pet food does not necessarily equate into a better dog food. Also, you are not a bad pet owner if you don’t buy the most expensive bag on the shelf. When discussing food recommendations with your veterinarian, let them know specifics about your monthly pet food budget. For example, ask which foods they think would be appropriate for Fluffy and cost no more than *insert specific dollar amount* per month. Know that, generally speaking, the larger the dog, the more you will spend on pet food because of the sheer volume larger dogs eat. For example, it would be unreasonable to have a $60 monthly budget for your two hundred pound mastiff.
6. Special Circumstances/Underlying Illness
Some medical conditions benefit from the use of a therapeutic prescription diet rather than a traditional over-the-counter diet. Examples of conditions that benefit from dietary therapy include obesity, kidney disease, bladder inflammation, bladder stones, skin allergies, liver disease, arthritis, heart disease and others. Chronic conditions will likely require long-term feeding of a prescription diet, though sometimes prescription diets are used on a short-term basis.
Occasionally, there are commercial diets that meet the same nutrient profiles as the prescription diets. Yet, product packaging and product labeling can be misleading to many pet food consumers. For example, some bags of food may claim to be hypoallergenic, but these diets are likely not appropriate for a diet elimination trial that helps determine if your pet is allergic to certain types of food. Hypoallergenic diets sold at a pet food store may also not be appropriate for your dog’s specific type of allergies. If your veterinarian recommends a prescription diet, be sure to ask about the anticipated duration of this diet (i.e. short-term or lifelong), possible alternative food options, and general cost.
So, in this blog, we touched on the very basics of pet nutrition. If you want to have a more in-depth conversation, call your regular veterinarian to discuss if your pet is on the right track or if a few adjustments are in order.
Happy mealtime. Or as I say to Dexter, “Who’s a hungry, hungry hippo!?”
Got you interested in pet nutrition? Here are a few more resources you may like:
- WSAVA Global Nutrition Committee: Recommendations on Selecting Pet Food
- Savvy Cat Owners Guide: Nutrition on the Internet
- Savvy Dog Owners Guide: Nutrition on the Internet
- American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN) FAQs
- What is the Best Way to Transition a Pet to the New Food?
- Food Safety and Recalls Resources
- Raw Food Diets