Nutrition For Your Best Friend


Nutrition is probably the single most influential thing that you can change in your pet’s life. With every passing year, we discover new and peculiar ways in which nutrition can alter the physiology and disease processes in your pet’s body. Nutrition is so much more important than simply losing or gaining weight. The effects of the food that goes into your pet’s mouth can have effects on dental health, arthritis, organ health and even behaviour. The array of choices available on pet store shelves these days is bewildering, even to vets who are involved in the pet industry on a daily basis. How does one distinguish between a good brand and a bad brand? Wouldn’t it be better to cook the meals at home with natural ingredients? Is a diet of dry food alone good enough? Let’s try to answer some of these questions and dispel a few myths. 


The quality of a product does not necessarily correlate with the price you pay for a bag of kibble. Some brands put a lot of money into marketing, whilst others spend a lot of their money on scientific research to determine what is best for your pet. I don’t often encourage clients to employ Dr Google, but in this case, a google search might deliver some useful information. Take your current brand of dog food, and do a google search to find out if the company does any scientific research or clinical trials. You will find that some companies cover their bags in fashionable buzz words like all-natural or recommended by Dr X, but when you start digging a little deeper, you will find that the all-natural dog food might not be all that well balanced for your giant breed dog, or that Dr X isn’t a vet or even a real doctor for that matter. Opinions and packaging is cheap. Stick to brands that do good science. 

How much should you spend? 

This isn’t a straight forward question. You may find that Brand A is 30% cheaper than Brand B. This might not translate into a 30% saving on your budget at the end of the month. Have a look on the feeding guidelines on the bags. You might have to feed twice as much of Brand A, which means that you will end up spending more at the end of the day. Ask the staff in your local pet store or vet to calculate how much it will cost to feed your dog per day before you simply grab the bag with the lowest price. 

Is natural food worth the extra cost? 

This is one of the oldest tricks in the book. By claiming that a product is made from natural ingredients, it is implied that other brands contain alien ingredients that must obviously be bad for your pet. The truth is, that all pet foods are made from very similar ingredients. Chicken, beef and grains are not made by mad scientists in an underground lab. Natural is a fashionable buzzword that really doesn’t mean much. Implying that some foods are not natural, and therefore inferior is a dirty marketing trick, don’t be fooled! 

What should I add to dry food to make it better? 

Absolutely nothing! A well balanced dry food is an excellent choice for both dogs and cats. Chewing on dry food helps to keep the teeth clean. Dry foods are usually far more cost effective as well, and is packaged in materials that are far kinder to the environment than the wet foods. There are some medical conditions that may prompt your vet to advise a wet diet, but for the large majority of healthy pets, dry kibble contains everything they need, in the right proportions. I often compare this to making the perfect vodka martini. The olive in a martini is essential, as is the vodka, but by double the vodka or six extra olives, you will simply ruin the balance of a perfect martini. It is also far cheaper to buy a good quality dog food, rather than taking a bad dog food and adding supplements to make it better. As for adding table scraps or other treats, have a chat to your vet about what is healthy and appropriate. You might think that everything that is healthy for humans would be for your pet as well, but there are some surprising things on the list of foods that are dangerous to animals. 

The other thing to remember, is that giving your pet these extra treats should be just that, a treat. Do not make the mistake of replacing half of your dog’s well balanced kibble with a treat, that ends up throwing the entire nutritional balance out the window. 

We spend far too little time discussing food in the consult room. Why not spend a few minutes discussing with us your pet’s diet at your next visit.

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