Diets can either be commercial (available as dry or canned food from vets, pet stores or supermarkets), or home made. Often owners will feed their dog a combination of commercial and home-made food. The debate about feeding pets natural vs commercial food is a hotly contested issue and there is no one correct answer that will suit every owner or every pet. However, with a little bit of guidance, pet owners can determine the right solution for them.
A dog or cat should always be fed a diet suitable for his or her life stage.
After being weaned from the mother, they are generally fed a puppy / kitten food.
At around 9-12 months of age, they should switch to an adult food.
At around 7-10 years of age, dogs and cats usually change to being fed a diet designed for senior animals.
Special diets, including prescription medical diets, are also sometimes recommended depending on a pet’s individual needs.
Commercial Pet Foods
High quality commercial diets are generally nutritionally complete and balanced, containing all necessary vitamins and minerals.
- They are formulated specifically for the life stage (puppy, adult, senior), and size (toy and small breed, standard, or large and giant breed) of the dog or cat.
- Dry (kibble or biscuit) food is nutritionally similar to canned food, but is usually more economical, cleaner and encourages better dental development.
- Dry food is recommended to be the major component of most pets diets.
- The quality of the food is also important, and there are significant differences between the lower priced budget (supermarket) food and the premium range food.
- Calcium should never be supplemented to a balanced dog or cat food
- Dog food shouldn’t be used for cats – they require some special amino acids and dietary nutrients.
A good diet should be complete and balanced. Look for an AAFCO statement (the FDA for pet food) on the side of the packet, which confirms that the food is nutritious. The highest level of AAFCO statement states that “Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that the dog or cat food provides complete and balanced nutrition for the appropriate life stage.” This means the diet has been tried and tested, and is proven healthy and balanced.
Beware pet foods that are very high protein, or are formulated for all life stages. One size definitely doesn’t fit all for pet food.
Home-made Pet Foods
Home-made diets are also an excellent choice for feeding your dog or cat, as long as the diet is made to a specific recipe and is nutritionally complete.
- Home-made diets are often much more difficult to formulate and cook, and are usually more expensive than a commercial diet.
- However, a number of vets and pet owners believe that a well made home-cooked diet can provide a higher level of anti-oxidants and allow the dog or cat to live a more natural lifestyle.
- It is very important to ensure that all necessary minerals and vitamins are present in the correct amounts and ratios when formulating a home-made diet. An unbalanced diet can result in poor immunity, lower energy levels or poor overall health.
- Note that plain meat or meat and rice (even with vitamin supplements) is not a complete or balanced diet.
If you choose to feed your pet only a home made diet, it is very important to make sure that diet is complete and balanced, so they get all the vitamins and nutrients they need. A very useful tool are the websites: www.BalanceIT.com and www.petdiets.com that will formulate home made recipes based on your pet's age, breed, medical conditions and what carbohydrate and protein sources you have available. Each recipe costs around $20USD to buy, however it will be a valuable investment in your pet's future health. If following a home made diet it is recommended to have your veterinarian review the recipe to ensure it is appropriate for your pet's requirements.
If you choose to feed your pet a mixture of commercial and home made food then there is no need to be quite so rigid and follow a strict recipe. Most of our clients tend to follow this option.
Your dog or cat should also be given occasional treats, such as pet chews, raw bones or raw whole chicken wings. Cooked bones can splinter and should not be fed.
Foods to Avoid
Other foods that dogs and cats should never be fed include chocolate, coffee, tea, onions, large amounts of garlic, sultanas or any food that may cause a blockage such as mango seeds or corn cobs. Just as for people, treats should be fed in moderation as too many can lead to obesity. Also, pets should not be given human medications or supplements.
If you’re not exactly sure and you’d like some advice we’d love to help, just email us.