Good nutrition is a requirement for a healthy long life. Unfortunately most pets are fed on diets that are more "fast food" than health food. Most brands available in the supermarket fall into the fast food category.
So how do you choose the right food?
We tend to trust the pet food manufacturers, the advertising and the person selling us the food. Often this information is misleading marketing. If a bag says "no added preservatives" that's no guarantee the food is preservative free.
We suggest you follow some simple food rules to help you make the right choice.
1. You get what you pay for! Quality always costs a bit more.
Good wholesome ingredients cost money. Cheap foods are made from cheap ingredients (like wheat and grains) and are either highly processed sugars or by products of other industries. Not everyone can afford the best but there are high quality diets available at relatively low cost. Our Pet Health Club clients can buy selected high quality foods at cost price with our ongoing 3 for 2 offer.
2. Make sure the food produces good poo.
Poor quality diets produce large amounts of faeces which are softer than normal. Cheap pet foods do not use the same ingredients with each batch which tends to upset the balance in the intestine. They use the cheapest source of ingredients on offer which vary from week to week. Even a good quality diet might not suit your pets constitution.
3. Read the ingredient list. Ideally it should be food!
If you don't recognise the ingredients or if you can't pronounce them then should you be feeding them to your pet? Avoid ingredients like wheat, corn, "by-product" and "derivative". Some good quality foods have strange sounding ingredients but don't let the fact that its a good brand stop you considering this rule.
4. Avoid foods you see advertised on television.
Independent pet shops and vets give good advice but always remember rule number 5. Avoid all foods you can buy in a supermarket and beware those with national advertising campaigns!
5. The person selling you the food probably has an interest in you buying it.
Step back and think about the advice and the sales persons motive. You can always come back. If you are in a pet shop and they sell their own brand food, don't buy it.
6. Don't be mislead by flavours!
To put flavour on the front of the bag like "venison" or "chicken", the food needs a minimum of 4% of that ingredient in the food. So 96% percent can be something else entirely.
7. Is the ingredient list misleading?
You are probably aware that any list of ingredients on a bag starts with the most and ends with the least. If meat is the first ingredient most of us think there's more meat in the food which is ideal for our pets. Well some food companies put the meat at the front by splitting up the carbohydrates (sugars) into different types.
Consider this product: Vet's Kitchen Adult Chicken & Brown Rice. The ingredient list shows Poultry meal (min. 36%), brown rice (min. 18%), white rice (min. 18%), oats, sugar beet pulp, chicken fat, brewers yeast, poultry digest, etc. The sugars have been split into brown rice + white rice + oats + sugar beet pulp. Together these make up more than 36% of the ingredients and they are all carbohydrates.
8. Sometimes smaller companies can control their recipes better than larger pet food companies.
The big brands you recognise from TV are owned by other very large companies who make lots of processed foods and products for the human market. They produce a lot of by-product which still has some value and they use this to make animal food. They tend to dictate to their animal food division what they can use as they need to use the by-products of their other industries. Smaller companies tend to have more choice about where they source their ingredients and have more control over the quality of the ingredients.