Dr. Joyce Ashamalla
Dr. Joyce Ashamalla is the managing partner at Hinsdale Animal Hospital with Kremer Veterinary Service, as well as a partner at CARE Animal Emergency Hospital. She received her BS in Animal Sciences from the University of Illinois- Champaign Urbana, where she also completed her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine in 2007. She is AO certified, USDA-APHIS accredited, and is a member of the CVMA, ISVMA, AVMA.
Whether you walk into a pet store or purchase your pet food online, you’re inundated with a huge amount of choices. They all claim to be healthy, well-balanced, all natural, and downright delicious! So, what is the truth about pet food? What is pet food even made of? How do I pick the best one? We’re glad you asked...
Understanding Pet Food Ingredients and its Nutrition
The majority of pet food ingredients contain a combination of carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, minerals, fats, and preservatives. The truth about pet food is that some contain byproduct or chicken meal, but keep in mind that most of the pet foods will label the main source of its protein, which may be beef, lamb, fish, etc. Byproduct in dog food and cat food is what’s left over after the meat has been processed for human consumption. Think lungs, spleen, kidneys…and other unsavory types of "edible" animal parts. Chicken meal is chicken that has already been cooked to remove most of the moisture, leaving about 65% protein, 12% fat, and the rest moisture. Although byproducts don’t sound very healthy or tasty, it’s important to note that every combination of ingredients in pet food is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure that our pets are being fed safe and nutritious products.
Choosing a Nutritious Pet Food
When it comes to your pet’s nutrition, whether dog or cat, there are a couple important things to consider when choosing what you’re going to feed them. First, make sure to find out what the source is for the proteins and carbohydrates in the food. Some pets have food allergies, so it’s important to make sure you know what makes up the carbohydrate and protein source. If you’re not sure, check with your vet to find out if your pet does have any dietary requirements due to allergies or illnesses, as this can drastically change the requirements of your pet’s diet. If your pet does have an allergy, keep in mind that over-the-counter pet food may have crossover protein contamination as the manufacturing plant could have chicken contaminated in a fish-based food. If you purchase prescription food for a dog with a food allergy, they go through more rigorous regulations to ensure there is no cross-contamination.
Secondly, find a pet food that doesn’t have a ton of ingredients. Less ingredients is a good indicator of pet food quality, and it’s also important because any allergies or intolerances will be easier to pinpoint with pet food that doesn’t have a million ingredients. So your best bet is to find a brand that doesn’t have a seemingly never ending list of ingredients.
Pet Food Safety
Besides the nutritional aspect of pet food, it’s important to be aware of any dog or cat food recalls when you buy pet food. The good thing about all the choices you have when buying pet food is that it's very competitive, and that means better overall quality. Although you still need to know about the pet food ingredients and the brands you are purchasing, you're generally safe when feeding a high quality commercial brand of dog food or cat food.
If you create your own pet food diet for your dog or cat, it’s important to make sure you are not leaving out any essential minerals and nutrients. Consult with your vet if you are interested in a homemade diet for your pet.
Toxic Foods that You May Like, but Your Pet Won’t
Most people know that chocolate is not good for your pet, but there are many other foods that can be toxic to dogs and cats. Grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, onions, and garlic should never be fed to your pet. Also, sugarless gum and certain types of peanut butter that contain xylitol, and raw cookie dough should never be consumed by your dog or cat. If your pet ingests any of these foods, immediately contact your veterinarian.
With all of the choices presented when it comes to pet food, it’s important to always make sure you keep your dog or cat’s nutrition and pet food safety at the forefront so they can live long, happy, healthy lives!