You frequently spend hours at the pet store, lost in thought, comparing ingredient lists and protein percentages, and deciding which food is acceptable for your cat’s lynx-like needs, trying to find the “best” food for your feline friend. We’ll let you in on a secret—there is no one “best” food. Each pet is an individual who has different nutritional needs for each life stage, and who may need a different food than other pets in the home. But, some foods are manufactured with higher quality ingredients and stricter quality control measures, and have more research backing their nutritional claims. We’re here to help you weed out the good from the bad with these 10 tips:

Tip #1: Schedule a nutritional consult

We believe proper nutrition is one of the most important aspects of your pet’s health. At each exam, we determine your pet’s body condition score and develop a plan to meet her weight and nutritional goals. We also will help you find the best food that meets your pet’s unique medical needs, whether she’s battling chronic renal failure, joint pain, liver disease, or diabetes. We also can make recommendations for healthy pets who need a standard adult food. 

Tip #2: Look for the AAFCO label

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) establishes the nutritional standards for complete and balanced pet food. The pet-food manufacturing companies ensure their products are formulated according to the appropriate AAFCO standard, and they develop the nutrient profiles necessary for pets to thrive through each life stage. Quality pet foods carry the AAFCO endorsement label on the package.

Tip #3: Consider your pet’s age

While a kitten may not appear much different than an adult cat, her nutritional needs are not the same. The same goes for dogs, whether they’re tiny toy breeds or giant pony-sized breeds. As pets age, they need varying levels of vitamins and minerals for continued health. Choose a food that is formulated for your pet’s life stage and slowly transition to the appropriate diet as she grows and ages. 

Tip #4: Keep an eye on your pet’s weight

While it’s easy to show your furry friend how much you love her with extra treats, those additional calories are not easy on her joints. And, an expanding waistline causes more than joint issues—it can also lead to heart disease, diabetes, and sometimes cancer. Stop in our hospital to check your pet’s weight and allow us to evaluate her body condition score

Tip #5: Follow the feeding guidelines, but make adjustments for your pet’s individuality

The feeding guidelines on your pet’s food package are a great place to start, but they often need adjusting for your pet’s individual needs. Feed the recommended amount, keeping an eye on your pet’s weight, and then increase or decrease as needed. If you have to feed substantially more or less than recommended, you may need to switch foods to ensure your pet is getting the appropriate proportion of vitamins and minerals. 

Tip #6: Measure your pet’s food

Monitor your pet’s caloric intake by accurately measuring her food using a measuring cup rather than scoopinging out her kibble with a mug or fountain drink cup. 

Tip #7: Adjust your pet’s food based on her activity level

If your pet is active during warmer months and burns off calories easily, consider increasing her amount of food. But, as winter approaches and she becomes less active, cut back on calories. Specific diets geared toward high-energy or sedentary pets are available.

Tip #8: Avoid added sugar, preservatives, or food colorings

Although sugar attracts pets and bright colors intrigue pet owners, avoid pet foods with these items. Sugar, artificial sweeteners, and food colorings have zero health benefits and can harm your pet with unnecessary chemicals and calories. 

Tip #9: Blot out buzz words

Low-carb, organic, holistic, and grain-free diets are all the rage, and pet-food marketers are jumping on the bandwagon. But, when searching for a pet food, ignore flashy marketing tactics and focus on true nutrition. Keep in mind that there are no regulations concerning what makes a food organic or holistic, and any manufacturing company can use those terms on their product. 

Tip #10: Choose appropriate supplementation

Many pet owners love to spoil their furry companions with special treats, particularly scraps shared from their plates. While the rare table scrap may be acceptable, stick with healthy foods, such as fresh fruits and veggies, lean meats, and whole grains, which are fine in small amounts. Avoid sharing fatty, sugary, or processed foods with your pet. 

Is your pooch looking a little pudgy? Or, your feline isn’t looking so fine? We can develop a weight-management plan or suggest a supplement to add shine to your pet’s coat. Schedule a nutritional consult with us, and we will help you choose a diet plan that will make your pet happier and healthier.