Sep 24 2012

What Is The Best Diet For My Pet

 This is a question I get asked daily. When you walk into a pet supply store or a supermarket, the choices can be overwhelming. Let’s see if we can make things a little clearer.


For Starters:
Ask yourself who is the food for? Do you have a puppy, a geriatric dog, large breed, or toy breed? Once you establish the stage and lifestyle of your pet you can determine the nutritional requirements and begin narrowing down your choices.What Do You Want From Your Pet Food?
Is cost a major factor, or can you afford good quality nutrition at any cost? Are environmental issues a concern? Is there an immune-compromised person in your house? Do you have limited space to store food? The answers can help us guide you to the type of food to feed your pet.Read Your Product Labels:

  • When reading the ingredient list, the items are in descending order by weight. Therefore, moisture-containing ingredients are listed first.
  • All dry foods must have a preservative.
  • Always make sure you see the ‘AAFCO Statement”. AAFCO is the Association of American Feed Control Officials. It is a voluntary membership association of local, state and federal agencies charged by law to regulate the sale and distribution of animal feeds and animal drug remedies. This statement ensures that the pet food has gone through animal feeding trials, and is balanced and complete for that life stage of your pet.
  • Unlike human food labels, there are no legal definitions for ‘Natural’, ‘Organic’, ‘Human Grade’, ‘Gourmet’, ‘Filler’ or ‘Premium’. These terms are arbitrary and subject to interpretation. Therefore, you may pay a lot for what you consider a high quality diet, but we may be getting anything but.
  • By-Product – This term does have an official AAFCO definition which is “Secondary product produced in addition to the principal product”. So when you see, ‘meat by-product’ on your label it means the part of an animal not including the muscle and can include, but not limited to, organ meat, bone, and gastrointestinal tract with contents. It does NOT include hair, horns, teeth and hoofs. Most of my clients feel by-products are a bad thing. They are not! They can actually have good nutritional value. Just think of any predator’s diet. Lions don’t just eat the meat off their prey: they will consume the entire body including the organ meat, intestines, and intestinal contents (i.e., ‘meat by-products’)

OMG! I’m so confused! I should just cook for my pet:
You could go the Homemade Diet route; however it has quite a few major drawbacks:

  • Despite how well you research and plan, almost all homemade diets are unbalanced. We see an improper balance of calcium and phosphorus, excessive protein, and deficiencies in vitamins, calcium and micronutrients.
  • Depending on the size of your pet, this diet can be very expensive, and time-consuming.
  • Dogs and cats have different nutritional requirements than we do. That means if we feed our pets a healthy human diet it would be an unhealthy pet diet.
  • Most have not been food trialed by an unbiased, knowledgeable party.
  • Table scraps are NOT a balanced diet.

The owner of a local pet store said the best diet is a raw diet:
Raw food diets have numerous health claims; however there is no scientifically proven information on the benefits of raw food diets. Infectious agents and parasites, such as E coli, Clostidium, Toxoplasmosis, and Salmonella, have all been isolated from raw meat. These agents have also been cultured from the feces of clinically healthy animals eating a raw food diet. What does this mean? It means that your pet maybe shedding these agents into their environment, thereby putting the entire family at risk.

If you feel you should feed your pet a raw diet please keep in mind the following:

  • Therapy dogs that are on raw diets are not allowed into most human hospitals.
  • Puppies and kittens should never be fed raw diets.
  • Any home containing a baby/child, pregnant woman, HIV/Aids patient, cancer patient, geriatric or any other immune-suppressed person should not have a pet on a raw diet.
  • Freezing the food will not kill all infectious agents.
  • Intestinal foreign bodies are a higher risk with these diets.

1 out of every 3 people in the USA is obese, and our canine and feline counterparts are following suit. Obesity has been associated with osteoarthritis, skin disease, gastrointestinal disease, diabetes and liver disease, decreasing life span, comfort level, and respiratory deficiency. Feeding guidelines on pet food bags do not show accurate portion amounts. Prescription diets maybe prescribed for those pets whose health is at risk. It is important to discuss the amount to feed your pet with your veterinarian.

Prescription Diets:
These are formulated for specific types of diseases and conditions and must be dispensed only through the prescription of a veterinarian.

Unless you need some serious motivation for training, treats are basically unnecessary. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you shouldn’t give treats. I’m just suggesting you keep them to a minimum.

When considering different foods use common sense:
Taking suggestions from people you know who have used different foods is a good way to start, but if you want facts you must go straight to the source. Call the company that makes the food and ask a few simple questions, such as, “Do you have a Veterinary Nutritionist on staff? What are their credentials? Are they available for questions?

  • If you decide to switch your pet’s diet, do it gradually, over 7 days. This is to ensure that your pet doesn’t develop diarrhea.

Let’s clear up some misconceptions:

  • Cats are strict carnivores. This means they must have a meat source daily.
  • Dogs are omnivores, so they do not have to have meat daily. HOWEVER, they must have a good protein source on a daily basis. It is preferable that it be an animal source.
  • Some people use the wolf as a model for how their dog should eat. Remember, that wolf isn’t cuddling up with your 8 yr old child while they sleep and licking their face to wake them up. That wolf also has a much shorter life span than the average dog.

Bottom line:
A good pet food is one that your pet enjoys eating, while maintaining good health and weight. It must agree with your pet, causing no gastrointestinal upset or excess gas. It must be readily available and, obviously, affordable.

iStock_000015838823XSmall, Dog Food Bowls
Which bowl contains the high-quality food?
Dr. Tracy Lynn Cohen-Grady was born in Queens, NY, but grew up in Rockland County and graduated from Clarkstown North High School. Veterinary Medicine is her second career and she graduated from the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine in May, 2000.
She has been practicing small animal medicine and surgery for the past 12 years in northern Bergen County, NJ.Her professional interests lie in canine behavior, internal medicine, nutrition, and dentistry. Her goals are to create and strengthen strong human-animal bonds. She takes pleasure in helping her clients maintain their pet’s health through each of their life-stages – from baby to geriatric.She volunteers her time for Rescue organizations like Greyhound rescue and Bully Baby Rescue, as well as several human cancer organizations. She also volunteers her time to schools and children’s organizations geared around pet education, science and health.

When not working, Dr. Cohen enjoys athletic training, cooking/baking, swimming, reading, knitting, and cuddling up with her children.

Besides sharing her home with her husband and 2 daughters, she has 2 Pit Bull Terrier mixes, Boudreaux and Josie, both of whom were rescued from the shelter, and 3 adorable rats.


By Tracy Cohen-Grady, DVM

ddaley | Uncategorized

Comments are closed.


Location Hours

This location is open 24 hours a day/
7 days a week

Regular appointment hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. 24 Hour Emergency Care for Pets 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Please call us at (845) 268-9263.