Giving Your Pet a Healthy, Enjoyable Diet
by Ron Kurtus (revised 2 October 2008)
What you feed your dog, cat or other pet will help determine the animal's physical, as well as emotional health. Most veterinarians recommend quality dry or canned food. Low quality cat and dog food is less expensive, but also contains fillers that the animal would not normally eat.
Regular food is often better than canned pet food. Feeding only dry pet food may not be that healthy and can be very boring to the animal. Variety in food may be a better for the physical health, as well as emotionally for the animal.
Just as you wouldn't like to eat the same thing every day, you shouldn't give your pet the same thing every day. A variety of good food is better. Different tasting food can even increase your pet's emotional health.
Questions you may have include:
- What about inexpensive pet food?
- What about quality pet food?
- What is good about variety in meals?
This lesson will answer those questions. Animal Health Disclaimer
If you look at the label of inexpensive dog or cat food, the thing that stands out the most is the expression "animal byproducts." In other words, they are often parts of an animal that are not necessarily fit for human consumption.
Another item high on the list is corn meal. Although a dog or cat may occasionally like to eat some corn, it is not something that should be a main ingredient in their diets.
Animals know what is bad
Even a hungry animal will not eat many things that are not good for it.
When our cat would catch a mouse or other varmint, there are certain parts of the body they she would not eat and will leave for me to clean up. If following her instincts says not to eat such things, perhaps it isn't good to have similar material ground-up in her cat food.
Dogs are not as fussy and seem to eat almost anything they find, even pieces of dirt and road kill. But there are even times when the food just doesn't smell right and the dog will reject it.
It is much better to spend a little more and give your animal quality pet food or even prepare food yourself.
Good pet food
Look on the label to see what is in the food you are giving your pet.
For example, the label on Newman's Own Premium Organic Dog Food (dry) lists the following ingredients, in order of amount in the dog food:
- Chicken meal
- Soybean meal
- Chicken Fat mixed with natural Vitamin E
- Brown rice
- Flax seed
- Chicken liver
- Vitamins and minerals
This brand is on the expensive side, probably because its ingredients are also organic. But it gives an example of some good items for your pet.
Making your own
Some people will prepare meals for their animals themselves.
Watch the difference in feeding your animal real meat, such as chicken, turkey or beef, as compared with eating canned pet food. If they gobble it down, the chances are that it is much better for them.
There are books available with healthy recipes for dogs and cats. (See the list of books in the Resources section below.)
You often hear the warning that you shouldn't feed your pet table-scraps. I think that depends on what type of food is left over. Certainly good pieces of meat and some vegetables are not harmful and even good for the pet.
Mixing good leftovers with regular animal food gives your pet a little better diet than what is in the can.
Of course, there are some human foods that animals should not eat. Chocolate and onions are not recommended to feed your pet and can actually be poisonous to the animal.
Variety of foods
Although pet food companies and even some vets advocate the same daily diet, I believe that variety is the spice of life, as well as the best way toward good health.
In fact, I even followed that with our pet rat. Instead of feeding her only pellets every day, she received a varied diet of grains, vegetables and even meat. If there were some things she didn't eat, I would not include them in the diet.
A large additional factor is the psychological effect such a diet has on the animal. How would you like to eat the same meal every day—supplemented by vitamin pills—day in and day out? It wouldn't be long before you would get extremely irritable, and perhaps even anxious from such a diet. How do you think the animal feels?
Variety in meals
If you feed your cat canned food, you can get some variety, since it usually comes in various flavors.`
For some reason most canned dog food is only one flavor. In such a case, you might mix some cooked vegetables or meat in the food. You could also do that with the dog's dry food. Or you could try a different brand food on occasion.
The occasional meal with "real food" is always a healthy treat for your pet.
Puppies and kittens
You might be cautious in changing the food you give your animals, since their digestive system is not fully developed. A sudden change in diet can cause diarrhea.
A good, well-rounded diet will enhance your pet's health. Regular food is often better than canned pet food, and variety in meals may be a better for the physical health, as well as emotionally for the animal.
Variety is the spice of life
Resources and references
Questions and comments
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Giving Your Pet a Healthy, Enjoyable Diet