Proper nutrition is just as important for your pet’s health as it is for yours. Unfortunately, there is so much information online about pet nutrition that it’s easy to come away overwhelmed rather than informed. If you want to put your dog or cat on a healthy diet, here are the four basics you need to know.
Feed a Variety
Eating the same meal over and over again is boring, and it can also leave gaps in your pet’s nutrition. If the kibble you feed them lacks adequate protein, for instance, feeding it over and over again will lead to a continued protein deficiency that never gets corrected. Try feeding your pet a variety of foods instead.
If you’re feeding your dog or cat dry kibble, you’ll need to transition them slowly when changing their food. You can skip this step, however, if you feed your pet canned or raw foods.
Changing your pet’s diet can also help avoid food allergies that can develop over time in an unchanged diet.
Feed Unprocessed Foods
Whether it’s for humans or animals, fresh food is better than frozen, canned or dried. When we process food, we strip away some of its vitamins and nutrients. To make sure that your pet gets as much nutrition from its food as possible, feed it fresh meats and vegetables.
Dogs and cats both enjoy chicken and fish as well as yogurt. Dogs will also eat lots of vegetables like green beans and carrots. Cats may turn their nose up at vegetables but will devour meat just as readily and enthusiastically as a dog. Both dogs and cats will eat some fruits.
For easier digestion, cook both meats and vegetables before feeding them to your pets. Keep fruit seeds and bones out of their bowls, as well. Remember that grapes, avocados, tomatoes, raisins and cherries are all bad for dogs, so avoid feeding these.
Feeding your pets fresh meat and produce exclusively can get expensive. Consider feeding these items as treats and using natural pet food at feeding time. PetMD defines natural pet food as that which contains “a feed or ingredient derived solely from plant, animal or mined sources,… not having been produced by or subject to a chemically synthetic process and not containing any additives or processing aids that are chemically synthetic.”
Natural pet food can be cooked, purified or fermented, but it can’t contain chemical dyes or preservatives. When you buy natural pet food, read the label carefully and buy only from a retailer you trust. Not every pet food manufacturer agrees on how to define “natural,” and some sneak ingredients into their pet foods that are anything but.
If you’re concerned that your pet may need more of a certain vitamin or mineral, talk to your vet about your companion’s diet. If things look good overall, you may want to try adding a dietary supplement to your pet’s regimen rather than changing its diet altogether. You should never use supplements in place of good nutrition, but they can help fill in gaps as needed.