Pet Food Nutrition 101 with McAfee Animal Hospital

Pet Food Nutrition 101 with McAfee Animal Hospital
By: Kole Rushmore Last Updated: September 9, 2019

For most, pets are an extension of our family. We talk to them, love them and care for them as if they’re our children. As a parent to a furbaby, you want to provide the best for them so they can live a long and healthy life. 

Many believe this starts with their nutrition. People want to feed their pets the best food possible, and good nutrition is important for any pet. It keeps them healthy and happy, but how does anyone decide what’s the best food for their pet, especially when there are thousands of options on the market? Dr. Steve Violanti from McAfee Animal Hospital (MAH) is here with your full pet food guide. 

“The problem is, there are so many food options out there,” said Dr. Violanti. “As far as nutrients go, there are too many different good foods right now to pick one. It’s one of those things that you pick a food that is balanced with a good quality protein, good quality carbs and not a lot of extra ingredients or fillers.”

Although it may seem like it, not all pet foods are created equal. The quality of the products in the food itself may vary greatly from one manufacturer to another. In today’s crowded pet food market, it’s important to provide your pets with a high-quality diet. It’s one of the most important things you can do to keep them healthy. According to Dr. Violanti, a quality diet is one that is complete and balanced including high-quality proteins, fatty acids, and carbohydrates.

Fillers such as corn, wheat, rice, soybean, potato and maize are some of the most common replacements in pet food. Such ingredients are used to replace higher quality ingredients such as beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, venison and kangaroo.

“The ones you want to stay away from are the brands/foods with a lot of fillers,” Dr. Violanti explained. “Typically, the cheaper the food, the more additives and the more you have to feed to get the same nutrition. If you have a puppy that’s pooping like six times a day and feeding them a lower quality food, it’s because their body isn’t absorbing nutrients and it’s just passing through them. Feed them better food, poops get smaller, owners get happier.”

In today’s marketing climate, it’s easy to fall for a brand that you make a connection with.

“They [pet food companies] have the best advertising out there and people buy it because of their advertising but that’s not always the best thing,” said Dr. Violanti. “Looking at the ingredients is obviously key to choosing the best food for your dog.”

One of the latest trends in pet food is the “grain-free” formula. Instead of the typical fillers mentioned before, these products contain a high proportion of peas, lentils, other legume seeds, and potatoes in various forms (whole, flour, protein, etc.) as the main ingredients. The demand for this type of pet food was designed for pets with food allergies. 

“Some people want to be grain-free, but grain-free isn't always necessary,” Dr. Violanti explained. “Research has found it’s causing more harm than good for pets that don’t need grain-free food.”

Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found a potential link between canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and dogs eating certain grain-free pet foods. The study came after reviewing more than 500 recent cases of DCM in which nearly all the dogs had been regularly eating grain-free products. 

For those who are having trouble navigating the pet food market, Dr. Violanti suggests talking with your veterinarian about which diet and food is best for your pet.