Have you ever wondered what exactly is in the food you give to your furry friends? Well, most pet foods contain similar ingredients, and here is a guide to everything you need to know about your pet’s food.
The general ingredients
Before we talk about the specific types of pet food and what they contain each, here is a breakdown of the general types of nutrients your pets can get from their foods.
As some of the most essential sources of energy in our world, carbohydrates play a major role in the makeup of most pet foods. Carbohydrates can be added to the food in a variety of forms, such as wheat, barley, and oats.
You may be wondering – why does my pet’s diet include all these components? In the wild, they may not be taking in carbohydrates at the same percentage as dry food – which can contain from 30% all the way up to 70% carbohydrates.
Well, your pet needs a source of energy, and not only are carbohydrates cheap, and readily available, they are also needed to give dry food it’s ‘dry texture’ and shape. Add to that, the fact that both dogs and cats can digest the carbohydrates and gain energy, making this a vital part of your furry friend’s food.
Proteins are vital to most pet foods and make up the largest concentration of nutrient types. It is very important for these proteins to be digestible and be of good quality so they can be the primary source of energy for your pet. Multiple sources of protein are usually used in pet foods, depending on the pet that you have, their breed, age, etc.
Some common sources of protein include ‘fresh meat’ – this term encompasses all the sources of meat usually consumed by humans, such as chicken, lamb, beef, etc. Another quality source is fish, along with dairy products.
In addition to the above-explained nutrients, minerals in small amounts are also needed by pets. These are very important to help their body function normally, and some common examples are sodium and calcium, along with zinc and other minerals, which are added in small amounts depending on regulations to keep up to your pet’s mineral requirements.
Vitamins, like minerals, are also needed by pets to maintain their body functions. Ever since animals have been domesticated, they can no longer find these vitamins how they used to – hunting and eating. So, they are instead given in their diet as needed.
Just like humans, pets need fats as well. These fats help animals keep their liver healthy and functioning, as well as helping them grow a healthy, glossy coat of fur. So where is this fat found? Some fats can be added as supplements, whereas others can be found in meat and fish sources as mentioned above.
What makes good pet food?
To make pet food work, it needs to have certain qualities. This way, it will ensure the best way to meet all of the requirements of your pet in the perfect way. This is a combination of the needs of the pet, along with whether the food can be the right fit for you as a pet owner.
- It should be digestible.
- It should have the right shape.
- It should be the right size to be eaten.
- It should be good for the animal in terms of taste.
- It should have the right texture and palatability.
- It should have the right percentage of ingredients for your pet’s breed.
- It should have the right ingredients for your pet’s age.
- It should be easily available and, in some cases, cost-effective.
Ingredients you may have to avoid
Although you will likely not encounter any dangerous elements in your pet food, provided it is approved and has passed the appropriate regulations for your country, you should still be on the lookout for certain potentially harmful ingredients, or harmful concentrations of items.
Artificial colors and flavors
Some preservatives, especially those containing artificial coloring, can be dangerous for your pet. In most cases, if the food is high quality, no preservatives will be needed to increase the pet’s desire to eat them. That being said, not all coloring and flavoring ingredients are necessarily bad for your pet. Therefore, consider checking with a vet or professional on what exactly is good or bad for your furry friend.
Rendered fat is made up of meats that are considered to be “waste meat” from fresh meat sources. This rendered meat can contain various substances that can be detrimental to your pet’s health and should be avoided.
If your pet food contains something called ‘Propylene Glycol’ – you need to stop using it at once. Although most cat foods don’t include it as it can cause serious health problems, this anti-damping substance can potentially harm other pets too.
Another thing to consider is high concentrations of carbohydrates, which can be bad news, especially for cats. Plus, stay wary of by-products – these can contain parts from diseased or unhealthy sources and can contain a host of problems for your pet.
In addition to the considerations mentioned above, do take the time to read through these things that can further affect the way your pet eats his or her food.
Natural foods are foods that contain natural sources of nutrition and have not had to go through any further chemical processes as they were made. These foods are carefully regulated to ensure that no chemical preservatives or coloring are added.
Limited ingredient foods
These kinds of foods contain one core ingredient – for example, chicken. Another way it can be limited is one kind of ingredient, such as carbohydrates. These can be useful for pet owners who want to overcome deficiency or are particular about their pet’s diet.
Some pet owners prefer to give raw food diets, including raw eggs, bones, and organs from meat sources, such as livers. However, there may be concerns about the safety of you and your pet as these sources are often susceptible to Salmonella and other microbial attacks.
Dry food vs. Wet food
Most pet owners prefer to give their pet a combination of dry and wet food in their diet. The ratio of these depends on the kind of nutrition the pet requires, as well as its age and breed. Cats often need some degree of wet food in their diet to get the right nutrients, because dry food often contains more carbohydrates than they need.
However, animals like dogs can work with both types of food. But don’t forget – wet food often contains more calories, so giving your pet constant wet food can mean you’ll need to compensate with exercise and play to avoid the possibility of them becoming overweight.
Choosing the right food
Now that you’ve read through all of the information given above, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed. But the good news is, you don’t have to make the decision all on your own. It is always a good idea to consult with your vet about your pet’s nutritional requirements.
Additionally, read through the pet food’s listed ingredients to find any red flags that may harm your pet. Many companies provide pet foods for adult and young pets, so also make sure you have the right food depending on your pet’s age. Once you have all of that information, you can always change the food depending on what is or isn’t working for your pet.