Nutrition is the single most important factor determining the physical well-being of companion animals. Many quality pet foods are available today, but the range of choices can be overwhelming. How does one judge what is best for their animal companions?
First of all, a pet owner should know something about pet-food labeling and be able to examine an ingredient list to judge the quality of a food. Pet-food manufacturers must by law adhere to precise rules and definitions in the labeling of their products.
Ingredients are listed in order of descending content in the food. In other words, the first ingredient listed is the predominant ingredient, the second ingredient, the next most predominant, and so on.
Animal-derived protein is the most expensive ingredient in pet food and the ingredient most likely to be less-than-wholesome. It is perfectly legal for the rendered hides and hooves of slaughtered animals to be added to pet food. Such components may be identified as "meat and bone meal" or "animal by-product meal," on pet-food labels. These protein sources are the lowest quality legally available for pet food, and are highly likely to be less-than-wholesome. Not only is the source of "meat and bone meal" suspect, the rendering process itself may destroy many valuable nutrients. The word "meal" on a pet food label denotes an end-product of rendering.
The words "beef", "chicken", or "lamb" denote the highest quality protein sources in pet food. When these words appear on ingredient lists, the protein source must be the "clean flesh" of "slaughtered animals". Again, not necessarily the most appetizing cuts, but probably better than left-over carcasses or by-products.
As a general rule, we recommend feeding nationally marketed, premium diets. For dogs such diets include, but are not limited to the brands Science Diet, Iams and Proplan. For cats, we recommend Science Diet and Iams. Iams is available in most all pet stores and grocery stores.
New information suggests that cats benefit from feeding a low-carbohydrate diet. Diets with less than 8% calories from carbohydrates may be less fattening and healthier for the cat's digestive system. Most low-carbohydrate diets will be canned. Most cats thrive on an all-canned diet, eating 1/2 of a 5-oz can twice daily. A list of various cat foods with their nutrient composition is available at Binky's Page.