How Do I Choose The Right Pet Food For My Pet?
Charlotte Turpie RVN, Senior Clinic Nurse RVN C-SQP explains how to choose the right pet food for your beloved pet.
This is a subject we get asked a lot about during our Nurse Clinics. With so many different brands of food on the market it can be difficult to decide what is right for your pet.
Even for us it can be hard to decide what food to feed our pets. The diets we recommend are:
- Royal Canin
- Hills Vet Essentials
- Hills Science Plan
- James Wellbeloved
This is due to having received training on the products. These companies also have a dedicated Technical Support Team who can help provide nutritional advice about their diets and give advice on individual cases.
What To Consider When Choosing Pet Food
The key questions you should ask yourself are:
- How old is my pet?
- What breed is my pet?
- How active is my pet?
- Does my pet have any underlying health conditions?
- Is my pet neutered (spayed/castrated)?
- What do I want the food to achieve (i.e dental hygiene, weight loss etc)?
Some companies have created Breed Specific diets looking at providing support to those breeds we know need different things from their diet e.g. large breed dogs need joint support through growth and older age, other breeds may need support for their skin or teeth and some cats need the hairball formulation in their diet.
Other diets are developed to aid in weight loss or to help support pets with specific condition such as kidney problems, urinary problems or allergies. There are also diets designed to help prevent health problems like ‘dental diets’ designed to reduce plaque and tartar build up which causes dental disease. These diets are usually fed alongside support from our nursing team.
Homemade diets should be approached with caution as it is very difficult to ensure the diet meets all the nutritional needs of your pet. Fresh water should always be available whether your pet is fed wet or dry food.
Choosing The Right Food For Your Cat
It is important to know that cats are Obligate Carnivores so they must eat meat to ensure they have access to the correct nutrients.
Cats should ideally be fed a mixture of wet and dry food but can be fed completely wet or completely dry as long as it is a ‘Complete Diet’. Extra care should be taken not to overfeed your pet when feeding a mixture of wet and dry.
Key Lifestages Of A Cat
We should always feed the appropriate diet based on the age of the cat, taking into account any specific dietary requirements.
Cats have 3 main life stages:
- Kitten – usually from weaning to 12 months
- Young adult/adult – usually from 12 months to 7 years
- Mature/Senior – usually from 7 years onwards
There are some other key life stages to be aware of, which include:
Diets formulated for neutered males/females – designed to be more moderate in calories for after neutering due to your cat being more likely to gain weight
Different types of mature/senior diets – designed to support the older cat through different stages of maturity.
How Much Should I Feed My Cat?
When working out how much to feed your cat it is important to follow the feeding guidelines on the packaging due to this being different for each individual food.
It is especially important to check the wording on kitten food as some will feed for expected adult weight but others will give guidelines based on the kittens current age and weight.
Kittens and adult cats shouldn’t be given milk or other dairy products and don’t need cat milk substitutes in their diet as long as they are fed appropriately for their age and activity level.
Mature/Senior diets are really important and while most people know to change their kitten onto adult food at 1 year old, very few know that cats need to be moved onto a mature/senior diet as young as 7 years old.
These diets are formulated to help maintain kidney function, provide brain support and contain ingredients to help with ageing muscle mass. Some also have extra joint supports in them to help with mobility.
Choosing The Right Food For Your Dog
Dog nutrition is much more varied than cats due to variation in sizes between different breeds.
Key Lifestages Of A Dog
We should always feed the appropriate diet based on the age of the dog and then take into account any specific dietary requirements.
Dogs also have 3 main life stages, but care is needed when selecting an appropriate diet, taking into consideration their breed type and size:
- Small Breed (under 10kg) – usually from weaning until 10 months
- Medium Breed (11kg – 25kg) – usually from weaning until 12 months
- Large Breed (25kg – 45kg) – usually from weaning until 15 months
- Giant Breed (over 45kg) – usually from weaning until 18/24 months
- Small Breed (under 10kg) – usually from 10 months to 8 years old
- Medium Breed (11kg – 25kg) – usually from 12 months to 7 years old
- Large Breed (25kg – 45kg) – usually from 15 months to 5 years old
- Giant Breed (over 45kg) – usually from 18/24 months to 5 years old
- Small Breed (under 10kg) – from 8 years onwards
- Medium Breed (11kg – 25kg) – from 7 years onwards
- Large Breed (25kg – 45kg)
- Giant Breed (over 45kg) – from 5 years onwards
Additional dietary changes to be aware of are:
Diets formulated for neutered males/females, which are designed to be more moderate in calories for after neutering due to them been more likely to gain weight.
Additional dental care for small breeds – some foods design their kibble to ‘brush’ your pet’s teeth as they chew their food, others have formulations in them that help control plaque calcification.
Large breed foods – containing support for developing bones and joints during growth and support them in later life too.
Not all manufacture’s will add in these extra supports or formulations, even when labelled as ‘large breed’ or ‘senior cat’ so you should always read the packaging carefully to check what each diet is providing.
Our Clinic Nurses are always happy to offer dietary advice either over the phone or in a free of charge consult where we can assess your individual pet’s needs.
If you have questions about the food your pet is already on, it is advisable to bring the packaging with you or a picture of the front and back (especially the feeding allowance) so we can advise you correctly.