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The best diet for pet health

SUMMIT COUNTY – You are what you eat. We’ve all heard the expression, and some of us have taken it to heart, dropped the junk food and reached for more fruits and vegetables.

But how many continue to feed their pet friends the cheapest food in the store?

The correlation between diet and health is no different for animals, but some pet owners have a hard time swallowing the price tag for a bag of premium cat or dog food. If you are one of them, you might want to think again.



Three types of commercial pet foods are on the market: generic, supermarket-brands and premium, said Dr. Paul Veralli of the Frisco Animal Hospital.

Veralli advises against generic food because the ingredients and nutritional value are so poor.



Supermarket brands are better, but not good. They’re made with lesser ingredients – often the byproducts from the brewing industry and slaughterhouses – and processed in large batches. Though the factories add vitamins, this segment of food is still of poor quality and offers little nutritional value for your pet, he said.

Premium brands, such as Science Diet, Nature’s Recipe, Nutro and Innova, use better ingredients and take more care during processing, generally resulting in food that’s better for your pet.

Better ingredients and higher-quality nutrients equate to better overall health for your pet – a shiny coat, more energy, endurance and a stronger immune system, said Jen Marshall, certified veterinary technician at Frisco Animal Hospital.

In other words, premium foods might cost more initially, but it could save money over the long haul with fewer visits to the vet, she said.

Aside from overall health, there are some specific reasons pet owners should spend the extra dough for the good stuff, said Sheila Fitzpatrick, the Mobile Vet.

Cheap processed cat foods can be high in calcium, phosphorous and magnesium – minerals that can build up in a cat’s system to create bladder stones or feline urological syndrome, which can be life-threatening.

“That’s why it’s so important to feed a cat a good-quality food that’s low in ash,” Fitzpatrick said. “There’s a huge difference between foods on the shelf and those in pet stores.”

Owners of large-breed puppies, such as golden retrievers, Great Danes and St. Bernards, need to feed their growing dogs food made especially for large-breed puppies, she said.

The mineral content of these foods is geared for the rapid growth of these dogs and can prevent many orthopedic abnormalities that can be caused by poor nutrition.

Still, bagged or canned pet food is processed and therefore not ideal for your pet’s health.

“Pet foods evolved as a convenience,” Veralli said. “It’s the equivalent of you eating (only) from the aisle that has cans or boxes. Our animals don’t get fresh food, and that’s what they should be eating.”

Veralli usually recommends that his clients refer to books for suggested recipes for dogs and cats.

“I can tell you, unequivocally, that feeding human-grade whole foods is far superior to anything you can buy in the store,” Veralli said.

The important thing, when preparing your pet’s foods with ingredients from the grocery store, is to make sure you’re supplying your animal friend with all the nutrients it needs, Marshall said.

For this reason, some owners feed their pets premium dry or canned food in the morning and a home-made meal at night.

It’s imperative that you research your pets’ nutritional needs if you plan to make their food at home, she said.

Fitzpatrick quoted a mentor of hers who once said, “If people just fed their dogs and cats right, we would be out of business.”


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