Be Choosy — The Importance of Proper Nutrition for Your Pet

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Bend Pet Express is dedicated to helping pet owners find the most nutritious diet for companion animals. Because many pet foods are full of unhealthy ingredients, Pet Express investigates by carefully reading ingredient panels and finding out about the manufacturing practices and ingredient sourcing.  

By constantly evaluating the latest nutritional news, Pet Express has developed some criteria for the foods they offer:

Based on high quality animal protein. Animal proteins tend to be more appetizing and digestible than plant proteins and offer a wider variety of essential and nonessential amino acids. This is especially important for cats, which are obligate carnivores. This means that they must have meat in their diet to survive, as they can’t synthesize certain vitamins and enzymes from plant sources. Dogs evolved as opportunistic carnivores and can survive as omnivores, which means they can eat a wider variety of animal and plant proteins to maintain their health.

It is important to learn to interpret labels on pet food. Ingredients are listed by weight; whole meats, while a good protein source, contain a lot of water weight. Look for “meal” high on the list: meal is meat with most of the water removed. (However in “meat meal” it is uncertain what it actually contains).

Also, it can be misleading to rely solely on the listed protein percentage. Many foods that appear to be high in protein are not—the proteins come from other sources such as corn gluten. Although both dogs and cats can eat cooked grains, neither of them needs grains for a healthy diet.

Human grade ingredients from whole food sources: whole vegetables, fruits and grains. Whole foods are the most nutritious—for you and your pet. Because ingredients are listed by weight, whole foods sometimes give a better picture of what is in the food.

Additionally, many pet food manufacturers are now realizing that phytochemicals, nutraceuticals, antioxidants and enzymes benefit pets as well as people. These disease fighting compounds can be found in whole foods. Phytochemicals (or phytonutrients) are non-nutritive substances in plants that possess health-protective effects. Nutraceuticals are specific chemical compounds in food, including vitamins and additives, which may aid in preventing disease.

As the cooking process destroys many of these compounds, forward thinking manufacturers are including them in their raw state using freeze-dried coatings and raw food blends. You can supplement by adding fresh vegetables and fruits to your pet’s diet such as finely juiced or chopped broccoli, leafy greens, peas and carrots.

No meat or poultry by-products, or meat and bone meal. The quality of by-products used for pet foods is difficult to determine. By-products can legally include: spoiled meat from the supermarket, road kill that can’t be buried on the roadside, the “4 D’s” of cattle: dead, dying, disease and disabled, heads, feet, feathers, hair, hooves, horns, rancid restaurant grease and euthanized companion animals.

No fat or protein not identified by species. Animal fat is a euphemism for a low-quality, low-priced mix of fats of uncertain origin.

Free of common allergens or cheap fillers: No corn, no wheat, no soy. Soybean meal, wheat or wheat middlings, corn gluten meal, corn meal, whole/crushed corn and maize are often used as a cheap source of protein. These products are not readily digestible and can cause allergies.

No added fiber sources: Fiber should come from human grade whole foods. Added fiber sources include beet pulp (dried residue from sugar beets) and powdered cellulose (from fibrous plant materials). It would be preferable to see the fiber source coming from whole fruits, vegetables and grains.

No artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, or added sweeteners. No ethoxyquin, BHA (Butylated hydroxyanisole), BHT (Butylated hydroxytoluene), or propylene glycol. The fat in dry foods has to be preserved against spoiling. However, foods can be naturally preserved with Vitamin E (tocopherols), Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and rosemary extract, etc. All meat should come from U.S. controlled sources. Lamb meal and chicken meal from others countries is acceptable, because it is essentially dehydrated.

Fixed Formula: Same ingredients used every time. “Fixed formula” foods always use the same ingredients. However, some foods, including many grocery store brands, are produced with whatever ingredients are cheapest and they may change from batch to batch.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as the perfect food for your pet. Nutritional needs vary by species, breed, age, health and activity level. The best thing you can do is to learn to read labels. By following the guidelines above you will be well informed in choosing several diets to rotate through that will work for your pet.

420 NE Windy Knolls 541-385-5298 133 SW Century Drive 541-389-4620, www.bendpetexpress.com.

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