Navigating pet nutrition

Posted: November 10th, 2017 | Columns, Featured, Lifestyle, Pets | No Comments

By Sari Reis

If you believe “you are what you eat,” then you know how important nutritious food is to our health and well-being. The same holds true for our furry kids.

As pet parents, we make the decision as to what goes into their food bowls. It is our obligation to provide them with the best nutrition that we can comfortably afford.

Twenty years ago, the biggest decision we had to make regarding feeding our pets was deciding between table scraps or commercially prepared food. Today, determining what constitutes the best food can be a real challenge as we have a myriad of options.

Walking into a pet food store can be overwhelming as you stroll through aisle after aisle of dog and cat food offerings. The packaging – displayed with appealing pictures of steak, potatoes or green vegetables – is designed to be provocative.

Complicating the situation, there is so much advertising that it is difficult to determine what constitutes a high-quality balanced diet. What is fact and what is hype?

Should we feed our pets food that is wet, dry, semi-moist, frozen and dehydrated, or a combination of these options? Should we choose grain-free, GMO-free, limited ingredients or prescription diets? Should we feed them raw food, commercially prepared foods or trending home-cooked meals?

Since more than 65 percent of the dogs and cats in this country are overweight, should we give them “light” or “reduced calorie” diets? If you have a dog or cat with kidney disease, diabetes or cancer, is there a special diet for them that is better than the others?

If you have been looking to the internet for advice, you are probably even more confused. There are thousands of articles on pet nutrition. The majority of these are written by pet food manufacturers who are often financially motivated.

Unfortunately, the articles written by veterinarians and other professionals do not always clarify the situation. The dissention between animal professionals is very disconcerting.

Some say raw is best to meet an animal’s ancestral nutrient requirements; others say raw food can make them very sick. Some say grain-free is best; others say it doesn’t make a difference. So how are we to make our way through this labyrinth of information?

Learn to read and understand packaging labels. Always look for the words “a complete and balanced diet.” Find the calorie count on the label; if it’s missing, contact the manufacturer. On the list of ingredients, less is usually better.

Become familiar with the terminology, such as what “human-grade” really means. Buy food that is manufactured and distributed in the U.S. Check for recalls. Talk to your veterinarian about nutrition. Never start feeding your pet a home-cooked diet without seeking the advice of a veterinary nutritionist.

Also, check out and The Truth About Cancer website, which offers a special series on cancer in pets and how nutrition is a huge component. Another online resource is Whole Dog Journal, which provides daily advice on pet health and care.

Hopefully these pointers will assist you in navigating the overwhelming number of options and opinions to help you make the right nutritional choices for your furry kids. For additional resources, contact me.

–Sari Reis is a Certified Humane Education Specialist and the owner of Mission Valley Pet Sitting Services. For more information, contact her at 760-644-0289 or

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