Pet Food and How to Choose Them

Some of the most common questions we review with clients every day at Barrington Square Animal Hospital in Hoffman Estates revolve around diet, diet choices and which foods to feed our pets. One of the reasons that these questions are so common (and also so challenging) to answer are that there are so many options out there to choose from. Trying to make a diet selection for your pet when either walking into a large pet store or scanning the Internet can easily get overwhelming. The good news is that by following just a few basic concepts and principles you can make an appropriate choice for your pet.
The first questions to answer regarding any food selection are to review the age and relative size of your pet. The dietary needs of young growing puppies and kittens are different than that of mature adult animals and senior pets. For dogs in particular, you should also ask yourself is my pet a small, medium or large/giant breed dog.
Secondly, we also recommend knowing if your pet has any special dietary needs or systemic conditions that are better managed with a prescription diet of some type. In general these scenarios are rare for healthy adult pets.
Once you know the answers to these basic questions it is much easier to choose a food appropriate for your pet. Remember, if your pet is currently eating well, at a healthy weight and not displaying regular digestive problems then keep it simple. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. There is little scientific evidence to suggest that one variety or brand of food is dramatically superior to another. The majority of differences between foods are related to some ingredients, branding and price. In general, more expensive DOES NOT MEAN BETTER.
One misconception that we often hear in our Hoffman Estates practice is that clients are feeding their pet a grain free diet either because they feel that their pet is allergic to grains or simply that the grain free diet is “just better than the regular stuff”. As a general rule, food allergies are relatively rare in pets. In addition, the majority of pets that have food sensitivity are allergic to the PROTEIN source in their food and NOT the grain. Unfortunately, many clients feed grain free diets due to allergy concerns but then continue to deliver grains to their pets unintentionally through additional treats or table scraps that they offer to their pets. This essentially eliminates any potential benefit of a hypoallergenic diet.
The doctors at Barrington Square Animal Hospital in Hoffman Estates are concerned with a potential link that may exist between grain free diets and the development of heart disease in both dogs and cats. The research evaluating this link is still extremely new and ongoing at various veterinary schools across the country. At this time we are following the recommendations of the FDA advising clients to avoid grain free diets for their pets.

Dr. Daniel Phillips DVM

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