(by Dr. Iuliana Mihai, DVM) When dealing with picky fluffs, they may not want to eat their usual food anymore. Or, maybe they just feel the need for a change in their diet. The food we choose for our pets should be healthy and offer your pet balanced and quality nutrition. It helps if its tasty too!
If you really love and care about your pet, you have to give it the best food, and that's because its diet depends, for the most part, on its health. There is a wide variety of dog and cat food on the market, and to know which is the best, you need to consider some significant details, including the animal protein it has in its composition. In addition, the best food for your pet depends on its age, its size (when it comes to dogs), its breed, daily exercises, and, last but not least, its state of health (i.e. sick animals may follow special diets).
Changing your pet's diet is not something to rush, however, especially when you bring a new pet home. If you see stray animals eating from the trash, you may be tempted to think they have an iron stomach! The reality, however, is that they have a surprisingly sensitive digestive system, and sudden changes in food can disturb their gastrointestinal tract.
What a Dog or Cat Should Eat
The best pet food should contain a few essential nutrients, namely protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.
- Protein - these are essential for growth and muscle development and are found in meat and meat by-products, such as organs, skin, or bones, and can come from chicken, turkey, duck, beef, pork, lamb, game, or fish.
- Fats - represent the main source of energy and help your pet's organism to assimilate vitamins and minerals. Omega-3 and 6 essential fatty acids are part of this category; they are found in fish and vegetable oils and have remarkable benefits in your pet's diet.
- Carbohydrates - contain sugar and fiber and provide not only energy to your pet, but also help the proper functioning of the digestive system. They are found in vegetables, fruits, and grains. In cats, they are not a fundamental part of their diet, but they are still a source of energy. Also, prebiotics (soluble fibers) help maintain the health of the intestines, while insoluble fibers support normal intestinal function and good stool quality.
- Vitamins and minerals - help maintain health, and their lack in a diet can lead to vitamin-mineral deficiencies. In addition to those found in food, dogs and cats will need vitamin and mineral supplements depending on age and development, especially in kittens or puppies and senior pets.
Choosing the Flavor of Your Pet's Food Based on the Protein Benefit
Choosing the right food for your companion is never an easy task, largely because there are hundreds of brands and specialties on store shelves. There are so many options: food for seniors, for kittens, for dogs or cats with various diseases, different quantities, ingredients used, flavors, and price.
When it comes to ingredients, and especially animal protein, there is a wide range of products with various flavors.
Pork - this protein is used in dog food, and it doesn't represent a very popular choice. In general, this type of meat should be avoided when cooking for your dog because if the meat has Trichinella spiralis (a parasitic worm with intracellular localization), and is offered raw or undercooked, there is a risk that the dog will develop trichinosis.
Pork is a nutritious and very pleasant (tasty) source of protein and, when fed as part of a balanced and complete diet, is a good ingredient in dog food. It is a rich source of vitamins and minerals, containing: thiamine (vitamin B1), selenium, zinc, cobalamin (vitamin B12), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), niacin (vitamin B3), phosphorus, and iron.
Game – this protein is used in dog and cat food. Not all pets prefer game meat (as is the case with chicken). It is very rich in iron and contains high levels of vitamin E, zinc, vitamin B6, selenium, and beta carotene. It also has high phosphorus content that helps maintain healthy bones and kidneys. Game meat contains more phosphorus than fish meat.
It has the great advantage that it is a 100% natural meat, without growth hormones, antibiotics, pesticides or insecticides. It has the highest amount of protein and the lowest cholesterol level, being indicated for animals that are prone to fattening or heart disease. It has an increased palatability, and the taste of game meat is much more intense than any other meat.
Fish – this type of protein is often preferred by cats, but there are also dogs that eat wet or dry fish-flavored food. Fish meat has low allergenic potential, being a hypoallergenic meat. This protein is ideal for animals with intolerance to other types of protein, such as beef, poultry, or pork, and for animals with sensitive stomachs.
For example, cod meat contains a high amount of tryptophan, selenium, and proteins with high digestibility. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid involved in building muscle mass and in the well-being of the organism (it is the precursor of serotonin, the hormone of happiness). Fish meat also contains vitamins such as D and B2 (riboflavin), calcium and phosphorus, and is an excellent source of minerals (iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium, and potassium).
Fish also has a high content of good fats - omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, which have multiple effects on the whole body, such as providing protection of the nerve cell against degradation, lowering cholesterol, normalizing blood pressure, preventing cardiovascular disease, lowering blood sugar and preventing diabetes, reducing joint inflammation, maintaining the health of the skin and mucous membranes (respiratory, digestive, and urinary), ensuring the shine of the fur and reducing its excessive loss, and preventing cellular aging.
According to the Cancer Council Australia, eating fish can have protective effects against cancer and is linked to a reduced risk of bowel and liver cancer. (1)
Beef – This type of protein is more preferred by dogs, but there are also cats that eat wet food with beef. It is a rich source of L-carnitine, has a high protein content, which helps develop muscle mass, a high mineral content, and contains carnosine, a strong amino acid. This type of meat also helps prevent iron deficiency anemia.
The addition of organs to animal feed increases the nutritional value of the ration due to the vitamins and minerals that abound in these products. The liver is an organ that has three times more iron than the meat itself, which is why the liver is an important food in the prevention and treatment of anemia.
Lamb – this type of protein is most often found in dog food rather than cat food. Lamb meat has a high biological value due to its rich protein content with increased digestibility and assimilation. It brings significant amounts of vitamin B12 into the body that is needed to form the red blood cells and prevent anemia. Vitamin B12 also maintains a healthy nervous system and has a role in the metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
A mineral that is found in abundance in this meat is zinc, which supports the immune system and normalizes blood sugar by reducing the risk of diabetes. It is also rich in iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and omega 3 acids.
Duck – this type of meat has a very low allergenic potential, which is why it is a good choice when your pet is allergic to other types of animal protein. It is very rich in iron and is part of the red meats. The most found nutrient in duck meat is vitamin B, especially B12, which is crucial for the formation of red blood cells (like iron). It is also rich in glycine, an amino acid that plays an important role in skin health.
Turkey – this type of meat is suitable for animals that are not sensitive to this protein. Turkey meat is low in cholesterol and rich in vitamins B6, B12, B3, as well as essential minerals: iron, zinc, selenium, phosphorus, and proteins that support the immune system and the proper functioning of the body. It is also rich in tryptophan.
Chicken – wet or dry food that contains chicken is contraindicated in pets that are sensitive to this protein because it can cause severe gastrointestinal and/or dermatological disorders. Chicken
meat contains all the essential amino acids, vitamins (complex B and D), minerals (iron, zinc, selenium, chromium, and copper), and fats. Except for the liver, this type of meat does not contain carbohydrates, fiber, or vitamin C.
Spring Naturals - Smart Pet Nutrition
Only all-natural, fresh proteins complimented by whole fruits and vegetables make the cut for the handcrafted recipes at Spring Naturals. A healthy protein, low-carb, low-glycemic diet is optimal for a long and healthy pet life. Spring Naturals is the original high-protein kibble to be certified low-glycemic.
Our foods are offered in a variety of delicious and nutritious proteins to choose from, including turkey, chicken, tuna, lamb, and salmon, so you can choose the recipe that best fits your pets' nutritional needs. Visit SpringNaturals.com to browse our selection of dinners for dogs and cats.
Dr. Iuliana Mihai, DVM, Masters In Small Animals And Equines Pathology
Iuliana graduated from the University of Agronomical Sciences and Veterinary Medicine in 2012, Romania. She has a Master’s degree in Small Animal and Equines Pathology and a strong affinity for Veterinary Parasitology and Laboratory. In 2013 she started her Ph.D. in epithelial cancer in dogs and cats. She volunteered at the faculty’s clinic at her 3rd year of study, and continued her career in small animal pathology and laboratory. She has one cat and eleven rats. Her interests outside of work include traveling, writing, and crafting.