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The Skinny on Pet Foods

You love your loyal companion pets and naturally you want the best for them. So, you go to the supermarket and choose dog food or cat food based on the claims that they make about nutrition and the supposed benefits to your pet. But… do you really know what you’re feeding your sweetie?

Nutrition is all important. It affects your pet’s coat, behaviour and general state of health, including how well they are able to fight off infections and other illnesses.

Other than the need for a constant supply of clean drinking water, dogs and cats have quite different nutritional needs. Let’s take a look at some general guidelines on what makes the best food for your furry friends.

First – if you have both dogs and cats, you need to be aware that you can’t substitute one type of food for another. If you run out of cat food, you can’t give your kitty dog food instead. Also, cats are quite individual and what one kitty adores and does well on may cause stomach upsets in another.

• Cats need a great deal of protein;
• Cats do not need carbohydrates – look for zero carbs;
• They require amino acids taurine and arginine;
• They need arachidonic acid and linoleic acid – both types of fatty acids;
• In the wild, cats get about half their calories from fats;
• Cat food should not contain veggies, unlike dogs;
• Cats require Vitamin A in a preformed state that comes from animal sources. It may be listed as retinyl palmitate on the label.

As anyone who has watched their pooch eat pizza off the sidewalk in despair realizes, a dog’s digestive system isn’t typically as delicate as that of your average cat.

• Dogs can live with a diet that is up to 50 percent carbs but it is better to look for high quality protein and low carbs;
• A balance of meat, high quality grains and vegetables is considered a good combination;
• About 18 percent of their diet should be protein;
• Between 9 and 15 percent should come from fats;
• The rest can be a combination of veggies and high quality grains.

The Most Important Tip – Check the Label
Look at the label of the pet food you buy, whether it is dry, semi-moist or canned (moist). You can choose which type according to your pet’s own preferences and you can always ask our office for advice if you’re not sure what is best.

• Labels list ingredients by weight or proportion.
• The first or second ingredient on the list should be meat, fish or egg (rather than meat by-products) to provide quality protein.
• Beef meal or chicken meal is actually the meat with moisture removed (often found in dry foods) and is a good source of protein.
• Look at the “guaranteed analysis” on a cat food label to compare levels of protein, fat and calories.
• Look for natural preservatives like tocopherols (vitamin E) or ascorbate (vitamin C) and avoid the chemical versions such as BHT, BHA and ethoxyquin.
• Watch out for grains, which are often used as fillers. If there are grains, they should be whole grains and rice or barley are the preferred grains.
• Avoid foods with propylene glycol, which may be used to keep pet foods moist. It is not recommended by most pet experts even though it is present in many processed human foods as well.

Young Pets vs. Older Pets
Your pet’s nutritional needs will change as they age. Younger animals generally need more proteins, calories and nutrients than adult animals. Mature animals need fewer calories and easily digested recipes.

Your pet’s level of activity will also affect how much they eat as well as what types of food. Very active dogs, for example, will benefit from more carbohydrates for bursts of energy.

Keeping an eye on your pet’s nutrition helps to ensure a happy, healthy and longer life for your beloved companions.

To your pets best health!

Dr. Gary Arzem, Newmarket’s Veterinarian

About Dr. Arzem and The North Yonge Veterinary Hospital:
Dr. Gary Arzem received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from The Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Ontario in 1989. He is the founder and head veterinarian at The North Yonge Veterinary Hospital in Newmarket, Ontario. Having practiced veterinary medicine for more than 25 years, his skills and special interests include surgery, dentistry, diagnostic imaging (ultrasound and radiography), dermatology, internal medicine, cardiology, ophthalmology and public health as it relates to pets and their owners. He is a founding member of The Veterinary Emergency Clinic of York Region in Newmarket. Dr. Arzem is recognized as an educational leader in the community and is involved with The Ontario Veterinary College, York Region District School Board, Simcoe County Board of Education, and Seneca College’s Co-Operative Education Programs. Dr. Arzem also participates in several continuing education conferences, including The North American and Western Veterinary Conferences and he is actively involved in fundraising for a number of charitable organizations, such as The Pet Trust Fund, The Farley Foundation, The Hospital for Sick Children and the Canadian Cancer Society. He has also appeared on City T.V.’s Animal House Calls and Rogers Your Pet Your Vet television shows and has written several articles for Newmarket’s Snapd Newspapers.

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