How to choose the best food for dogs and cats

Choosing the right food can make a huge difference to the health and happiness of your dog or cat, but it can be a daunting task trying to determine what is best for your pet.

Signs that your pet is eating a nutritious diet include clear, bright eyes, a shiny, streak-free coat, a lot of enthusiasm for life and a lack of excess body fat – you should be able to feel their ribs and see their waist.

To help you navigate the pet food aisles more easily and choose the best food for your cat or dog, we also asked vets for expert advice on how to choose the right pet food.

How to choose the best dog food

raw, hypoallergenic, homemade, kibble, puppy, large, vegan; There is a huge amount of options when it comes to choosing the right food for your dog. Here are some pointers to help point you in the right direction.

Dog food ingredients

  • Dog food that says “with chicken” should contain at least 4% chicken, but a “chicken-flavored” product should contain none at all. Quality pet foods tend to contain more meat.
  • The higher the list of meat ingredients, the more it contains. But while the proteins in meat can be used better than plant materials in the body once they’ve been digested, a mixture of plant and meat proteins is important in the diet.
  • Try to avoid dog foods where the first ingredient listed is labeled “animal derivative” or “meal” because these are much lower quality products.
  • Some dog foods are marketed as “whole,” meaning they contain all the nutrients an animal needs, while others are complementary, meaning they must be given to your pet along with a whole food.
  • All whole foods must meet certain nutrition requirements, so your dog should get all the nutrition he needs, no matter the cost of the product.
  • Whole foods – which can be wet or dry and contain all the nutrients your dog needs to stay healthy. These are not necessarily more expensive, but there may be an element of faulty economy with cheap foods, as each food can contain fewer nutrients.

How much should my dog ​​eat and weigh?

  • Small: less than 10 kg
  • Average: 10-25 kg
  • Large: 26-40 kg
  • Giant: more than 41 kg

If you think your dog is overweight, read our guide Check your dog’s weight.

dog food quantity

The PDSA (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) recommends that the type and amount of food a dog needs depends on its breed, type, age, health and lifestyle. For example, a working sheepdog needs much more energy than a small dog that spends most of the day sleeping.

dog food cost

With some dog foods it will cost you as little as £140 a year to make sure your dog has a well-balanced diet, but others can set you back over £850.

Discover Best and Worst Dog Food Brands.

How to choose the best cat food

Gray cat eats food from a bowl

Cats choose their food based on the smell, texture, and feeling they get once they start digesting it. It doesn’t depend on taste like we humans are. Here are some cat food tips to help keep you healthy and happy.

Cat food ingredients

  • Cats are not vegetarians – they have to eat meat to be healthy because their bodies need some amino acids, such as taurine, which are only found in meat and fish. Without them, your cat could become very ill. The easiest way to make sure your cat is getting all the nutrients she needs is to feed her a complete commercial cat food.
  • Commercial cat foods, such as dog food, are categorized as either whole or free and work the same way; Whole foods provide all the necessary nutrients in the right balance so no other food is needed, while complementary foods should be combined with other foods to achieve the right balance of nutrients.
  • If you want to change your cat’s diet, you can slowly introduce the new food by mixing it with the old food over the course of a week.

cat food cost

  • The difference in prices for different cat foods is huge, with the cheapest brands we evaluated costing less than £60 a year – and the most expensive wet foods more than 10 times that amount.

Cat food quantity

  • Many companies make special food for cats, young children, adults and the elderly, so if you choose the correct age or nutritional stage, you can be sure that your cat’s nutritional needs are met.
  • Cats prefer many small meals to a large one – they “graze” and eat eight to 16 times a day, so it is best to leave the food outside.
  • But if your cat is eating a lot and gaining weight, it may be better to feed her two meals a day rather than leaving the food outside.

Veterinarians answer pet food questions

Whether you’re interested in following a raw diet or you think your pet has a sensitive stomach, we’ve asked some of the best veterinarians and pet food experts about the major issues when it comes to feeding cats and dogs.

Should I feed my dog ​​raw food or raw cat food?

Both raw dog food and raw cat food can consist of raw meat, offal, and raw bones, along with other ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, oils, nuts, and seeds.

Raw foods, especially meat, contain bacteria, parasites, and other pathogens that are usually killed during the cooking process. So feeding raw food brings additional risks to your pet’s health.

There are two types of raw feeding; Homemade and commercially prepared raw food systems. The main concern of the homemade option is whether all the right nutrients are available in the right proportions for healthy bodily function.

Some manufacturers produce raw and frozen cat food and raw dog food in “whole” and “complementary” varieties. These products help owners responsibly feed their pets a raw diet.

Professor Daniel Chan, Professor of Clinical Nutrition at the Royal Veterinary College, warns that feeding a raw diet can lead to the spread of bacteria throughout the home, which could have an impact on your health or on others in your household. Owners are advised to do a thorough research on raw feeding if it is something they are considering, consult their vet and then review the options.

What should I do if I think my pet is overweight?

There are a few quick checks you can do to find out if your pet is overweight. You should be able to see and feel the outlines of your dog’s ribs without covering the extra fat and you should be able to see and feel your cat’s ribs, spine, and hip bones.

The waists of both cats and dogs should be clearly visible when viewed from above. Your dog’s stomach should be folded when viewed from the side and there should only be a small amount of your cat’s belly fat.

“Always check the packaging for how much your pet should be eating in relation to what weight they should be, not what weight they currently are,” says Vicki Larkham-Jones, MD, a veterinarian with the veterinary charity PDSA.

Weigh the exact amount of food needed so that the puppy’s eyes are not affected while preparing dinner. If you are giving your pet a treat, give him a little less food to balance his diet for the day.

If you are concerned, book your animal for a check-up at the vet. A veterinarian’s calorie-controlled dog and cat diet can be an effective way to lose your pet’s weight.

Many vets run weight control clinics that offer regular checkups. They are often free and help make sure the diet is working and weight loss doesn’t happen too quickly.

Is it a good idea to make homemade dog or cat food?

The experts we spoke to do not recommend homemade dog food or cat food. Gudrun Ravits, Vice-President of the British Veterinary Association, says: “It is very difficult to develop a balanced homemade diet for your pet, and I would not recommend it unless you are under the direct supervision of a vet.”

Do pets need different food as they get older?

‘Yes. “It is essential to feed puppies and kittens on puppies and kittens food, as they have specific energy and nutrient requirements,” says Gudrun Ravits of the British Veterinary Association.

“As they get older, different breeds of dog will age at different rates,” she says. “For example, a Great Dane would likely have been ‘big’ before a Yorkshire terrier.”

Your vet will be able to advise on the best diet for your pet’s life stage – whether puppy, young or old – breed and lifestyle, and tell you if your pet has any special nutritional needs.

Can I give my pet a vegetarian diet?

Cats are omnivores, and a vegetarian diet is not recommended for them.

This is the same with dogs, although, in theory, it is easier to find a plant-based diet and feed your dog that will still meet his needs, says Gudrun Ravetz of the British Veterinary Association.

However, she cautioned that it can be difficult to do well, and unless you work with a veterinary trained dietitian, there is a risk of harming your pet’s health.

Should I feed my pet dry or wet food?

Wet foods for pets are very popular and usually very tasty for cats and dogs. However, they are more expensive because the recommended feeding amounts are generally higher.

You can feed your animals wet food, dry food, or a mixture of the two.

Wet cat food is usually available in cans or bags with either meat broth or jelly. Owners who feed their pets wet food should also monitor their pets’ teeth because wet foods tend to make them susceptible to dental disease.

Wet dog food is pretty much the same and its high moisture content will help keep your dog hydrated.

Dry foods are usually the most economical and easiest for you to feed and store. Dry food can be left for cats all day to feed on and is good for their teeth and gums.

Dry dog ​​food has a much lower water content, so it is not required to provide your dog with everything it needs. The best dry dog ​​food will be high in protein, low in carbohydrates and made with the highest quality ingredients. The best dry food for cats will include meat, fish, vegetables, grains, vitamins and minerals.

In general, it is best not to give your pet any kind, as this can ruin the digestive process. The most appropriate diet should be easily digested and result in dark brown, firm and shaped stools.

My pet has allergies – should I buy dog ​​or cat food?

Some pets appear to be sensitive or intolerant of certain ingredients and additives and this can cause a variety of problems.

Common symptoms include lethargy, aggressive or hyperactive behavior, chronic skin and ear problems, passing slime and jelly with stool, flatulence, bloating, and weight gain or loss.

The most common food intolerances appear to be colourings, sugars, wheat, milk, and soy. Obviously, not all pets are sensitive to these things, but if the effects continue to recur, it is best to consult your vet.

How much should I feed my cat or dog?

Always follow the guidelines of the dog food and cat food manufacturers and, where possible, weigh the food using a set of electronic weighing scales.

Remember that they are intended to be a guide and you may need to adjust the amount you feed based on a number of factors including age, size and activity level.

Discover Best and Worst Cat Food Brands.

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