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This post containing Tips For Helping Your Pets Eat Right Around The Holidays is sponsored by Purina. Please note that, as always, any personal opinions reflected in this post are my own.
I can’t believe Thanksgiving is almost here. I can’t believe we’re at the beginning of the holiday season! Where has the year gone! Not only does the holiday season signify the passing of another 12 months, it also signifies birthdays for loved ones that mean the world to me – my oldest son, my Dad, and my dog Dobby. My son and father are old enough to make their own informed decisions regarding what they eat. While Dobby can do many things including recognize a package, he is still unable to read ingredients and research information about food. And so it falls to me to be informed about his pet food.
On the day I first met and fell in love with Dobby, it immediately became clear he wasn’t being fed properly. It’s one of the reasons I knew I had to bring him home. That first week, when we took our first trip to the vet, I learned that Dobby was a mere 4.5 pounds. And, he was not as old as I’d been told. Those two things made the need for him to have good nutrition super important. I spoke with the vet, spoke with people I knew that had dogs, and read lots of info online before selecting a food. With a little time, my tiny Dobby finally got to a healthy size and weight. He’s been able to maintain that as I still pay close attention to what he eats. With the holiday season upon us I have to be prepared, because it’s actually pretty easy for your pet to wind up eating the wrong things.
Who better to ask how to give your pet the best nutrition around the holidays then a veterinarian. I had the opportunity to do exactly that this past week. And I didn’t ask just any vet. I asked People Magazine’s Pet Vet Dr. Evan Antin, the man named named People Magazine’s “Sexiest Veterinarian” in both 2014 and 2016.
When he’s not traveling to the most exotic places on the planet to work with wildlife, Dr. Evan Antin is a veterinarian at the Conejo Valley Veterinary Hospital outside Los Angeles, California. Dr. Antin received his undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Colorado, and his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University. He lives in Agora Hills, California with his fiancée, his dog, Henry, his cat, Willy, his savannah monitor lizard, mangrove snake and an assortment of tropical freshwater fish.
I know people that give their dogs table food all of the time. We don’t give Dobby table food ever. I’ve had people offer Dobby table food, telling me “My Mom fed our dog table food for years and it was fine”. That may be the case. In the same way that people can eat different things and have different results, its the same with pets. In addition, there are human foods that just aren’t good for dogs. Steak may have onion or garlic, or be fatty. Grapes are toxic.
Tip #1: Avoid giving out table scraps. The great foods we enjoy at our table, especially around the holidays, contain a lot of oils and fats that can lead to health problems in our pets such as diarrhea, vomiting and pancreatitis. Additionally, there are several people foods that are highly toxic to dogs like onions and garlic. My advice is to stick to foods and treats that are made specifically for your pet.
Some people are into “fad” diets. There are pet food fads as well. One of the biggest misconceptions out there right now is that grains are bad. That isn’t necessarily true. Grains are a good carbohydrate source and offer some additional nutrients, and in the cases of most dogs are tolerated without issue. Furthermore, a growing number of people are offering their pets a raw diet, which isn’t always encouraged. Others are making their own pet food, which also has its pitfalls. The pro of making your own pet food is that you know what’s going in the food. The two big cons of making your own pet food are that it’s a lot of work to make, and that it very well might not contain proper nutrients and vitamins.
Tip #2: Understand the importance of a healthy and balanced diet. Quality diet and nutrition is essential to helping pets live long, healthy lives. However, many pet owners are not aware of what this consists of and look to the latest human and pet food trends to help them make decisions about their pet’s food. The truth is, pets aren’t humans, and so there’s a lot more that goes into choosing pet food from individual pet needs to finding quality food with the right ingredients. Speak to your veterinarian to determine the best nutritional approach for your pet.
Place ten cheesecakes on a table and you will have ten different experiences. The same thing will happen with ten different people making any one dish. Not all ingredients are equal so reading the label is important. Ideally the first ingredient in your pet’s food should be a protein or animal product.
Tip #3: Do your research on ingredients. The most important aspect of pet food is whether it provides a complete and balanced nutrition for pets. Pet owners should have a good understanding of the ingredients used in their pets’ food – such as grains and by-products – and the benefits they bring. For example:
• Grains: Dogs aren’t wolves, they’re omnivores. This means they’ll need a vegetable-based or a lower-protein diet as part of a complete and balanced diet. Research has shown that grains deliver more complete nutrition than the ingredients typically used to substitute for grains.
• By-products: Many pet food manufacturers use high-quality by-products – such as beef, chicken or pork that may include hearts, livers, kidneys, lungs and spleens. Cats and dogs in the wild typically eat these organs first because they are highly palatable and nutrient-dense.
• Raw: Some people believe pets should eat a raw food diet because it’s allegedly more like what they would eat in the wild. However, raw pet food may not provide all the nutrients pets need and can contain dangerous bacteria when food safety regulations aren’t met.
• Natural and organic: Although pet foods labeled as natural, organic and/or holistic are increasingly popular, the use of these terms can be misleading or confusing. Natural and organic foods are not necessarily healthier than conventional foods.
Not only should you research the food you’re feeding, research the company as well. You should know if the company has good qc and testing procedures, and if they involved in diet or food research.
Tip #4: Check the quality and safety of pet food. Eight in 10 (81%) pet owners either have reached out or want to reach out to a source of information about their pet’s food, but 41% of those who want to reach out don’t know where to look for this information. Pet owners should research the quality and safety standards of their pet food and know who makes it, where it’s made, the steps taken to ensure the quality and safety of their food, and if their food meets or exceeds FDA and AAFCO standards. They can do this by contacting or checking their pet food manufacturer’s website or speaking to their veterinarian for recommendations.
One other topic we discussed was the actual act of feeding itself. In regards to how much food to feed, start with quantity on the package and gauge from there as metabolism varies from pet to pet. Keep the amount of activity the pet gets in mind. A dog that is burning a lot of calories will eat more, whereas a dog that is a couch potato won’t have a big appetite and doesn’t need to eat as much. For folks feeding both healthy weight and overweight pets together, a timed feeding may work better then free feeding, and separating the animals may also help.
I also asked if there is any need to change dog foods with a change in season. For example, if it’s a really bad winter and a dog can’t get the same amount of outdoor exercise due to precipitation, I wondered if changing the food might be in order. Dr. Antin said that wouldn’t be a bad idea if the weather and environment call for it. He did say that in those circumstances, it would likely make more sense to cut back a little on food rather then change the diet completely. You could supplement by feeding more veggies like raw carrots, which help with dental work because the hard crunchiness helps loosen other things in the teeth.
To learn more about nutrition, quality and the safety of pet food, please visit, www.purina.com/nutrition.