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When it comes to buying pet food, many pet owners feel overwhelmed. There are so many brands and types of food to choose from, how do you know which one is best for your pet? Here are a few tips to help make the process a little easier.

What kinds of food are available?

There are a wide variety of pet foods to meet all sorts of requirements. Dry, wet, home-cooked and raw foods are some examples. Pet owners should take into account what their pet’s needs are, if they need to lose weight or be healthy, if it is a kitten, puppy, young dog or older dog and consider the right life stage for food (adult/senior).

What should you look for?

When buying dry food, make sure there is no added ingredients such as chemicals, artificial colors, added flavors or by-products. Be wary of “holistic” and “premium” labels because they may not mean anything.

When buying wet food, make sure there is no corn syrup, caramel color, propylene glycol and other chemicals in the ingredients list.

For home-cooked food, buy from a reliable source and make sure you know what ingredients are going into your pet’s food. Keep an eye out for allergies, if there is a certain ingredient that your pet may be allergic to, such as chicken or beef.

When buying raw food, make sure it is from a trusted supplier and that it is processed according to strict standards. Anyone choosing to give their pet raw food should also take into account the risks associated with it, such as bacteria.

What are some good brands of pet food?

Some recommended dry food brands are Halo, Blue Buffalo and Life’s Abundance. Some recommended wet food brands are Bravo, Weruva and Natural Balance. Some recommended home-cooked recipes are found in The Ultimate Pet Wellness Diet book, Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats by Richard H. Pitcairn, DVM and Susan Hubble Pitcher, Feed Your Pet Right by Sam Harrison, and Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, Ph.D. Some recommended raw food brands are Nature’s Variety, Stella and Chewy’s and Primal Pet Foods.

Which ingredients are not good for pets?

  1. Artificial flavors and colors, by-products and fillers such as corn and wheat gluten.
  2. Whole meats, vegetables and supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin.
  3. BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole)
  4. BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)
  5. Ethoxyquin which is a preservative.
  6. Food Dyes such as Blue 2, Red 40, Yellow 5 and 6, and 4-MIE. Food dyes are made from chemicals and have not been tested for safety. To learn more about pet food, see the FDA’s website. Also, many states have feed control laws that require people selling animal feeds to get a license.
  7. PG (Propylene Glycol)Rendered fat.
  8. Be aware that “natural” doesn’t really mean anything. Avoid meat meals, which are made of dried rendered meat and bone. It is used to make dry food because it is cheaper than whole meats but can add a lot of protein to the food without much nutrition.
  9. Do not buy from brands that use “animal digest”, which is rendered remains from slaughtered animals and can contain road kill, pesticides, euthanasia drugs and plastics.
  10. It is also a good idea to check into a company’s track record before you buy any pet food.

What are some signs of healthy food?

  1. No artificial flavors, colors, by-products or fillers.
  2. Meats should be named specifically rather than “meat meal”.
  3. Whole ingredients such as vegetables and supplements are preferable to extracts or powders.

Is it important to buy organic?

Organic ingredients can be more expensive, but may provide some nutrition and peace of mind. However, if the food is not made with 100 percent organic ingredients such as beef or chicken (which may contain antibiotics), then these meats should be free-range and free from hormones.

“Grain-free” doesn’t necessarily mean healthy, because it may mean that the food is full of meat by-products.

Organic ingredients are not allowed to contain genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). Organic livestock are required to be fed 100 percent organic feed, which means no GMOs or synthetic pesticides. Also, organic standards do not allow antibiotics or growth hormones to be given to the animals, and it is a good idea to look into how the animals are treated.

What should you do if your pet has allergies? Some common allergens in pets are beef, dairy products, chicken, lamb, fish and eggs. There are other ingredients that can cause allergies such as yeast (not the same as Brewer’s or Baker’s yeast), sorghum, sugar and corn.

Some good brands of pet food are Halo, Blue Buffalo and Life’s Abundance. Some recommended wet food brands are Bravo, Weruva and Natural Balance.

What about Wsava?

WSava dog food guidelines state that they don’t use by-products in their food, but it’s not completely clear. They may consider organs to be “by-products”, so read the guidelines carefully before deciding whether or not Wsava is a good choice for your pet.

What about Chef’s Cut?

Chef’s Cut is very misleading. The word “raw” is used over and over again, but the meats are both cooked and dried.

What about Primal?

Primal puts a lot of emphasis on their food being raw and unpasteurized, but they also include vegetables in some of their recipes.

Does this mean you should never buy from those brands? It is good to keep in mind the ingredients they use and the reputation of each brand, but ultimately you should choose what is best for your pet’s health.

Finally, avoid generic brands if possible, as they are usually very low quality.

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