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  • Writer's pictureColleen O'Brien, DVM, CVA

Choosing the right food for your pet

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

What you should feed your pet can be just as controversial as what diet is best of you as a human being. Everyone has their opinions and the right answer is probably some where in the middle. Anyone who tells you their way is the only way is someone you want to avoid.

So how do you pick a pet food?  


Make sure your food is AAFCO  (Association of American Feed Control Officials) certified. If it is for your puppy/kitten, it should say for growing/all life stages. If it for a full grown adult, it should say "for adult maintenance". You will find this label in small print below the nutrition label. Learn more here.

2. Veterinary Nutritionists

A) Does the company you're buying from have a veterinary nutritionist on staff? A veterinary nutritionist is someone who decided that 4 years of undergrad and 4 years of veterinary school wasn't enough schooling, and went to 4 more years to specialize in animal nutrition. If a company cares enough to make a profit off of selling you pet food, they should care enough to hire a veterinary nutritionist to make sure their food is formulated correctly.      B)  If you want to home cook for your pet and create the perfect diet for them as an individual, this is who you should be talking to! Find a veterinary nutritionist by going to: . A real veterinary nutritionist, not someone who just took some online course, will have DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) and DACVN (Diplomate of American College of Veterinary Nutrition) behind their name. 3. Feeding Trials

A feeding trial is a research team following multiple pets across their entire lives ensuring that the pets lived long and without major food related health issues while eating nothing but the studied food. Following up on my previous point 2A, the company that cares to make a profit from selling you your pet food should also care enough that they do these trials.  4.  Ingredients          A). Grain Free: Now is when we really get controversial, so I will just lay it out for you. Grain Free is a marketing scheme. The chances that your dog is allergic to grain is extremely slim. It is much more likely your dog has environmental allergies. The grain free trend preyed on consumers fears and desire to feed their dog the best. It also was riding the gluten free trend in people. Even wolves in the wild eat grain. They take down an elk, deer, bison, etc... and then eat them. And not just the breast meat either. They eat the organs. Those same organs that contain what the herbivore just ate, AKA, grain. *Cue Mufasa giving the circle of life speech*  Grain free diets have also been linked to a heart disease called Dilated Cardio Myopathy, a heart disease that can result in sudden death. Read more about the link between grain free and heart disease here.

       B) Raw. I'm not a fan of raw food, especially if you let your pet lick you and give you kisses. Raw food has a much greater chance of carrying salmonella - a bacteria that can make you and your pet sick. While your dog is a descendant of a wolf and has some similarities, its guts are no longer designed to handle the same exact diet as a wolf'      C) Other alternatives:  If you are interested in food therapy from a Chinese medicine route, there are certain ingredients/flavors that are considered hot/cold and may be helpful in balancing out your pets yin/yang. If this is something you are interested in, please contact your veterinarian so they can guide you or put you in contact with another veterinarian who has an interest in eastern medicine.



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