Essential information for your pet's diet

If you want to keep your pet fit and happy, you need to make sure you’re feeding them exactly what they need.

Sure, the supermarket's pet food aisle can be a confusing place now that cats and dogs have almost as many snack choices as humans do, so it’s good to have at least some direction on how to tickle your pet’s taste buds all the while making sure they get all the nutrients they need to stay healthy.

Dog food

It’s been a while since the only option was a tin of smelly dog food for our cuddly canines. Owners can now decide between tinned or pouched wet food, dry kibble, so-called ‘complete’ or ‘science’ diets, and even a raw food diet.

How to choose one? The best dog food is the one that your dog likes the most and which you can be sure gives them the right nutritional balance.

Dry food is easily managed and doesn’t smell as potent as wet food, however one brand of dry food may differ considerably from another. While complete food is indeed often labelled 'complete', price is also a good indicator of whether you’re buying a complete meal dry food. It will typically be more expensive than kibble, which is not nutritionally complete and needs to be served alongside a portion of wet food. Kibble is mainly used to introduce more texture to meals. See it as side dish, almost.

Many dog owners are also now trying their pets with raw food. You can make your own from uncooked meat on the bone, vegetables, fruit and grains or you can buy meals from a growing number of raw food brands.

While some owners believe a raw diet is good for their dogs, many animal dieticians warn that unprocessed raw meat on the bone leave both owner and pet at risk from bacteria. Some bones can splinter, cut and choke the animal too.

Kristina Johansen, a dietary consultant from canine nutrition advisors Elmo’s Kitchen says, “It’s not the best diet for every dog. There is no ‘best’ food for dogs – it’s an individual matter.” If you are going to try your dog on a raw diet, limit the risk of bones and bacteria by buying processed raw food from a reputable source.

Whatever you choose to feed your dog, you need to make sure you stick to the right portion sizes and keep an eye on your pet’s weight.

Resisting the temptation to drop your pup a treat from the dinner table isn’t just about keeping them at their correct weight either. A great deal of human food is toxic to our canine friends, even in small amounts. Food including avocados, onions, garlic, grapes, chocolate and milk should all be off the menu. Anything caffeinated is a no-go too. For more information on what they can and cannot eat, see our guide to feeding pet dogs.

Some dog treats are formulated to help with tooth decay, digestion and other medical issues, however do be aware of their fat content and always follow the serving suggestions. If you’re new to dog ownership and want to know exactly how best to feed your best friend – and exactly what not to feed him – don't be afraid to seek advice from your vet.

Cat food

Cats seem to have a reputation for being fussy eaters, which is rather hard to believe when they deliver a bedraggled rodent to your feet on occasions.

When it comes to cat food, the options are very similar to our doggy friends. Wet food of varying sophistication is available in tins or pouches while dry varieties on offer range from the inexpensive kibble meal accompaniments to premium ‘complete’ science-type diets.

Genetically, cats have a lesser tendency to overeat in comparison to dogs but cats can still put on weight quite easily. To keep kitty nice and lean, stick to the suggested portion sizes and don’t offer too many treats, even if they are a tool for cajoling your cat into doing what you say.

Again, most human food is bad for cats and some, such as chocolate, is outright poisonous to them. Do not offer your cat any leftovers from your plate, regardless of how much they beg! For more information on what cats should and shouldn’t be eating, see our guide to feeding your feline.

A common misunderstanding is that giving a cat a saucer of cream is a nice treat, however cats are often unable to digest cow’s milk. If you really want to give your cat a milky treat, buy specially-formulated milk for cats at the supermarket or pet shop.

As always, if you’re ever unsure about what to feed your cat, check with your vet. They will be happy to give free advice on the best food for your pet.

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