I have fur children. Tiny furry people who take over my bed and demand to be fed at 6:30 in the morning. And I love them more than anything. I've had pets my entire life and am a huge animal lover to the extent where if I see an animal that needs to be adopted there's a really good chance it's coming home with me. I like to think I know a ton about cats and dogs, especially after working at a vet in high school for a long time. But I don't know much about pet nutrition....and now I feel like a bad pet parent.
It started with our itchy hound dog: a basset mix who began obsessively scratching and licking every part of his long body that he could reach. And when he couldn't reach, he would take to our coffee table like a bear and scratch his back. It was driving us freaking crazy. Craziness led to the husband researching, which led to us learning the hound likely had a yeast overgrowth because of his high grain diet. FML.
Here's what else we learned about pet nutrition that you need to know too:
1. Conventional dry cat and dog food is the worst you can feed your animal. Um what!? I had been avoiding pet foods with dyes, just like I do for myself, but that is totally not good enough. Cats and dogs need a high moisture diet. Their natural diet is 80% moisture! Eating only dry foods can be detrimental to their organs. I think this is the point where I felt like the worst pet parent ever. I had no idea!
2. Cats and dogs need a high protein diet...not carbohydrates. This is more logical, but most dry pet foods have corn, soy and rice as the number one and two...and sometimes more...ingredients on the label. I'm so guilty of buying this food. I was even feeding the hound dog a home made mixture of rice, carrots, green beans and chicken for his old teeth! More carbs. More pet parent shame. I immediately went and found a grain free pet food.
3. The best thing you can feed your pet is a home made wet food, BUT... Okay listen. We honestly researched what we would need to do to make our pets wet food at home. We did a cost analysis. A time analysis. Product analysis for vitamins and meat grinders and picked a scientifically nutrition approved recipe. But the bottom line is it's expensive and takes a ton of time and freezer space. It's just not feasible for us during a house renovation right now.
So what we ended up doing: The husband and I both agreed that we definitely needed to change what we were feeding the fur children. Just like with humans, yes, it's more expensive to feed your pets healthier food but it will pay off in health savings later. After having two childhood cats that had diabetes and kidney problems (now we know related to dry food), I would absolutely die if I let that happen to these guys.
The Hound: The hound dog now gets a low glycemic, grain free lamb dry food from Costco with lightly cooked chicken thighs. Since he's a little old man (born pre-2000), we didn't want to radically change what he was eating and what he's used to. We don't think he would go for a raw wet diet. But we do add in chicken.
The Felines: The Fifis are being switched to an all wet food diet with occasional grain free crunchies (Costco brand) at night. The wet food is Buju and Ziggie brand from Wegman's which is produced in the US and Canada. Avoid buying any kind with 'gravy' because that's just carbs. The cats will also get lightly cooked chicken periodically.
What we've noticed so far a few weeks in is so worth it. The cats seem much happier and brighter. The dog has significantly reduced his hound dog itching (not stopped but better). My shame is less although I still feel pretty bad I didn't know this earlier.
Are you a pet parent? What do you feed them?
Dietitian Nutritionist. My husband Chris and I create food and beverage photos, videos, stopmotions and recipes. And they're really cool.