(Welcome to the weekly pet column of Pet Connection Programs Inc. of Marilla, N.Y. A new article is posted each week, so be sure to check back on a regular basis!)
Pet owners will do just about anything they can to keep their furry friends happy and healthy, which is why the vast majority of pet owners say they’re concerned about the ingredients in their pet’s food. Based on a quality and safety Purina survey conducted in 2017, 84 percent of pet owners are concerned about the ingredients in their pet’s food, and more than four out of five pet owners are likely to read the list of ingredients in pet food before buying it.
Yet many dog and cat owners are often confused about what constitutes safe and healthy food, have misperceptions about ingredients, and aren’t clear about what types of nutrients their pets need. A lot of thought has been put into the ingredients in the pet food you see on shelves and online, including many backed by full teams of scientists who work every day to create nutritional breakthroughs that will help pets of all ages live their best life.
Pet food science
A lot of research goes into developing food – both for pets and humans – and much of this innovation was born out of necessity. Since pets clearly have different nutritional needs than their owners, pet food scientists have developed complete and balanced meals that give pets all the nutrition they need in one product. Pet food companies like Purina employ hundreds of scientists to research different ingredients, combinations of ingredients and the nutritional needs of pets of different breed, size, age and lifestyle. Ultimately, they look beyond the latest ingredient fad and develop pet food based on a smart blend of nutrients that supports pets’ overall health.
When developing pet food formulas, scientists keep in mind that some pets have unique dietary needs. They also account for pets who have ongoing concerns and formulate pet food based on age (whether a pet is in the early or later stages in life). Simply put, puppies and kittens have much different dietary needs than older dogs and cats.
In response, pet food companies have put increasing resources into developing life stage-specific pet food formulas. For example, Purina’s Pro Plan Bright Mind Adult 7+ product contains enhanced botanical oils, and is a source of Medium-Chain Triglycerides (MCTs), which promote alertness and mental sharpness in older pets. These enhanced botanical oils can be used as an additional energy source for the brain in dogs age 7+. What’s sometimes lost on pet owners is the ingredient benefits, and how varied a pet’s nutritional requirements are based on age, activity level and overall health.
The knowledge gap related to food science isn’t limited to pet food. Misinformation and lack of clarity about food science techniques have prompted people to change how they eat. In the pet world, this has led some owners to develop their own DIY food plans. But despite their best intentions, they may actually be depriving their pets of critical nutrients they need to stay healthy. This is where knowing your pet’s nutritional needs comes into play.
Nutrition for your pet
When it comes to feeding your pet, it’s important to understand that high-quality nutrition starts with nutrients, not just ingredients. Although the level of research may be similar among brands, the actual formulas can be quite different. To keep your pet feeling their best, try to match their food with their lifestyle and activity level. For example, if your dog is your daily running buddy, make sure they are getting enough protein and fat in their diet – try feeding them a formula like Purina Pro Plan Sport.
When in doubt, consult your veterinarian to better understand the specific needs of your pet. They can tell you when to feed, how much to feed, and which formula is best suited to keep your pet as healthy as possible.
(For more information on pets and animal adoption, please visit www.petconnectionprogramsinc.com. Or, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/PetConnectionProgramsinc. Located in Marilla, N.Y., Pet Connection Programs Inc. is a nonprofit maternity and special care shelter founded in 1984.)