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The Importance of Pet Nutrition

Flint River Ranch

by Charlotte Biggs, CKO
Stay N Play Pet Ranch, Inc.®

Charlotte owns and operates Stay N Play Pet Ranch, Inc.® an all natural and ‘green” full service pet care facility, she and business partner Betty Gale built twelve years ago just outside of Austin, in Dripping Springs, Texas. They have successfully operated their pet care facility with a passion in providing just the best of care possible for the pets that come into their care. With this same passion for the well being of each individual pet, they have been devoted in providing the pet’s owners information and education on the most effective ways they can help their pets live a long and healthy life.

Charlotte has been active in the pet care industry, having been a board member and past board president for PAWS Shelter and Humane Society and past board member and board president for Pet Care Services Association.

Why is it important to feed your pet a high quality food?

It’s important because one definite way any pet owner can affect the longevity and quality of life for their pet is by providing the highest quality food they can. The quality of the food you feed makes a direct difference in your pet’s health. Quality is the key word, quality of the ingredients that go into the making of the pet food you feed. The old saying “You are what you eat” applies to our pets in the same ways as it does for ourselves. Better quality foods made with better quality ingredients provide a better quality of life. The result is fewer skin conditions, less itching, fewer ear infections, shinier coats, less inflammatory bowel disease, better muscling and muscle tone, stronger bones, more energy, better temperament and other immediate physical benefits of better nutrition. Dogs are happier and feel better overall.

Better nutrition, provides an overall boost in the immune system and improved health over the long term with less stress on the pet’s organs. The kidneys and liver have to work very hard to remove toxins such as chemicals, preservatives, dyes and other non-supportive elements of the pet’s food out of their body. At the same time their body is working so hard to remove these, they are working from a sometimes malnourished state because the food they’re eating is full of fillers or by-products that make them feel full but does not provide the nourishment needed for a healthy body. When the body’s not healthy, the mind is distracted by not feeling well and the spirit of the pet can be compromised because it just does not feel as well as it could or should.

What makes a food high quality?

Feeding a higher quality food leads to a longer and healthier life for most pets, with lower veterinarian bills. The cost of the higher quality food over the life of the pet will be off-set by lower veterinarian bills and reduced risk of health issues that are a result of improper nutrition.

Higher quality foods are foods that contain meat and/ or meat meal. There’s usually a carbohydrate source in the higher quality or premium foods, but minimal grains. The best of the high quality or premium foods contain human-grade ingredients, all natural Omega 3 & Omega 6 fatty acids. What you want to avoid is corn, wheat and soy components that are often used as fillers and sometimes found to be the first allergic component when a pet presents with an intolerance or allergy to their food. There should be no by-products, no fillers, no chemical preservatives, no artificial colors or flavors.

With a higher quality food the pet gets better nutrition through better digestibility; which means he’s getting more of and better quality of what the body can use. It’s important to know the difference in digestible protein versus crude protein. Lower quality foods may add crude protein such as chicken beaks, cow hooves, goat hair, any and all sources of protein but not necessarily digestible protein, which means it, passes through in the stool with no nutritional benefit to the pet. Meat sources of protein versus cereal grain sources of protein are also important as dogs and cats are carnivores with a digestive system geared toward meat, not corn, wheat or soy.

Some less expensive or lower quality brands will add sugar or artificial flavorings to make their food more palatable. With higher quality pet foods palatability is better, they taste good naturally; reducing the amount of artificial chemicals or inappropriate ingredients such as sweeteners for the body to process.

There is no one type or brand of food that’s best for all pets. Each pet’s age, medical condition (diabetic, epileptic, arthritis, cancer, pregnant. . .), immune system (allergies, hot spots, itching, weepy eyes . . .) and lifestyle (a working dog, or competitively active sports dog versus a family pet) needs to be considered in selection of type of food to provide. Depending on your pet it is important to talk with your veterinarian about what the food source such as the protein should be; red meat versus white meat or fish based and what percentage of carbohydrate it should have, as seen with diabetics or compromised kidney function pets. The key here is again ensuring that whatever the veterinarian recommended food is, that it be of a high quality and not have elements in it that may tax the body in a different way.

There are many more high quality foods available today than ten years ago, primarily because of consumer demand by the pet owning public based on their overall increased awareness of the affect of foods on their pets life. When cost is a concern, we can consider that the more digestible the food is the less volume of food you feed, so the bag of food at the higher cost will last longer. The more palatable a food is the less waste you have, so there’s less thrown out because the pet didn’t eat it. A healthier pet results in lower veterinarian cost. Increased longevity and quality of life is priceless.

Is it really worth the expense?

My recommendation to pet owners is to read the label and feed the highest quality food they can afford. They may not be able to feed just the very best, but by reading the labels and getting away from preservatives, by-products, chemicals and fillers they can make life just a little bit better for their pets.