Are all pet foods created equal? Absolutely not! There is an old saying you are all familiar with - you get what you pay for! This is especially true with pet foods. As a general rule of thumb, the higher price the food is per pound, the higher quality are the ingredients, and the better the food is for your pet.
But what about all the percentages listed on the bags? These figures may look good, but they can be misleading. For example, the percentage protein listed does not consider the digestibility of the protein. So although the high-priced food and the bargain-basement food may both say 23% protein, the former is probably 90% digestible, while the latter is usually an inferior protein (plant based) that is poorly digested. (The current testing will give a 20% protein rating to a batch of ground-up leather boots - hardly a quality diet for your favorite friend!)
So what should I feed my pet? Stick with quality brand names - stay away from local-produced foods and generic brands. If in doubt definitely ask your Veterinarian! Although you do not necessarily need to feed the most expensive foods (unless you have a show or performance pet), the higher-priced foods are definitely higher quality and better for your pet.
OK, so now I have a quality food - how much should I feed? This answer can be difficult and hard to enforce. But please, do NOT kill your pet with kindness! This sounds terrible, but I see it happen all the time! Overfeeding will cut years off his/her life span. We definitely discourage free-choice feeding (leaving the bowl full all the time); and encourage once or twice daily meal times. Each meal should be a measured amount of food that will keep your pet at a healthy weight. Overindulging your pet and letting him eat as much as he desires will definitely cause obesity. And contrary to popular opinion, your pets will love you just as much if you limit the daily intake - in fact they will love you for more years than you can imagine!
How about treats? As long as your pet readily eats a proper portion of dog/cat food daily, a few treats or snacks are perfectly OK. But remember, you cannot balance a diet with people food or dog biscuits. If these become a major component of the daily diet, nutritional disorders will develop! Table foods lack the necessary vitamin/mineral balance necessary for a pet, meats are too high in potassium and too low in calcium (ever heard of osteoporosis?), and dog biscuits are loaded with fattening calories. Little bits of all these are all right, but excesses will cause problems! Fruits and vegetables, cooked or raw, make excellent snacks, and many pets develop a real taste for these healthy tidbits. (The main exception is onions - they can be extremely toxic whether cooked or raw, so no onions!)
Reprinted by permission of Kingman Animal Hospital