Traditional Pet Foods
There are many good quality pet food brands available. We recommend pet foods by the manufacturers listed below. These premium diets contain ingredients that are carefully chosen to guarantee the highest quality and are backed by decades of research to ensure proper nutrition.
- We recommend feeding a diet that is appropriate for your pet's life stage (puppy/kitten, adult, senior, less active).
- The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a private, nonprofit, voluntary membership association that establishes standard ingredient definitions and nutritional requirements for pet foods. Individual states often use AAFCO’s recommendations to create pet food regulations.
- Pet food packaging should include one of the following statements from AAFCO:"(Name of food) is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO (Dog/Cat) Food Nutrient Profiles for (life stage)" or "Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that (name of food) proves complete and balanced nutrition for (life stage)."
- Boutique pet foods made by small manufacturers without nutritional testing facilities may not be nutritionally balanced. Making high quality, nutritious pet food is difficult. The right nutrients in the right proportions have to be included, the effects of processing and combining ingredients must be considered, and rigorous quality control and extensive testing are required. Not every manufacturer can do this.
Whole-Ingredient & Home-Cooked Diets
There is no evidence that whole-ingredient diets are higher quality or nutritionally superior to traditional premium diets. They are likely to be more palatable but are also more expensive and less convenient. And feeding a home-cooked diet can be extremely challenging because a veterinarian-designed recipe must be followed precisely and consistently in order to provide proper nutrition.
- We recommend nutritionally-balanced, whole-ingredient diets made by Just Food For Dogs
- Homemade diets do not meet your pets nutritional needs unless they have been formulated by a veterinarian who is board-certified in Nutrition.
- For balanced home-cooked diet recipes, we recommend Balance.it
- Alternatively, there are board-certified veterinary nutritionists who offer personal consultation services.
- Petfoodology: What Nutritionists Wish You Knew: 5 Homecooked Diet Mistakes & Misconceptions
Grain-Free & Exotic-Ingredient Diets
Grain-free and exotic-ingredient diets are fad diets that have been gaining popularity and are marketed as healthier alternatives. There is no evidence that these ingredients are any more natural or healthier than more typical ingredients. In fact the opposite may be true. These diets lack the long term research and real-world testing of traditional diets and may result in nutritional deficiencies and health problems.
- Grain-free diets replace grains such as rice and corn with potatoes or legumes (beans, peas, and lentils) as a carbohydrate source. Grains do not contribute to any health problems and are used in pet food as a nutritious source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. There is no scientific evidence that grain-free diets are superior to grain-inclusive diets.
- Exotic-ingredient diets use unusual sources, such as kangaroo or duck, which have not received extensive testing like more common sources such as chicken or beef, so they are more difficult to use safely. Compared to commonly used ingredients, there is less information available about nutritional profiles, digestibility and the potential to affect the metabolism of other nutrients.
- Recently, grain-free diets containing pulses (peas, pea protein, lentils, chickpeas, etc) have been implicated in the development of a serious heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in some dogs. These ingredients on their own are not directly toxic to the heart or other organs, but might indirectly alter proper heart function through a complicated mechanism that is not yet understood. If a diet contains pulses in the top ten ingredients (or multiple pulses anywhere in the ingredient list), it might put some dogs at risk for heart problems.
- Prescription diets prescribed for diagnosis or treatment of food allergies may include a limited number of uncommon ingredients, such as salmon, duck, potatoes, peas and other pulses mentioned above. These diets go through a more rigorous testing process than over-the-counter diets and no therapeutic diets made by the major pet food manufacturers (Hills, Purina, Royal Canin), have been associated with current cases of diet-associated cardiomyopathy.
- Unless directly recommended by your veterinarian for a specific medical condition, grain-free and exotic-ingredient diets should be avoided.
- Petfoodology: Diet-associated dilated cardiomyopathy: The cause is not yet known but it hasn’t gone away
- Petfoodology: A broken heart: Risk of heart disease in boutique or grain-free diets and exotic ingredients
- Veterinary Partner: Diets and Heart Disease in Dogs and Cats
Raw Food Diets
Raw meat diets and treats contain protein from an animal, like chicken, beef, pork and fish, and have not been cooked or heated. Raw diets, both commercial and homemade, are increasing in popularity, however there is no scientific information showing any health benefits from raw meat diets. These diets are not higher quality or more nutritionally beneficial to your pet and may carry risks.
- Homemade raw ingredient diets are not nutritionally balanced unless the recipe is formulated by a board-certified veterinary nutritionist.
- Raw pet foods contain animal proteins that have not been cooked or heated to a high enough temperature to kill germs. Raw or undercooked animal-source protein may be contaminated with a variety of pathogenic bacterial organisms, including Salmonella, Campylobacter, Clostridium, E. coli and Listeria as well as certain parasites. Feeding raw meat to your pet increases risk of infection for both your pets and the human members of your family.
- Many treats are also raw and can carry the same risk, including freeze dried meats, pig ears and bully sticks.
- Feeding raw bones to balance a raw diet carries additional risks. These are also a potential source of bacterial infection and if pieces are swallowed, it may result in choking hazard, intestinal blockage or constipation. Bones, even when raw, may be hard or sharp enough to damage teeth and gums.
- AVMA: Raw or undercooked animal-source protein in cat and dog diets
- FDA recommendations: Get the Facts! Raw Pet Food Diets can be Dangerous to You and Your Pet