No­ticed the over­whelm­ing ar­ray of pet foods out there? There’s food promis­ing brighter eyes, bushier tails and even a hap­pier pet. But what do we re­ally need to know to make the best choice for our furry com­pan­ions? re­ports.

Whit­taker Emma

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

Are su­per­mar­ket brands re­ally any worse than the pre­mium op­tions?

Dr Mark Rob­son: Most cats and dogs are go­ing to do just as well on a cheap su­per­mar­ket ver­sion as they are on a pre­mium, lux­ury, pet clinic ver­sion.

To be sold as a com­mer­cial com­plete pet­food, foods have to meet a set of stan­dards around min­i­mum amounts of pro­tein, vi­ta­mins and min­er­als so that a cat or dog could eat only that food and be healthy.

There is a per­cent­age of cats and dogs that are go­ing to have prob­lems with cer­tain foods, but it re­ally isn’t much to do with whether it’s a su­per­mar­ket food or a pre­mium food, it is about the com­po­nents of the food.

Some peo­ple would ar­gue that if you re­ally looked you would see a dif­fer­ence. Ev­ery­one has seen the tele­vi­sion ad­ver­tis­ing for brighter eyes and a shinier coat, more en­ergy and less flat­u­lence. It’s prob­a­bly true to an ex­tent that there are a pop­u­la­tion of dogs that would look and feel bet­ter on pre­mium food than they would on dog roll but there is no proven ev­i­dence that any par­tic­u­lar pre­mium food is go­ing to pro­duce a health­ier dog over a pop­u­la­tion of dogs.

What sort of diet-re­lated is­sues do you see in cats and dogs?

In dogs the big­gest thing we see is what we used to call food al­ler­gies.

In my side of the business we see a lot of dogs with in­flam­ma­tory bowel dis­ease, which is like Crohn’s dis­ease in peo­ple.

The most common the­ory about that is that it is a im­muno­logic re­ac­tion to the pro­tein type in food.

There is a big de­bate about cats. They are ob­li­gate car­ni­vores – they ab­so­lutely must eat meat.

In the wild they would very rarely con­sume much in the way of car­bo­hy­drate. Even hon­est peo­ple at pet food com­pa­nies ad­mit the only rea­son that there is car­bo­hy­drate in cat food – usu­ally in the form of grains or ce­re­als – is that it is cheap.

What we’re see­ing in pet cats is a prob­lem with obe­sity and di­a­betes – an in­creas­ing prob­lem.

This is also partly where there has been an ex­plo­sion in raw foods. What about the raw food diet? It in­volves feed­ing cats and dogs raw foods that mimic what they would eat in the wild.

Bones, hide and other parts of an­i­mals are in­cluded in raw food prod­ucts.

The raw food diet is some­times called the bones and raw food diet – or BARF.

My col­league of­ten calls it the bones and re­duced fi­nance diet be­cause of all the com­pli­ca­tions we’ve seen from feed­ing only raw food.

The main prob­lem is that chunks of bone are in­cluded in cer­tain raw pet­food prod­ucts. We’ve seen an in­crease in cases here where bones have be­come stuck in the oe­soph­a­gus.

It’s a fa­tal com­pli­ca­tion don’t get it out.

Only raw meat isn’t a bal­anced diet for any­body.

if we

One thing I al­ways ask own­ers is: ‘‘Do wild cats and dogs lead healthy lives?’’ Largely they don’t live that long, they typ­i­cally have a lot of prob­lems with den­tal dis­ease, par­a­sites and fleas and they’re al­ways hun­gry and on the hunt for food.

But I think there is some wis­dom in hav­ing a hy­brid, so real food mixed with some cat or dog bis­cuits and things. It’s not as sim­ple as re­plac­ing pet food with raw food and hav­ing good health. All di­ets have their com­pli­ca­tions. Have you got any ad­vice for peo­ple con­sid­er­ing mak­ing their own pet food?

There are all kinds of web­sites. You would prefer­ably want to go with some­thing from a vet school.

The fresh and nat­u­ral lobby groups will have recipes and even the com­mer­cial pet food com­pa­nies will some­times.

In the United States there are nu­tri­tion­ists you could have an on­line con­sul­ta­tion with.

They’ll come up with a diet for your dog.

Have a pretty high level of skep­ti­cism about great claims any­one makes though, like ‘‘your dog will have a bet­ter life if you do this diet’’.

We do see dogs that have been on a com­mer­cial diet and they’re do­ing well and then they change to a fresh diet and the own­ers per­ceive that they’re bet­ter but there is a big placebo ef­fect. You’re talk­ing about things like how shiny is his coat.

Just don’t nec­es­sar­ily be­lieve ev­ery­thing that peo­ple are claim­ing.

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