Your pets are what they eat, too

Editor's note: From our October Pet Package

by Lynn R. Higgins

In the documentary, “Super Size Me”, Morgan Spurlock eats nothing but McDonalds, three meals a day for thirty days.

In the end, he has liver problems, high cholesterol and depression. It takes him 14 months to recover. Imagine your cat or dog eating junk food month after month, year after year. Where do you think they will end up?

Just as with humans, it is important to make the connection between what your pet eats and what health issues they have or might develop. Now we realize and accept that some issues are hereditary and cannot be overcome with diet alone, but you can certainly maintain your pet’s overall health by feeding it an all natural diet - one that is free of chemical preservatives, coloring and flavorings.

A good diet is well rounded, meets their nutritional needs in terms of vitamins and minerals and uses real food instead of fillers. This can be achieved by feeding an all natural kibble made by a reputable manufacturer, cooking for your pet either from scratch or with a pre-mix or feeding a raw diet. Whichever you choose, do some research before you start.

Watchwords to look for on supermarket kibble:

By-products: Animal by-products include everything from beaks to feet, if you get my meaning. Vegetable by-products might be listed as bran, husk or pulp.

Animal digest: The digestive tract of an animal. No way should your pet eat this.

Cellulose: Otherwise known as wood fiber or chips, it is used to bulk up cheap foods or foods that are supposed to help animals lose weight.

Corn: an inexpensive, chemically filled “food.” Most animals, including livestock, don't do well on corn because it is hard to digest.

It is outdated to think that your animal will eat the same thing it’s whole life. Try and find two or three foods you know your animal likes and works well for them then rotate the foods so that every four to six months you are feeding something different.

This allows the body to process differently, which encourages a strong digestive system and because a dog's immune system is in its digestive tract, this becomes very important to their overall health. Additionally, by rotating foods, your animal won’t likely become bored or develop a food allergy.

Dogs and cats that are overweight are either being over fed or are not processing the carbohydrates in their food. If your pet needs to shed a few pounds, you need to address the quantity and the quality of what they are eating. If it is a balanced, well thought-our diet, your animal should be able to eat an appropriate amount, feel full and look great.

As you reassess your pet's diet, don’t be fooled by slick marketing or slow motion footage of a Springer Spaniel running through a field. Look for foods that use human grade ingredients, free range animals, organic vegetables (when possible), and those that are made by people who care about the quality of life your pet should have.

Higgins is the owner of Dizzy’s Dog Wash & Corner Store located at 512 Heather Pl. in Nashville.

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