Nutrition and You!

Does Your Pet Eat Better Than You Do?

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Megan Lokay, a 25-year old accountant, has food preferences of that a typical millennial in her generation. She reads labels to make sure that the food she is buying is healthy and eats only organic fruits and vegetables. Whatís good for Megan is good for Teddy Lokay, her 14-year old Lakeland Terrier who eats only homemade meals of fresh, cooked lean ground beef or pork and vegetables with a side of whole grain oatmeal. Salmon-flavored treats are part of his daily diet.

Since the majority of pet owners consider their four-legged pets as members of their family, itís not surprising that a Mintel report showed almost 80 percent of the adults surveyed believe that the quality of the giblets in their dog and cat dinner bowls on the floor is as important to them as the quality of food being served on their dining room table. This attitude is just hunky dory with the pet food industry, which wants to cater to this upscale trend.

According to the Institute of Food Technologist (IFT), the sale of specialty foods and beverages for people and their pets has boomed to $70 billion in 2013. While gourmet chocolate, specialty oils, and cheese were the top specialty foods on the list for human consumption, foods that looked and tasted like human foods and were marketed to improve the petsí health were the best-selling new pet foods last year according to IFT.

Believe it or not, you can now buy gluten-free food and energy bars for dogs and merlot-flavored treats for cats. In fact, pet food is specifically designed to mimic the human nutrition concerns that we are hearing in the media. For instance, antioxidants and probiotics right now are in high demand among pet owners:

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From a nutrition standpoint, are these specialty pet foods really better for the health of your pet? Not necessarily, claims Cailin Heinze, VMD, Assistant Professor of Nutrition at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. ďPet owners are being marketed to buy these specialty foods that contain buzz words such as natural, organic, antioxidant-rich, or grain-free, yet there is no evidence that these expensive pet foods lead to better health,Ē claims Heinze. ďRather, it is more important that the food be made by a reputable company that follows the nutrition guidelines for the petís appropriate life stage as determined by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and that the pet seems to be doing well on it.Ē

Rather than look to the Internet or advertisements for the answers to your petís nutrition concerns, Heinze recommends that you talk to your veterinarian. If you have more-in-depth questions or if your pet has complicated health problems, turn to a Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist for your nutrition advice. These specialists are veterinarians who have continued their training in nutrition with a residency and have passed a board certification examination administrated by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition.

Teddy, the Lakeland Terrier, was assessed by his veterinarian to be allergic to chicken and in the need of more nutrient-rich vegetables and treats in his diet. These dietary changes have made a noticeable improvement in his health. Click here to find Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist in your area.

Be well, Joan

Follow Joan on Twitter at: @JoanSalgeBlake

Photo and chart courtesy of IFT.

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