We Are What We Eat

FOCUS ON PETS

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New Year's resolutions generally include items concerning the quantity and quality of our food consumption. It's a great time to make some resolutions for our pet's better health as well.

Most agree that we are what we eat. Pet foods might all look the same and some dogs and cats will eat anything we put in front of them. But all pet food is not created equal. We have heard horror stories about what goes into some pet food. You get what you pay for, and the additional cost of a premium food is worth it. It is not necessary to buy the most expensive food, but it is important to read the ingredient label.

If the label says the No. 1 ingredient is chicken, then chicken must be in that food in greater proportion than any other ingredient. Chicken meal is chicken with the water removed.

If meat by-products top the list, it can be any part from most any animal. A food with meat by-products or meat meal as a first ingredient will be a cheap product, a dumping ground for all sorts of meat waste products. By-products might be liver and heart, which are good -- or skin and hooves -- or in the case of chicken, beaks, feet and feathers. Chicken feathers are high in protein, but are severely lacking in digestible nutrition. The consideration is not the quantity of protein, but the source of that protein. In order to trust the label, you must be able to trust the company behind it. Pet food companies have research centers and are constantly working to produce better products.

For a normal, active adult dog or puppy, a specific meat should be the first ingredient. Chicken is the most digestible, but lamb is good and beef is becoming more popular. The second ingredient might be rice, corn or wheat. Rice is the most digestible of the grains. Chicken and rice form a great base for pet food. Corn is a good protein source, but not the most digestible.

We want a highly digestible product. The more digestible the food, the more the pet is able to use and less is wasted. (The waste ends up in the back yard.) Highly digestible products cost more, but you feed less because there is less waste. A large amount of waste shows how much of the food is not usable. He needs to eat much more product in order to get enough essential nourishment to maintain good health and condition. Therefore, the difference in overall cost between a good food and a poor food is small.

Visit a pet food store, ask a lot of questions and listen carefully. Some employees know what they are talking about, some have been trained to give a sales pitch and many don't know and don't care. Ask to talk with the most knowledgeable person in the store.

The best way to tell how your dog or cat is doing on the food you are feeding is by his skin, coat and stool. A dull, rough coat with dandruff and dry skin is a sign that the pet is not eating the proper food in order to keep his insides and his outsides in top form. A shiny coat is a sign of a healthy pet.

Good health for all of us starts and ends with good nutrition.

Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at cpwrather@earthlink.net, or by snail-mail at HC1 Box 1521, Strawberry, AZ 85544.

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