Anyone who has a pet has walked into their local pet store for food, toys, treats, bedding, etc. And so, you would know that there are a lot of choices out there for things every pet parent needs to keep their cat, dog, guinea pig, etc happy and fed. Occasionally, the store clerk will come up and assist you in making a selection, or finding just the right thing for Max or Ms Whiskers or Squeakers the mouse. Or, during your perusal of whichever isle you’ve walked down, wording (basically marketing buzz words) on a particular food package caught your eye, or the price has you speculating (though we all should know more expensive does not always mean better quality), or you’ve recognized a dog toy that your neighbor down the street has for her dog and he seems to enjoy it, after all, it’s en vogue. The purpose of a pet store is to sell their inventory. And that’s okay, that’s the idea, and whoever has a pet needs a pet store, regardless if they go to Petsmart, Petco, Hollywood Feed, or Chewy.com. But the catch is, now you have to discern what is best for your pet, and with all the variety of products, it can be difficult to choose (or difficult to break away from a product you’ve “been feeding Max for years”). Let’s get into some points of interest in regards to what your local pet store has, and the things the store clerk won’t divulge.
One. Grain-free food.
You’ve seen this phrase listed on so many packages of dog food, sometimes even advertised in commercials. You think it’s better for your dog because some humans have grain allergies. Plus, some of these are expensive foods from boutique brands so surely it must be a top-notch food, right? It sounds like a good thing, right? Wrong. Grain-free is not indicated as a medical necessity, in fact, in some studies from the Food and Drug Administration, some grain-free diets have been linked to the development of dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs. This is a condition in which the heart muscle has become weak and flaccid so it cannot pump properly. It is also not enough to add in some cooked rice to a kibble that has a grain-free formula. It’s what the food manufacturer uses in place of the grains that is the danger. Through evolution and years of domestication with human companions, dogs have developed a dietary need for grain. If you suspect your dog has allergies from its food, investigate further with your vet. Of the dogs who have allergies, about 10% of them have an allergy to their food, and that allergy is usually to the protein source (chicken, for example) which is why some allergy diets use “novel proteins”, meats that your dog has never been introduced to before.
Two. OTC flea preventatives.
They may be inexpensive, but often times, they do not work well and in some cases, can make your pet sick. It’s best to consult with your veterinarian about which products are best for your pet. And no, Advantix is not a heartworm preventative. Heartworm prevention is prescription only, please make sure your pet is on this. Fleas are easy to treat, heartworms are not.
Three. Rawhide chews.
There are so many of these on display in the pet store, and there’s no doubt many dogs like them. But you need to be wary of most rawhides, they can contain a lot of hidden calories that your dog doesn’t need and often present a choking hazard, so you should never leave your dog alone with one. And the safe chews at my vet that are designed to dissolve vs getting stuck in the throat, the doctors still recommend you keep a close eye on your fur baby if they are chewing on one. And to let you in on a little known fact, those Bully sticks that are so popular, they are actually a stretched out and dried bull penis.
Four. Bones, elk antlers, hooves, etc.
If it’s too hard for you to break with your own hand, it is much too hard for your pet’s teeth.
Five. Pet store grooming.
If your local pet store has grooming services, odds are they may only require your pet to be up to date on Rabies. This of course is to protect the staff in the (possibly) likely event that Fluffy bites them when they try to trim his nails or clip hair around his face. But having just a Rabies vaccine on board is not enough to afford sufficient protection for your cat or dog. In my state, in my area, a dog is not considered fully protected unless they have an up to date Rabies, Distemper-Parvo, Bordetella, and Lepto vaccine, and cats are not protected unless they are current on Rabies and FVRCP (feline Distemper), with the addition of a feline leukemia vaccine if they are also outdoor cats.
Six. Treats with hidden calories.
Be careful with the treats you give to your furry friend, they often contain a lot of hidden calories and fat content that your pet doesn’t need. We all know what happens if we humans eat cookies all day made with shortening and lard. We don’t want the same results happening to our pet. Even treats that seem designed for the health benefit of your pet can hide extra calories. For example, Greenies. This is a good product, if your pet actually chews it up so the Greenie treat can help break up any tartar build up on the teeth. But maybe look for the low calorie version. And remember, everything in moderation.
Seven. En vogue foods.
This follows the aforementioned point that the more expensive a food is, this does not necessarily correlate with its quality. There are buzzwords on the packages or cans that lure you in. Gourmet, Natural, Organic, Chicken “Recipe”, even the whole “Grain-free” epidemic. You want to know a trick? The next time you pick up a bag of kibble or a can, look at the wording on the label. Does it say something like “ocean fish recipe” or “chicken dinner”? Then take a look at the ingredients list on the back. Oftentimes the first ingredient listed is something like corn-meal or by-products. Not the protein listed on the label trying to draw you in. Certain words on the label indicate how much of that protein source is actually used. It’s marketing’s job to manipulate you. If a food says “chicken recipe” this could very well mean the food only contains 20% chicken and the remaining 80% are other ingredients, some of which your pet may not even need but will drive the cost up. Most of these food companies do not have a veterinary nutritionist on staff helping to come up with the formulas that contain the precise nutrients your pet needs to have a healthy diet. Having raw pet food delivered to your home or buying raw pet foods from the store is very expensive, and not recommended. You expose your pet and yourself to food-borne diseases. Your dog is not a wolf. A premium price tag does not a quality food make. If you want a food that is recommended by a doctor, ask them! Or start looking into Hill’s Science Diet, Royal Canin, or Purina Pro Plan. Purina even has tiers of foods that may not be as expensive as their top prescription diets but still offer more nutritional value that the homemade recipes your neighbor sells online…
Eight. Cat food that boasts veggies and fruits as an ingredient in your cat’s food.
Cats are obligate carnivores, not vegetarians. Ingredients like spinach and blueberries and other human-healthy foods are not detrimental for your cat’s health. They need protein and water. And dry food, as I’ve discussed at length in a previous blog post, is not good to give your cat as his main food source due to all the carbohydrates your cat neither needs nor can process in his body, leading to obesity and potentially diabetes. Canned food is infinitely better for your cat. If asked which canned food is preferred, your doctor will likely say any brand is okay as long as it is a canned food. You can also go down the path of Hill’s Science Diet, Royal Canin, and Purina Pro Plan if you want a suggestion. As a cat mom, I feed both Purina Pro Plan canned and Fancy Feast canned. And if your kitty absolutely refuses canned food, Dr Elsey’s Clean Protein dry and Zero by Young Again are preferred because they have very little to no carbohydrates in their formulas.
That light up mouse with all the ribbons? Sure, it may look really cute and it may be advertised on that famous person’s cat’s Instagram, but make sure your kitty is not the type to chew up and swallow pieces of their toys. If they have a habit of chewing plants at home or eating the ends of your shoelaces (I speak from experience with my cat Polly), then maybe getting that little toy full of ribbons and jingly attachments isn’t such a good idea. The same goes for dogs who make quick work of their toys. Just monitor your fur babies, an obstruction surgery is not what anyone wants for your pet.
So next time you go shopping for pet supplies, do your research first. Don’t rely on advertisements, commercials, claims made on the package, or hearsay from your friend. You owe it to your furry friend to choose what’s best for them because I know you love them very much.
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