I quite often write blogs about how to prepare healthy meals. But what about our pets? I have always thought, if I am eating healthy then Seymour (my 16-year-old feline friend) should eat healthy too. Keeping your cat or dog healthy starts with their diet.

Top Tips on Keeping Your Cat or Dog Healthy

Seymour supervises my blog writing

It hasn’t always been this way. In the past, Seymour would insist on eating, as one pet store owner referred to as “junk food for cats.” It took me over a year to get Seymour on a healthier eating pattern, but now it has really paid off. He is 16 years young and still jumping on counters (where he shouldn’t) and eating plants he is forbidden to touch.

The healthier foods must have really paid off, he definitely still has a spring in his step.

Recently, I was lucky enough to speak with Pete Brace, Vice President of communications and pet parent relations for Merrick Pet Care.

Pete shared with me some of the top tips for feeding your cat or dog the healthiest foods so they can enjoy a long healthy life too.

How to choose the healthiest food for your cat or dog, what ingredients should you look for?

Health food trends for pets are mimicking today’s human food trends and, in fact, all natural pet foods currently make up 40 per cent of all pet food sold nationwide. If you are looking for a “healthy food” for pets, it’s all about a good protein source, fruits and veggies, and being grain-free. And it’s all about spelling out these facts clearly on the label — “transparent labelling” if you will.

A good rule of thumb is to check what the first three ingredients are in the bag or can.

Why are healthier foods more expensive than store bought foods?

Just as pet food trends mirror human food trends, the focus on recipes real foods and high quality ingredients for pets, and no fillers, impacts the price. The good news is a lot of the healthier food options are becoming more widely for pets.

How long does the dry food last for cats or dogs? How to keep it fresh?

All packaging has a sell-by date. The shelf life unopened is usually about a year. The best way to keep dry food fresh is to keep it in its original bag and sealed closed, and if desired placed inside a pet food canister.

Also in order to maintain freshness, we recommend that pet parents avoid pouring the food directly into a plastic canister or metal container.

Top Tips on Keeping Your Cat or Dog Healthy

Psyche our family dog

Is it important to change the food every few months? Or frequently?

We encourage rotational diets to give pets a varied menu and the opportunity to benefit from different protein sources. This can be beneficial because some pets can build up an intolerance to a particular protein over time.

Look for brands that offer a variety of protein options in their recipes — for example, with Merrick you can rotate between proteins quite easily as our base recipes are the same, so your pet doesn’t need the extra time to transition between foods.

If a pet owner has an overweight pet or a pet that is used to store bought food, how do they change over the food to healthier food?

Every bag offers a feeding guideline, which is a good starting point so you can identify your pet’s goal weight. There are also some wonderful weight management formulas available today that are grain-free and offer high quality lean protein for palatability.

However, if your pet is overweight, it’s a really good idea to discuss the transition to a new food with your veterinarian and to check with your vet in case your pet has other medical issues that have to be “catered for” in the food bowl.

What other tips would you share with cat and dog owners about the type of foods that they feed their pets?

The best way to introduce a pet to a new food is to slowly transition over. For example, if you are currently feeding a chicken recipe, stick with the same protein. Add small amounts of the new food to the bowl and slowly increase the new food as you decrease the old food until you have switched over completely.

Always make sure there is plenty of fresh water available. The more water bowls around the home the better. Pet fountains are a great option as they offer pets running water replicating what they would drink in the wild.

It’s really a good idea to try and feed a combination of both wet and dry foods. Pets like people have their favorites in both tastes and textures. Wet foods contain more moisture, which is a plus in the diet. Also it’s easy to hide medication in wet food!

To find out more tips on the new trend of biologically appropriate foods, I spoke with Bonnie, Customer Care Leader at Champion Petfoods. Bonnie shared with me more updates on this new way for our pets to eat healthy.

“Biologically Appropriate” foods for dogs and cats means that the food mirrors the richness, freshness and variety of meats that dogs and cats would naturally hunt in the wild, that they are evolved to eat. This includes:

  • High overall meat inclusions
  • High content of Fresh meat
  • A variety of different meat ingredients

We focus on using local ingredients that are sustainably raised, passed fit for human consumption and delivered to our kitchens fresh. This means that our ingredients cost more than those typically used in the pet food industry, and our foods may as well.

Is it important to change the food every few months? Or frequently?

I love the idea of feeding a rotational diet. It’s very healthy for dogs and cat to eat a variety of proteins, and changing up the formulas will help prevent your pet from getting tired of eating the same thing.

Consider this: A dog’s natural diet (or a cat’s!) contains variety. They might eat a rabbit one day, a mouse the next, or a bird.

There really is no right or wrong way to feed a rotational diet. Most people choose to do this by the bag, so when your pet has finished a bag of food, choose a new flavour the next time.

Just remember that each time you introduce a new food you should mix the food 50/50 just make sure everything is okay. Once you’ve had a chance to introduce all the different formulas you should be able to change at will.

What other tips would you share with cat and dog owners about the type of foods that they feed their pets?

Ask questions! Don’t be afraid to contact companies that you are interested in and ask them to help you with any questions that you may have.

I will be using these wonderful ideas for Seymour as he continues to eat healthy pet foods.

Your suggestions are always welcome, as I continue on my journey to enjoy life to the fullest. Let’s have the very best 2015!