Choosing the Right Pet Diet | Animal Care Center

Choosing the right pet diet

Given the importance of nutrition in the quality of life of our pets, it’s worth taking the time to pick a good one for your pet. Here are a few tips and traps to avoid when selecting a pet diet. We have also included some good links to other sites that may help you choose the right diet for your pet.


Life stage really does matter – It is essential that the calcium/phosphorous ratio is right for all pets, but particularly puppies and kittens.  As they grow, poor ratios can lead to growth abnormalities and deformities.  Well researched diets that target the life stage of your pet are proven to help proper development and maintain good health.

Activity level – How much activity your dog gets has a lot to do with the diet you should use. Some pets love to lounge around. A leaner food with more protein is probably best for those pets, while high activity dogs will do well on a diet that includes more carbohydrates.

Breed – Some breeds are predisposed to certain medical issues and/or weight gain. Using a pet food that targets the specific needs or potential issues of that breed may assist in delaying the onset of some of the diseases/conditions that are more prevalent in those breeds.

Health problems – If your pet has an immune mediated disease, kidney disease or is overweight, then picking the right diet is essential. Additionally, if your pet has orthopedic issues like hip dysplasia, or allergies diets can be very helpful in improving those conditions.

Palatability – Does your pet like it? This ensures that your pet will eat enough to maintain a proper weight.

Digestibility – This is the ability of a pet to absorb nutrients and fiber for use. You can tell if a diets digestible based on stool size and consistency as well as frequency in needing relieve themselves. How well a particular pets digests one diet vs. another can vary, so paying attention to their behavior will help you ensure you have selected a diet that works for them.

Traps to avoid

Budget – Do what you can afford. There are some who purport a particular diet as the best and if you don’t feed your pet that diet, you are a bad owner. It just isn’t true. There are now over 3,500 pet food companies selling their brand as the best. They can’t all be right. It really comes down to what’s good, better and best. There are differences in diets, however, avoid getting caught up in fads that are more flash than substance. If you can’t afford a diet that might be the best for your pet, it doesn’t mean you should feel guilty about feeding your pet a diet that is a good balanced food for your pet.

Fads – Where you get your information from matters. Food labels, commercials and blogs are all great marketing tools, but they aren’t reliable sources of information on good diets. For example, variable formula diets (much of what we see in the marketplace) don’t have to list substitutes in ingredients for 6 months. In other words, they can substitute wheat for soy and they don’t have to tell you. By law they don’t have to.

There is a ‘best’ diet – Proper diets are highly situational as we discussed above. There simply isn’t a one size fits all diet we could point to as the best.  A diet that has a major protein as its primary ingredient and balanced with carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals is solid foundation for a good diet and what works for one pet may not work as well for another.

Additional Links

Comparing pet foods (Ohio State University)