We're spoiled in Western society. C'mon, you have to admit that. And that's especially obvious when you walk into a pet specialty store like PETsMART or PetCo. There are aisles and aisles of pet foods of every kind and price. Many countries in the world don't have this much variety for the people, let alone the dogs and cats! And while this plethora of food choices allows people to find just the right food, it can also be confusing and intimidating. What food is really best for your pet? Are the expensive foods worth it? Do pets really like having bone- or fish-shaped pieces?
I have to admit that even as a veterinarian this can be a very confusing topic. We get only a little training in pet nutrition during vet school, and it's not easy to piece together the information once we graduate. There really is very little consistently published in the veterinary journals on this subject, so this can be a hard topic for vets to learn about and discuss with clients. For this reason, I've recently tried to get down to the bottom of what the ingredients mean and which ones are good or bad.
I consulted with a board-certified veterinary nutrition specialist. This is a vet who has done specialized training and research purely in animal nutrition. I asked him about the various ingredients, types, and so on. And believe it or not, I can't say that my confusion was dramatically ended. I discovered that much of what I had believed about good pet foods wasn't necessarilly true. And I also discovered that the subject is more complicated than I thought. But I know that clients don't want a long discussion or disertation on the subtleties of pet nutrition. They (and you readers) just want to know which foods to feed, short and simple. So I broke it down and asked this specialist what foods veterinary nutritionists feed their own pets.
Now before I give you the list, remember that all of the food companies are in the business to sell their products. They are going to do everythign they can to promote their food and convince you that it's the best. Everything from the commercials to the packaging, and even color and shape of the food are all directed at the people, not the dogs and cats. There is also a general rule that you get what you pay for. The reason why some foods are cheaper is because they have lower quality ingredients. The converse is true about the premium foods.
Okay, so which ones are the best? The following list is what veterinary nutritional specialists feed their own pets. Remember that these are the doctors that know more about pet nutrition than anyone else, and with that knowledge they have chosen these foods as the best nutritional quality for their own pets. The choices are based on overall quality of the manufacturing and ingredients, as well as knowledge of the companies' quality control.
In no particular order: Science Diet, Iams (especially the Eukanuba line), Royal Canin, Purina (just the ProPlan and ONE lines), and Nutro. Personally I lean towards Royal Canin and Nutro, but do recommend the others based on my discussion with the specialist.
So there you go! Nutrition does matter in your pet's health, and this has been shown in several studies. Choose one of these foods, and you'll be doing the right thing.