No one is in a better position than you are to decide which food you should feed your pet. That may not be what you wanted to hear. You may have been hoping that someone would reveal to you the name of the world’s healthiest food, so you could just buy that and have it done with.

But pets, just like people, are individuals. What works for this dog won’t work for that one. A Pointer who goes jogging with his marathon-running owner every day needs a lot more calories than the Golden Retriever who watches TV all day. The diet that contains enough fat to keep one cat warm through a winter would be harmful to another cat who suffers from pancreatitis.

Every food on the market contains different ingredients, and each one has the potential to cause symptoms of allergy or intolerance in some pets. Every food contains a different ratio of macronutrients protein, fat, and carbohydrates and you may have to learn by trial and error which
ratio works best for your pet. Each product contains varying amounts of vitamins and minerals, and though most fall within the ranges considered acceptable by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), some may be in excess of, or deficient to your pet’s needs.

So how do you choose?

The starting place
Well, you have to start somewhere, and you undoubtedly have. Your pet is eating something already. Our goal is to help you identify the foods with the best-quality ingredients whole meats, vegetables, fruits, and grains, and high-quality sources of dietary fat to get you into the right “ballpark” in terms of quality.

Start by assessing your pet’s health. Take a sheet of paper and make a list with two columns: one for health problems, and one for health assets. Any conditions for which she receives veterinary care or medications go in the “problems” column. Other conditions that should be listed here include bad breath; teeth that are prone to tartar buildup; chronically goopy eyes; infection-prone or stinky ears; a smelly, greasy, flaky, or thinning coat; itchy paws; excessive gas; recurrent diarrhea, constipation, or incontinence; repeated infestations of worms or fleas; low or excessive energy; and a sudden onset of antisocial or aggressive behavior.

In the health assets column, list all the health characteristics that your pet has in her favor, such as fresh breath, clean teeth, bright eyes, clean ears, a lack of itching, a glossy coat, problem-free elimination, a normal appetite and energy level, and a good attitude.

If there are a lot more assets on your list than problems, and the problems are very minor, you may have already found a diet that works well for your pet. But if your list reveals a lot more problems than assets, your pet is a good candidate for a change of diet in addition to an examination and some guidance from a trusted veterinarian!

Now take a look at the food you are currently feeding your pet. Note the food’s ingredients, as well as its protein and fat levels, and its caloric content. Write all of this down, so you can make logical adjustments if need be.

Human factors

Finally, there are the human factors that may influence your pet-food purchasing decision, One of these factors may be cost. Premium foods are more expensive due to higher quality ingredients. Another factor may be local availability, although we have many great local pet supply stores in our area.

Understand that there is a direct connection between the quality of an animal’s food and his health, and do the best you can do.