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Understanding Pet Food Labels

Certainly, what your pet eats is a major source of his or her health and well-being. But how can you be sure that your pet's food is truly nutritious and safe?
Understanding the labeling on pet foods could easily be the subject of a book, so this article will provide you with an introductory overview of the basics with the caveat that you should do more research on your own.
For example, did you know that pet food labels are actually considered a legal document in the United States? And that there are federal and often state regulations that a pet food manufacturer must comply with?
Yet, they also want to make a profit, so often the ingredients the manufacturers use are not high quality or human-grade. What are some things to look for when choosing a food for your pet?
The two main rules of thumb I adhere to are that if the food can be purchased either in a supermarket or a discount department store, it may not be very good quality. And second, if there is any mention of by-products on the label, beware, as often these are the ground up parts of animals that a dog or cat would not normally eat. Some by-products however, may contain substances that can benefit your pet.
Here is a partial list of some articles I found online that go into greater depth on how to read pet food labels and I chose them because the websites are not overtly affiliated with any pet food manufacturers:

Another option that many pet owners subscribe to today is making their own pet foods from scratch. However, there is great debate about offering an all raw diet, an all meat diet or a combination of meats and fruits and vegetables. And, if your pet has any food allergies or sensitivities, these must also be taken into consideration.
So, do your research and make as informed decision as you can. Remember too, that you certainly can change your pet's diet if it doesn't seem to be serving them well. Don't do it abruptly but gradually introduce the new food over the course of a week or so and pay attention to your pet's stool and his or her energy levels.
I had a cat who adored cantaloupe and whenever she smelled me eating it, would come and sit nearby waiting for me to give her some. Did it harm her? Not that I could see. Would I have given her nothing but cantaloupe? No. But was it a part of her regular diet? Yes.
Along the same lines, my dog also enjoyed some types of fruit and initially, I offered her a variety so I could learn which ones she liked. Thereafter, fruit was included as a regular part of her diet too.
In conclusion, educate yourself as much as possible in making decisions about what you feed your pet, including finding out whether your pet has any food allergies or sensitivities. Know which foods should be avoided (and know which house plants can be poisonous to pets too!). Observe any reactions, ask questions of your friends who have pets and use common sense.

Deborah Dobson, FizzNiche Staff Writer