How healthy is your pet's food?

Pets are an important part of any family. About 170 million dogs and cats are owned in the United States, and they all need to be fed.

But do you really know what you are feeding your pet?

A quick glance at the label on a bag of dog food might not cut it. If you don’t know how to interpret what is on those labels, you could run into some trouble.

For agility dogs, healthy nutrition brings good performance.

"I try to feed my dogs the highest premium quality dog food that I can afford," said Debra Smith, an agility dog trainer.

These trainers spend up to $70 per bag on food to make sure their four-legged athletes eat the best. But for a lot of pets, improper nutrition plays a major role in a big problem.

"It's actually a disease in veterinary medicine," said veterinary nutritionist Korin Saker.

Saker says a lot of people buy pet food based on the packaging, not on what’s in the package.

"They see a really cool picture... the food looks colorful... a nice cut of beef or some chicken," she said.

She went on to say that there are eight keys to look for on pet food labels – including one that she says is most important.

"The nutritional adequacy claim, which is probably the smallest part on the label, but by far the most important" said Saker.

The claim will tell you if the food meets the high standards of The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).

As for pet food ingredients, the more protein a product has in it the better. Some protein facts to remember: if a label says “beef flavor” then it has less than three percent of animal protein, but a label that has the name of the protein by itself will have at least 70 percent of that protein.

While these tips might not make your pet perform like an agility dog, they will make it healthier.

If your pet seems to be gaining a lot of weight, you may need to change the way you feed it. Saker says that you should never leave food out around the clock for your pet.
She says that free-feeding is a big factor in pet obesity, so it is best to give them the proper serving size at set times during the day to make sure that they are not getting too many calories.

REPORT #2005

BACKGROUND: You are what you eat; if that is true for humans than that is also true for our furry companions. Dogs need proper nutrition to live healthy balance lives; just like we do. And just like us, dogs need balanced, moderately-sized meals that fuel their activities, not an overindulgent diet that will expand their waistlines and put them at risk of diseases. (Source:

WHAT SHOULD MY DOG BE EATING?: When it comes to nutrition, dogs are a lot like people. They're omnivores, meaning they can live healthy lives while eating a variety of food. Meats, vegetables, and grains all can be a part of a dog's diet. Dogs need protein. Protein should make up about 18% of your dog's diet, as it should for you. Animal protein from meat and fish offers the balanced protein dogs need. Dogs also need good fats. Fats keep their coat, skin, nose, and paw pads healthy. They are also a great energy source and contain more than twice the calories per gram than protein or carbs. (Source:

FOOD ALLERGY AND FOOD INTOLERANCE: If your dog vomits frequently, has diarrhea, irritated skin, a poor coat condition or hair loss, then he may have a food allergy. Allergic reactions are most commonly associated with protein sources - usually the meat in your dog's food. If your dog has an allergic reaction to a certain meat, you may want to try a food with a new protein source - new to your dog, that is - such as egg, duck, salmon, lamb or whitefish. If none of this helps, your dog may be allergic to all of these proteins and will need a food with specially broken-down proteins. Visiting your veterinarian will help make sure you and your dog are on the right track. (Source:

DOG OBESITY AND EXERCISE: Obesity boosts a dog's risk of degenerative joint disease, chronic pain, and potentially fatal diseases, such as diabetes and cancer. If your dog doesn't have a waist, you can't feel their ribs without pressing, or there's no "tuck" in their tummy, they may be too heavy for good health. It is not only important to monitor what your dog eats, but your dog also needs to exercise to stay healthy. Although little dogs need less rambunctious play than medium- and large-breed dogs, all canines need activity at least once and preferably twice a day to maintain healthy bones and muscles. (Source:

? For More Information, Contact:

Dr. Korinn Saker
Veterinary Clinical Nutritionist
NCSU-College of Veterinary Medicine

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