It can be mind-boggling. Our pet nutrition Q & A cuts to the bone!

Q: Home made, raw feed or commercial dog food or cat food?
A: You probably won’t have the fridge space for meat and bones, or the time to make a nutritionally balanced diet for your pet (they require about 40 nutrients mixed in the right proportions) so relying totally on homemade food is only an option for the very committed.
Then there’s the raw feeding camp that advocates feeding your pet only raw dog meat and bones, simulating the more natural feeding that the animal would have in the wild. Again, balancing nutrient requirements can be tricky. Deficiencies can lead to problems with muscle, skeleton and kidneys. Another problem can be parasites and bacteria passed on to the pet from the raw meat, and indeed to the owner (small kids and older people can be particularly vulnerable).
The most consistent expert advice seems to recommend going for a high-quality commercial food as a baseline that’s appropriate for your pet’s age and health; and then add other elements to the diet as your pet likes, including raw, meaty bones occasionally.

Q: Wet or dry dog food or cat food?
A: Nutritionally, it doesn’t really matter, they’re more or less equal. Dry food is easier to store but contains very little water (about 10% as opposed to 80% in wet food) so it’s important to make sure your pet is drinking enough – some don’t get the urge to drink as much as they actually need, so wet food can be a convenient way of making sure they stay hydrated. For older animals, that may have lost some of sense of smell, or for sick animals with loss of appetite, they may be more inclined to eat food that has a richer scent or flavour like wet food usually does.

Q: Should I feed my pet an expensive premium pet food brand?
A: Probably no need for your average pet; but maybe, if your pet has specific dietary or health problems. You should always consult your vet. Any pet food that says it’s ‘complete’ should contain all the required nutrients for the maintenance of healthy pets. But if you want what us humans think of as ‘quality’ ingredients and ‘extra’ nutrients (for example, omega 3 and 6 for joints, healthy skin and coat), then expect to pay more. The cheaper ones tend to have less flavour, be less palatable and probably on the whole have less meat products in them (like human food, ingredients have to be listed in descending order of weight, except for water). Premium brands are more likely to claim they use ‘real muscle meat’, fish or poultry as their main ingredient. Some supermarket brands (as opposed to those you buy in your vet or pet shop) use less muscle meat and make up the balance with meat by-products (or derivatives as they’re usually called) like organs, blood and bones, which are equally good nutritionally.

Q: Are there useful websites I can go to for animal nutrition advice?
A: There are lots of websites with good information, from those of the pet food manufacturers, to veterinary associations, to independent sites. Be discerning and discuss information with your vet and they can be a very useful tool.

Professional bodies/veterinary associations:

www.wsava.org – including a comprehensive guide to pet nutrition on the internet, as follows:
http://www.wsava.org/sites/default/files/Nutrition%20on%20the%20Internet%20dogs.pdf
www.petnutritionalliance.org

Industry:

www.hillspet.ie
www.waltham.com