Like many of you, my pets are my life! Not a day goes by that I don’t get joy from my four dogs, my cat and new kitten Lily – even though she likes to get into everything! Feeding them healthy nutritious food is crucial. Just a few years ago I noticed my older yellow lab having problems with her back legs, but once we put her on a special diet her mobility improved and she felt much better.
Earlier this week John Sturm, VP of Nutrition for Petco was kind enough to join me for an interview. He shared the health benefits of choosing the perfect food for your pets, he also shared some of the latest food trends for dogs and cats, how you can determine which food is best for man’s best friend, and human foods you should avoid feeding your pet under the Thanksgiving/holiday dinner table this year.
Candace Rose: Why is choosing the right food for our pet so important?
John Sturm: “There are a lot of parallels with the human world, and I would start by – why is picking a good food good for yourself? It’s going to make you feel better, hopefully it’s going to make you healthier and live longer. I think good nutrition starts with eating good food, and it’s the same with your pets. We want them to live a better life, have greater energy and vitality, have a better skin and coat, good digestion and to maintain a healthy weight over the course of their lifetime, and this all starts with choosing a good pet food.”
Candace Rose: Searching for the perfect pet food can be overwhelming, there are so many different brands to choose from. What key factors will help pet parents determine which pet food is best for their pet?
John Sturm: “It can be complicated and a little daunting. I always tell people to go on down to our stores, we’ve trained our Petco partners in this area. They’re trained in pet nutrition and they can take your readers through that. Briefly some of the factors that we’ll look at – age, the size of the animal, the activity level, and any special needs.
By special needs, there are certain situations that require a very specific formula and an example of that would be overweight. 50% of the pets in this country are obese, and in order to get them back to a healthy weight, there are some special formulas out there that can do it. Some newer ones that have come on the market recently that actually increase the metabolism of your pets so they burn their calories faster and lose weight that way versus having to put them on a diet and making them hungry – these are called metabolic diets and they’re getting very popular.
Another thing we hear a lot about in our stores are pet parents that come in with pets that have some type of food intolerance or food allergy, and we have formulas for that as well. You may have heard of a limited ingredient diet, these are diets that reduce the number of ingredients in the food and ultimately the pet parent will arrive at a formula that works just right for their pet.”
Candace Rose: How can we determine if a pet food really is natural?
John Sturm: “There’s no actual government mandated or enforced definition of the world natural, so at Petco we have created our own standard based on our own research and input from the veterinarian community.
The first thing I would tell any pet parent is don’t judge a book by its cover. Flip the bag over and look at the ingredient list. That’s going to tell you what’s really in the food. What you should see in that ingredient list (first of all) is a high quality source of protein. By high quality, I mean a really, really good animal protein.
Secondly, we should see that there are no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives in the food.
The final thing is avoid foods that have filler ingredients like corn, wheat, or soy. You’d prefer to have your pet food with better ingredients such as sweet potatoes, chickpeas or brown rice, which are considered fillers.”
Candace Rose: What human food trends are you seeing pop up in the pet food world?
John Sturm: “What I’ve noticed recently in the human world in terms of going out to dinner is a lot more game meats on the menu – things like venison, elk and bison are becoming more popular. We’re also seeing that in the pet world.
Back to this idea of a limited ingredient diet, there is some evidence to support that there are certain animal proteins that have been overfed in the U.S., therefore leading to food intolerances in those proteins. As a way to counter that, we have formulas that have these alternative proteins like elk or rabbit or venison that don’t have those similar issues. Sometimes pets do better with those alternative proteins.”
Candace Rose: It’s easy to slip some turkey and trimmings under the table to our dogs and cats on Thanksgiving and during the holiday season. What holiday ingredients can actually harm our pet(s) health?
John Sturm: “That’s a tough one. It’s so easy to look at your pet and slip them something under the table, but it’s not always the best thing to do. There are certain ingredients that can be harmful, especially with the holidays. These ingredients (I’ll list them out) would include grapes, raisins, chocolate, onions and even macadamia nuts.
Instead of even taking a chance, what we recommend is coming down to a Petco store, pick up a good bag of healthy natural treats and know that you’re feeding your pet something safe.”
Candace Rose: Speaking of the holiday season, I’ve heard that poinsettias are bad for dogs if the plant is ingested. Is that true?
John Sturm: “There is some evidence to support that, that’s a good call out.”
Candace Rose: Do you have any additional tips or information you’d like to share with us?
John Sturm: “There’s one event going on right now in our stores that’s real worthy of consideration – we’re doing a donation campaign and we’re trying to raise $1 million to help animal shelters in need. We’ve partnered with a food manufacturer named Merrick that has a product that’s actually called Thanksgiving Day Dinner, and for every one can that a customer buys we’re going to donate (along with Merrick) one can to a shelter in need and hopefully up to a million dollars worth of food. We think that’s a worthy cause and we’d ask for support in such a worthy cause.”
Candace Rose: Where can we go for more information?
John Sturm: “Go on down to a Petco store and ask them about a Buy A Meal, Give A Meal campaign that we’re running right now with Merrick.”