Premium Edge Pet Food

FAQ: FEEDING & NUTRITION

Feeding & Nutrition

Why are carbohydrates important?

Carbohydrates are one of the 6 nutritional components of food. The others are: water or moisture, fat, protein, ash and fiber. The sum of all these components must equal 100%. Carbohydrates provide energy to your pet. There are fast burning sources of carbohydrates that provide quick energy (think sugar) or slow burning sources of carbohydrates that provide long lasting energy (think carb loading before the big race). Now, pets really do not have a requirement for carbohydrates in their diet except for pregnant or nursing dogs. However, if you do not have any carbohydrates in your food, this nutrient must be replaced by something else and it would be impossible to make a dry pet food without ANY carbohydrates.

What is the difference between puppy and adult dog food?

Sometimes there really is not any difference between puppy food and adult food. There are many foods available that are labeled “For all life stages.” The recognized life stages of dogs are: growth, gestation, lactation and maintenance. So, puppies fall into one group, pregnant females into a second group, nursing mothers into a third group and EVERYBODY else into the fourth and final group.

Just because there are foods out there that can meet the needs of all life stages, feeding a puppy formula to a puppy and an adult formula to an adult and a senior formula to a senior, will offer nutritional benefits to your pet. Not to mention the fact that most bags do not have a feeding guide for puppies unless the food is specifically labeled as a puppy food, so you will have to either contact the company or do some guessing as to how much food to feed as your puppy grows and develops.

Puppy formulas often contain DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that comes from fish oil. It is a critical nutrient and helps promote the proper development of the brain and the vision in puppies.

Puppy formulas are often higher in protein and fat than normal adult dog diets. This is because puppies have a higher energy requirement than do adult dogs. If you feed a diet that has lower protein and fat content, the calorie content will also be lower. This means that you will have to feed a larger quantity. For rapidly growing puppies, with high calorie requirements, you might find that you are feeding such a large volume that the puppy can’t digest it and has diarrhea or large, soft stools.

Puppy formulas often have added antioxidants. Antioxidants are well known as important nutrients for aging animals, but puppies actually have a higher requirement for antioxidants than do adult dogs. The reason goes back again to their higher calorie intake. When food is metabolized, free radicals are released into the blood stream. These free radicals do damage to healthy cells. The more energy that has to be metabolized, the more free radicals are released. Antioxidants combat the free radicals, neutralizing them and protecting the healthy cells.

Sometimes puppy foods are a bit more digestible than adult formulas, to make it easier for the immature digestive system of a puppy to process the food.

Puppies require higher levels of minerals in their diet as well. Since puppies eat so much more food than adults of the same size, they usually can meet their needs simply with this increased volume. However, puppy formulas will often have higher levels of calcium and phosphorus than adult formulas because the calories are higher, feeding amounts lower and the specific stage of growth is being targeted by the food in that bag.

You don’t have to choose a puppy formula for your puppy, but it will make things a lot easier on you and is a wise nutritional choice for your puppy if you do.

What is the best way to store my pet food?

Our foods remain freshest when stored in a cool, dry location. The food can be stored in the bag, but make sure to protect it from pests that may be attracted to the food (or hungry pets that may take an extra meal). Many customers choose to dump the food into a bin or container. This is certainly a reasonable way to store the food, but make sure to follow these simple steps:

1. Finish all of the food from one bag before adding another bag into the bin. If you have a small amount left, you can transfer it to a plastic bag so that you can proceed to step #2.
2. Wash the bin with hot, soapy water and dry thoroughly before adding a new bag of food.
3. Cut out the production code and “best before” information from the bag and tape it to the top of the bin so that if you have any questions or concerns, you can provide this information to the customer support department.
4. Store the bin in a cool, dry location. Extreme heat can cause the food to spoil and excessive moisture can lead to mold growth in the bin.
What is ash and why do you put it in your pet foods?

Ash is the non-combustible portion of the diet. This means that when a sample of the food is burned in a special oven called an ash oven, the portion that remains is ash. Just like a fireplace, but much hotter and more controlled. We do not add an ingredient called ash to the food, but our foods (and all other pet foods out there as well) do contain ash.

Ash comes primarily from the bone content of the dry protein ingredients, such as chicken meal. Chicken meal is made from chicken meat and bone and is a natural source of essential minerals. Dry protein ingredients such as chicken meal typically contain 70% protein (fresh meats are only 20-25% protein because of their high water content). This ingredient also is made up of some fat, some moisture, a little bit of fiber, and ash.

Ash levels in pet foods should be controlled, especially in adult or senior diets. Excess ash will contribute excess minerals to the diet, potentially leading to health problems. Ingredients such as chicken by-product meal are much lower in ash than chicken meal or lamb meal, but many individuals choose not to feed diets that contain by-product meal to their pets.

What does the Guaranteed Analysis tell me?

The beauty of the guaranteed analysis is that it gives you a lot of information about what is inside the bag of pet food. Once you understand how to read it, you will be much better equipped to compare different varieties of pet food.

By AAFCO regulations, the guaranteed analysis is only required to list four nutrients: crude protein, crude fat, crude fiber and moisture. However, many pet food companies add additional guarantees not only to provide you with more information about the food, but also as a mark of quality. The more things that are guaranteed, the more things that regulatory agencies can test for and fault a company if they do not meet the level on the label. Because of variances between different types of laboratory equipment, sometimes foods can be faulted even if they truly are not deficient in one of their guarantees. Added guarantees mean that the company is working very hard to manufacture a precise formulation each and every time and you can be reassured that bag to bag, that product will likely be more consistent than a product that only guarantees the four required nutrients.

The first nutrient listed is crude protein. This is a measurement of the guaranteed minimum level of protein in the food. If the food guarantees a minimum of 21% protein, it is not going to contain 32% protein. By AAFCO regulations, a diet that states a guarantee of 21% protein, may have no less than 20.4% protein. There is not a specified maximum, but the protein is typically within 2% of the target. So a 21% protein formula would range from 21% to 23%, but would most often be right at 21% or slightly higher. Your dog will benefit from a food that has protein from animal protein sources. After you check the level of protein, look at the ingredient listing to see where that protein is coming from.

The next listing is crude fat. This is also a minimum guarantee, with a 10% allowed variance. So, if the guaranteed minimum fat content is 15%, the minimum allowed by AAFCO would be 13.5%. Most foods very closely target the fat level, so expect very little variance in this nutrient.

Next comes crude fiber. This is typically pretty low, 2-3%, and is a maximum level. In hairball formulas for cats and weight loss formulas, you will usually see a higher level of fiber, usually 6-8%. Higher fiber formulas will result in larger stools than low fiber formulas, but this is to be expected.

Finally, you will see the moisture guarantee. In dry formulas, this is typically 8-12% maximum and in canned formulas it is typically 75 – 85%.

Protein and fat will show the widest variance between different types of pet foods. Cat foods have higher protein than most dog foods. Formulas specifically designed for athletes, puppies, and low carbohydrate formulas for dogs will have high protein content and often high fat content as well.

Read pet nutrition 101 in our library to learn more about specific nutrients.

Is it ok for me to feed my pet table scraps?

It is really best if you do not feed your pet table scraps. Some individuals choose to add human foods to their pets diet for variety, freshness and flavor. This is not necessary, but is not necessarily harmful as long as you choose wisely and your pet still eats adequate amounts of a complete and balanced diet so that nutritional deficiencies do not result.

The problem with table scraps is really the way that we cook. We often use seasonings that are too strong or even potentially harmful to pets. Garlic and onion are two things that pets should not consume. The way we prepare our meats is also problematic because of the high fat content. When veterinarians suggest feeding meat to a dog because of an upset stomach, we always say that the meat should be boiled. This gets rid of most of the fat in the meat. Rarely do we boil meat that we are going to be eating for our evening meal.

Feeding from the table encourages begging during meal times. Feed your pet his own healthy meal during your regular meal time. This will ensure that he is satisfied and will not be begging for a morsel from the table. Feeding table scraps also encourages finicky behavior. Your pet may begin “holding out” for the stuff that comes from the table. You may interpret this as your pet not enjoying his food as much when this is not really the case, he just is not as hungry because you are feeding him from the table and he knows he might get something if he just skips that kibble in the bowl.

Do yourself and your pet a favor and feed a healthy, balanced diet that is designed for pets and stick with it. If you want to give a treat, try a spoon of canned food, a treat or biscuit, or even a dental treat to help keep the teeth clean.

I've been hearing a lot about the rotation diet. What is it and should I feed it to my pet?

The rotation diet is exactly what it sounds like, a rotation of the foods that you present to your pet. Certain manufacturers of pet foods are strongly advocating the rotation diet and since it is getting some time in the press, you are hearing about it. Why should you rotate? Well, the wisdom behind this diet is that nutritional deficiencies may result when a pet is fed a single food every day because of the inability of that pet to process a certain ingredient or because of something lacking in the diet that no one is yet aware of (think taurine in the 80’s – no one knew that taurine had to be added to cat foods). Another reason that is brought up as a possible benefit for rotating foods is the possible decreased risk of the development of food allergies by providing a varied diet. Food allergies are not common in pets, but when they do develop, it is after prolonged exposure to a particular protein source. By varying the diet, possibly the body will be less likely to develop an allergy to a particular food.

Rotation can be done daily, weekly or monthly (or even quarterly, yearly, etc) As a veterinarian, I feel that a monthly rotation would be the most frequent that I would recommend to my clients that would like to try the rotation diet. I’m afraid that daily or even weekly rotation might result in more digestive upset for the pet. The changing of the diet is always a potential trigger for digestive upset and a gradual switch from one food to the next is highly recommended.

The rotation of proteins that you present to your pet will offer different sources of the various essential amino acids that your pets need. However, foods that are on the market as complete and balanced must contain all of the essential amino acids that your pet needs to thrive so the benefit of changing proteins may not be a realistic one. If you are already feeding a diet that has protein from several sources, you are feeding your own sort of “rotation” without ever changing the food.

Advocates also suggest rotation between dry, canned and frozen/raw foods. I’m not sure that I see any nutritional value to this type of rotation. I would be most concerned that a pet would develop a preference for one type over the other and would refuse the other types. The biggest concern would be the pet that develops a preference for canned food, which is soft and can encourage the more rapid development of dental disease. Pets certainly consume more water in their food if they eat canned or frozen foods but most pets will make up some of the difference by drinking more water if they are fed dry foods only. Cats with bladder disease may benefit from increased water in their diet, but I would recommend choosing canned food and sticking with it for these cats.

Are there great success stories behind the rotation diet? Of course. But there are also great success stories behind every feeding method. We receive testimonials on a daily basis from pet owners feeding our foods and often feeding only one recipe. There are millions of pets out there that eat the same food every single day and are happy and healthy. Choose the method of feeding that works best for your schedule, your budget and your pet. Signs of a healthy pet are: bright eyes, shiny coat, good appetite, high activity level and playfulness. Talk to your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns about how best to feed your pet.

I heard salmon is bad for dogs. Why do you use it in your foods?

There is a parasite that lives in the bodies of some salmon, mostly in the Northwestern United States. Dogs that eat raw salmon can become ill if exposed to this parasite. The salmon that we use is safe for two reasons: the first is that it comes from Alaska, where the parasite is less likely to be found. The second, and more important, reason is that our pet foods are cooked. Cooking destroys the parasite and protects your dog from this serious illness.

How often should I feed my pet?

This is a common question, and really a matter of personal preference, but also depends on your pet’s age and lifestyle.

Starting with dogs: If you have a very young puppy (less than 4 months of age), consider 3 to 4 meals per day. For toy breed puppies (5-10 pounds full-grown), you should feed 3-4 meals per day until they are 10-12 months of age to prevent hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. Between 4 and 6 months, feed 2-3 meals per day and after 6 months, feed 2 meals per day.

Some people choose to leave food out all the time or feed one large meal per day. As a veterinarian, I do not prefer the free-choice feeding method. My concerns about this method are multi-dog households where one dog may eat too much food and become overweight. Often pet owners compensate for the empty bowl by adding more total volume so the “healthy eater” of the group will still eat too much but now the more timid eaters are getting the proper amount instead of too little. This method may also not reveal if a dog is not eating well, especially if you are using a feeder that holds multiple days worth of food. Illnesses may go undetected for some time because you are unable to see that your dog is not eating well. One large meal a day works fine for many dogs. However, large and giant breeds that are prone to bloat, should be fed multiple smaller meals per day (at least two). The reason for this is that one large meal tends to stretch the ligaments that support the stomach and over time, this relaxed ligament will make the stomach more likely to twist if the dog bloats. Bloating is bad, but bloating and twisting is much worse.

A final reason for feeding two meals per day is for those dogs that need medication on a daily or twice daily basis (example: dog with diabetes needs insulin injections twice daily). When you are feeding two meals per day, it is easy to time the medication with the meal, which is some cases is a requirement.

Now for cats: Free choice feeding is the method that many people choose if they feed dry food. Veterinarians used to support this method, then more veterinarians began advocating meal feeding, and now you can find proponents of both methods. The benefits of meal feeding are really the same for cats as they are for dogs: controlled portions, you know if your cat is not eating very well right away, and the ability to time medication with meals.

What about cats with a bladder problem? After cats eat, the pH of their urine rises even if the food is acidified for urinary tract health.. When the pH is high, struvite crystals can form in the urine. We used to think that if a cat snacked multiple times per day, the pH would be rising more frequently and this would be a problem for cats with urinary tract disease. However, studies have shown that free feeding does not have a negative impact on urinary tract health. Remember, diet is not the only factor involved with urinary tract disease and we are finding that it actually plays a much smaller role than we once thought. Read more about urinary tract disease in cats in our medical library.

How much water does my pet need?

Your pet should have free access to fresh water at all times. Most pets will drink the amount of water that they need. In very rare situations, dogs can develop a behavioral condition called psychogenic polydipsia. This simply means that a dog drinks excessive amounts of water with no apparent medical cause. This can be a real challenge to diagnose and treat, so if you suspect this, make sure to work very closely with your veterinarian.

Pets that are outdoors or very active will drink more water than pets that live indoors or lead a sedentary lifestyle. Monitor how much water your pet typically drinks. If he is suddenly licking the bowl dry faster than before, a visit to your veterinarian is important. An increase in water consumption can be an indication of many different health problems including: diabetes, kidney disease and even infections.

How much food should I feed my pet?

There are feeding guides on every package. It is important to remember that the amounts listed on the package are expressed in the number of 8 ounce measuring cups (a standard kitchen measuring cup, not the Big Gulp cup you found in your cabinet) to be fed per day. So, if it says 2 cups in the chart and you feed your dog twice daily, each meal should be 1 cup.

However, each dog is different. Do you have a friend who can eat everything and never gain an ounce? How about a friend who complains that she looks at food and gains weight? Well, people have different metabolic rates and so do dogs. They also have different activity levels. Feeding guides on pet food packaging designed for adult dogs use one equation, figuring that most adult pets are “moderately” active. Obviously some dogs will need more food than the moderately active adult because of higher activity levels and some dogs will need less food because of their “couch puptato” lifestyle.

Puppies have a much higher energy requirement per pound of body weight than adult dogs do. Very young puppies need more calories than older puppies as well. So, if you have two puppies that both weigh 10 pounds but one is 10 weeks and the other is 10 months, you will find that the 10 week old puppy actually will need to be fed quite a bit more food than your 10 month old puppy.

Talk to your veterinarian about your pet’s body condition. It is best for your pet’s health to be kept in lean body condition. Feed the amount of food that keeps your dog lean and fit, and remember it might not be the amount that is listed on the package. If you find that you are feeding less than half of what is recommended on the package for your dog’s age and weight, you likely need to consult your veterinarian and consider a switch to a lower calorie formula.

Does the heat of the cooking damage the nutrients in your food?

Yes and no. It is true that some of the nutrients in the food are diminished by the cooking process. Because of this, we make sure to add higher than necessary levels of these particular nutrients so that the finished product provides optimal nutrition and meets our guarantees.

The food must be cooked under certain conditions (including heat of approximately 200 degrees) to guarantee that the starches in the food are gelatinized. This means that the chemical structure of the starches (or carbohydrates) in the food are altered so that they are able to be digested by the animal eating the food.

While there are some nutritionists who believe that raw foods are the only way to feed ourselves and our pets, we know that you can provide your pet excellent nutrition by feeding a high quality, convenient dry product like ours.

Do I need to supplement my pet's diet?

Do you need to? No. All of our pet foods are complete and balanced. If you want to though, you can – with caution. In most cases, supplements will do no harm. However, it is important to remember that human supplements may contain things that are harmful to pets and you should always check with your veterinarian prior to using any supplement for your pet.

Sometimes veterinarians will prescribe supplements to treat specific conditions. It is becoming more common that veterinarians are turning to natural therapies, either in combination with traditional therapies or alone, to treat different conditions. One such example would be the use of probiotic when an antibiotic is prescribed. Probiotics add back “good” bacteria to the digestive system to keep it healthy. Many antibiotics will actually kill the good bacteria in the digestive system, leading to diarrhea. Probiotics, when administered at least one hour before or after antibiotics, will help to minimize the digestive upset that can be associated with the use of antibiotics.

Can too much protein cause kidney problems?

Absolutely not. This is a myth that needs to be dispelled. Dogs or cats that have been diagnosed with a kidney problem should be treated with a prescription diet (low protein content) that is designed specifically for these animals. This will help control the advancement of the disease and likely help the pet survive longer.

This does not mean that a normal healthy pet, even a senior pet, should eat a diet that is restricted in protein in order to prevent kidney disease.

In recent studies, it actually has been proven that protein restriction for senior animals can lead to muscle wasting, protein deficiency and can shorten their normal lifespan. We are starting to see diets for senior pets that have the same level or even higher levels of protein than diets designed specifically for adult dogs.

Choosing a diet that contains healthy animal protein sources will help keep your pet healthy and in ideal body condition for a longer, happier life.



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