How to choose the right cat or dog food

Veterinarian Amanda Chin explains the common terms used on pet food labels, so you can make the best choice for your furry friend.

Written by Amanda Chin
Mature Dog Eating Rawhide Treat

Choosing the right food for our pets can be confusing. There are diets for puppies and kittens, adults and mature pets, small and large breeds and for active pets. There are also diets for pets with sensitive skin, upset tummies and aching joints.

And as with the growing human dietary trends, there are now even grain-free, organic and natural feeds to add to the mix.

The right diet for your pet

When choosing your pet’s diet, whether it is a home cooked, dry, canned, semi-moist or raw diet, it’s important to ensure that it is of a high quality, complete and balanced and appropriate to the pet’s life stage and health status. This will help your pet live a long, happy and healthy life.

Home cooked diets offer high quality ingredients but require a lot of effort to ensure that it satisfies all the pet’s nutritional requirements. Good quality commercial foods are developed by nutritionists and veterinarians and will have ‘complete and balanced’ on the package.

When choosing a raw meat diet, you should always feed using human-grade food, as it will contain fewer preservatives such as sulphites that are harmful to our pets.

Natural, organic, balanced – what does it all mean?

Let’s break down some of the common terms you’ll see on pet food packaging.

  • Complete and balanced – The diet meets strict requirements as a nutritionally balanced diet that can be fed as a pet’s sole diet.
  • Grain-free – A diet that substitutes grains with other carbohydrates such as potatoes, peas, apples.
  • Holistic – A marketing term with no legal definition and can be applied to any food.
  • Natural – A diet that only contains natural ingredients without chemical modification except for vitamins and minerals.
  • Organic – A diet that must follow the same rules as organic human foods.
  • Prescription – Clinical nutrition that is recommended by your veterinarian to address a pet’s health condition and improve its quality of life.

If your pet has specific dietary requirements, is allergic to certain foods or has a health condition, always seek advice from your veterinarian with regard to the right diet for your pet.

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Important things you should know

Medibank Pet Insurance is issued by The Hollard Insurance Company Pty Ltd ABN 78 090 584 473, AFSL 241436, is arranged and administered by PetSure (Australia) Pty Ltd ABN 95 075 949 923, AFSL 420183 (PetSure) and is promoted and distributed by PetSure’s Authorised Representative (AR) Medibank Private Limited ABN 47 080 890 259, AR 286089. Terms, conditions, waiting periods and exclusions apply. Any advice provided is general only and does not take into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. Please consider the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) to ensure this product meets your needs before purchasing. PDS and Target Market Determination available at medibank.com.au/pet-insurance

Written by Amanda Chin

Amanda is a veterinarian, author and international spokesperson who is passionate about pet healthcare education to preserve the human-animal bond. She is the founder of PetCheck, an online pet platform that simplifies pet healthcare through curated content, pet reminders and veterinary health reports.

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