We are bombarded with information about pet care through commercials and advertisements on the internet and in stores. Our friends share their thoughts on pet foods with us. Even the neighbor down the street will chime in on how to best care for pets through alternative therapies. It seems everyone is willing to offer advice on what we should do with our furry friends. So how do you know what is best for your pet?
First, let’s take a look at the pet food industry. It can be overwhelming to go into the local pet food store, walk down the multitude of food aisles, and try to determine which brand or formulation is best for your pet. There are so many to choose from! The options can vary from grain-free to novel protein to low-fat or diet to raw or dehydrated to prescription and everything in-between. It's enough to make your head spin!
The truth is what may be recommended for one pet may not be recommended for another. Diet choice should be individualized. The starting point to determine what is recommended for your pet is your family veterinarian. Your veterinarian can determine if any underlying diseases are present that may affect which food your pet needs for optimal health. Your veterinarian can offer you an abundance of information regarding pet nutrition and may offer you a referral to a veterinary nutritionist if needed.
Veterinary nutritionists are veterinarians who have completed advanced training to become certified in nutrition. Many of the larger pet food companies (Hill’s, Royal Canin, Purina) have veterinary nutritionists on-staff that your veterinarian can contact if any questions arise. When receiving nutritional advice from additional sources such as pet store employees and other company representatives, it is important to review their credentials and determine the extent of their education related to pet nutrition and healthcare.
Next, let's look at alternative therapies. The field of alternative veterinary medicine is growing. If you are interested in alternative therapies, it is important to talk to your family veterinarian as some therapies (such as laser therapy) may be offered at your veterinarian's hospital. He or she can also recommend other veterinarians nearby who may specialize in this field. Typically veterinarians interested in alternative medicine will undergo additional training and continuing education to become specialized.
Caution should be exercised in the area of alternative therapies as there is the opportunity for individuals who are not veterinarians to offer some of these services. When seeking alternative pet care outside of a veterinarian’s office, it is especially important to verify the individual’s credentials to ensure the safety of your pet. The same is true for behavioral training opportunities. There are numerous behavior training courses available to lay-people (those who are not veterinarians). The trainer's certification should be readily available for you to view.
Overall, the majority of those offering advice or providing pet care want what is best for pets. Methods and ideologies may vary and this variation provides options to individualize pet care. As always, the best place to start with questions regarding your pet's care is with your family veterinarian who knows your pet's health condition and can direct you along the appropriate path.