The ABCs of Picking Your Pet's Food

The ABCs of Picking Your Pet's Food

It's not news to you that your pet is unlike any other. But did you know their diet should match their unique needs? 

Just like hoomans, our furry friends require a balanced diet for long and healthy lives. Creating this balance is easier than you think and I bet you're doing a good job already!

What Makes Up A Pet's Diet?

Yellow lab puppy eating out of a white food bowl labeled "FOOD"
Dogs and cats are carnivores. They are designed to be meat eaters and protein is their preferred source of energy.

This doesn't mean their diet should only consist of meat! When feeding fido and his friends, there are six key nutritional compounds they rely on. These compounds are divided into two groups: caloric and non-caloric.

  • Caloric:
  • Protein
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fats
  • Non-caloric:
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Water

Achieving a balance of these nutritional compounds is key to your pet's health. Here is how to select the perfect food for your pet:

👀 Check the certifications

Broad Spectrum Hemp Oil with NACS Certification (Blues bottle with dropper hovering over pet food bowl)

Whether you are feeding kibble, raw food, or adding a supplement, your pet's meal should be inspected and given the 👍 by the appropriate organizations. This ensures that your pet's food is formulated safely and contains the correct ratios of nutrients.

Food Safety Certifications you should check for:

USDA Organic  Global Animal Partnership (GAP)  MSC  NASC quality seal  High-Pressure Processing (HPP)

USDA Organic

Global Animal Partnership (GAP)

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)

National Animal Supplement Council (NASC)

High-Pressure Processing (HPP)

This certification concerns raw food. HPP is a food preservation method that keeps food free of pathogens/harmful bacteria. We DO NOT recommend feeding raw food from the grocery store to your pet as it is not safe for consumption prior to cooking. When feeding raw, purchase from a pet food vendor who inspects their raw recipes vigorously. 

🧬 Search for their life stage and condition

Purchasing cat and dog food based on their age and condition isn't hocus pocus! Food should supply a pet with a complete and balanced diet for its specific life stage and condition - sometimes even down to the breed.

Firstmate Different Colorful Food Cans for Dogs

The recognized life stages for both dogs and cats are:
  • Gestation/lactation (pregnancy and nursing)
  • Growth (includes kittens and puppies)
  • Adult/Maintenance
  • All life stages
  • Senior

Benefits to buying a life stage recipe include ratio-specific nutrients, weight control, and correct calorie requirements.

🐯 Stick to their natural instincts

Black cat ready to pounce on a fake mouse toy with wide eyes

It's true, your goofball of a floof is both a carnivore and hunter. Due to their instinctual habit to rip, tear, and shred their food, it's important to choose brands and recipes that either mimic this desire or have "small bites" that make it easy to swallow.

While dogs are carnivores, they also have the ability to utilize some carbohydrates from plants. Cats, on the other hand, are "obligate carnivores", who must, or are obliged to, have animal protein in their diet. Cats do not cope well with plant-based diets.

Dogs naturally love to gnaw on bones. Raw bones and hard chews are nature's toothbrush and busy toy! Read up on hard bones & chews here.

Tomlinson's Pro Tip: Did you know cats are desert dwellers by ancestry? This means by nature, cats are more partial to dehydration and won't drink as often as they should. Adding wet foods, broths, raw, or rehydrated freeze-dried products will increase their moisture intake.

🕵️ Inspect the label

Pet food labeling is regulated at two levels: federally by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).

All ingredients are required to be listed in order of predominance by weight. Choose foods with protein-based items listed as the first two to three ingredients. When selecting treats, it's best to stick with minimal, if not a single, ingredients. 

Freeze-Dried Minnows Treats - SIngle ingredient

Team Tomlinson's preferred ingredients: 
  • Protein: Named meats such as Beef, Duck, Turkey, Bison, Salmon, Whitefish, Chicken, Meat-Striate Muscle
  • Carbohydrates: Quinoa, Oatmeal, Sweet Potato, Chickpea, Veggies, Fruits, Brown Rice, Pumpkin
  • Fats: Chicken Fat, Flax Seed, Safflower, Sunflower, Grapeseed, Fish Oil, Coconut oil, olive oil, and soybean oil
  • Water: Most kibbles only have a moisture content of approximately 10%, which is simply not enough when fed alone. Adding water or broth is essential!

The below vitamins & minerals must be present for a dog or cat's main food to be considered "balanced" and "complete":

  • Vitamins: Vitamin A, B Vitamins (biotin, folic acid, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, thiamine, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12), Vitamin D, Vitamin E
  • Minerals: Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Sodium, Potassium, Chlorine, Iron, Copper, Zinc, Manganese, Selenium, Iodine

Signs of deficiency or excess of vitamins and minerals range from weight loss, fatigue, to weakness, diarrhea, vomiting. Please consult with your veterinarian on your pet's specific diet requirements.

What to avoid in cat and dog food:

Gluten, Meat By-Product, "Poultry" or "Animal", Corn (Meal, Flour, Whole), Brewers Rice, Wheat Bran, Sugar, "Poultry/Animal" Fats

Tomlinson's Pro Tip: The taurine amino acid plays an essential role in the diet of cats. Taurine is found primarily in muscle meat, and is completely absent in cereal grains. Lack of this amino acid results in severe health repercussions, such as blindness, tooth decay, heart disease, amongst other things. 


🫐 Add a food topper

Boosting your pet's bowl is proven to increase nutrition and moisture intake. While most foods already meet the nutritional value needed to keep your pet happy and healthy, enriching their meal with a topper(s) can be a great benefit to their health and tastebuds. 

Corgi eating food bone with adding Open Farm Bone Broth

An easy way to add flavor and nutrients is to mix in items that increase moisture content, provide a protein or omega-3 boost, promote easy digestion, and/or increase mental stimulation. 

Here is a good starting point for your pet:

Start with a base:

Feed your pet according to their weight. Adjust portion size based on the following additions of extra veggies, fruit, and protein.

Kibble (or Dry Food)
Freeze-dried (or Air-Dried)
Wet Food (or Canned)
Gently Cooked
Raw Food

Add digestive support:

Adding just one of these items can supporting a healthy gut.

Bone Broth
Cottage Cheese
Wet Food

Add cooked vegetables + fresh fruit:

Mixing in cooked veggies or fruit to freeze-dried, dry, or raw food adds fiber, antioxidants, and pre and probiotics to their meal. 

Sweet Potato

Add proteins:

Adding just one of these items can promote a shiner coat and increase energy.

Goat's Milk or Kefir
Local Fresh Egg
Feeding Kibble? Sub in a portion for High-Quality Raw Food.

Add fatty acids:

Adding these to your pet's meal supports a healthy heart, brain wellness, and optimal wellness.

Cod Skins
Salmon Skins/Oil
Omega-3 Oil
Green Lipped Mussels
Fish Stock
Coconut Oil
CBD/Hemp Oil

Add an extra, tasty topper

While giving your dog or cat a superfood is a huge bonus, having them enjoy their meal is a reward all on its own! Try out:

Crunchy Treat Toppers, Freezing Bone Broth, or spreading Wet Food on a Lick Mat


Looking for more Pet Parenting tips?

Tomlinson's is your go-to pet supply store for natural, healthy pet products in Austin and the Central Texas region. Come shop in-store and we will help you create the perfect diet specifically for your dog or cat!

Visit our shop full of products sold through team members trained in animal nutrition.



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