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Sometimes it’s not just our customers asking the questions. When someone new comes into the store looking for a new food for their dog or cat, we sometimes go into a sort of “investigation mode” in order to figure out the best food choice for your pet.

I can only speak for myself, but I know that I have a few standard, “Go To” questions that I ask customers in order to get a more complete picture of what their pet’s needs are. The more a customer knows about what their dog or cat’s previous food was, the better we can usually help them find a new food.

So how can you be prepared when looking for a new food for your pet?

The simple answer, like I said, is to know your pet’s food and food challenges (if there are any). The most difficult pet to find food for, is one whose mom or dad doesn’t even know if they are eating chicken or fish. Plus, if your pet is having allergy or sensitivity issues, not knowing the main ingredients in their food, then blindly trying a new food, can exacerbate health issues.

So to help you get to know your pet’s food a little bit better, and perhaps prepare you the next time you’re in the store, here’s is a quick and simple “quiz”. Don’t worry, this doesn’t count toward your final grade (I’m kidding. You shop here. You get an A!).

And remember, if you don’t know the answer to a question, you can always ask for help!

Question 1: What is your cat or dog eating now?

This seems like a relatively simple question. I basically want to know which brand and what protein source (and I’ll elaborate by asking you that). For example: Taste of the Wild (brand name), and the Lamb formula (“Sierra Mountain”).

In order for us to know what direction to go in your pet’s next food, it’s very helpful to know your pet’s current food — whether it’s working well for them or not.

If you at the very least know the name of your pet’s current food, usually we can use the internet to find it, and look at the ingredient list.

Question 2: Does your pet have a sensitivity to grain?

When looking for a new food for your pet, it’s very helpful to know whether or not they can eat grain. Simply look at your pet’s current food bag or can. Does it say “grain free” anywhere? Most foods, if they are grain free will state it clearly on the front and/or back or the packaging.

You can look for words like “rice”, “barley”, “oats”, “oatmeal”, or “quinoa” on the label too, to name a few. If your pet’s food contains those ingredients or any other grains, then it’s not grain free. (For a brief explanation on grain free pet foods, check out a previous blog that mentions the topic here.)

If your pet is eating a food with grain in it, but is exhibiting symptoms relevant to a grain allergy or sensitivity, we might suggest going grain free for a while to see if the symptoms go away. What are the symptoms of a grain sensitivity? Well, I’m glad you asked…

Question 3: Is your pet exhibiting sensitivity/allergy/yeast issue symptoms like a lot of scratching, obsessive licking of their paws, nipping at their legs and/or belly and hindquarters, tear stains, hair loss, a “yeasty” or unpleasant odor?

If the answer is yes to any or a few of these symptoms, we’ll probably suspect — or further suspect — that your pet is allergic/sensitive to something in their diet. Grain sensitivity or allergy typically exhibits as consistent if not obsessive scratching, irritated skin on legs and/or belly, and itchy, irritated discolored paws. Most often the culprit is grain, potato, or a protein your pet cannot tolerate (chicken is the most common protein allergy in dogs).

In some cases, with a unpleasant smell, black skin, loss of hair, ear infections, or just lots of scratching, we’ll suggest an yeast fighting regimen — most likely a low glycemic index food and some supplements.

What is going on inside your dog or cat’s body is very often exhibited on the outside of their body, and more often than not it starts (or ends) with their food. Instead of treating skin issues with what I sometimes call a “Band-aid” (shampoo or sprays that can calm the skin, but not fix the underlying problem), we like to get to the cause of the problem which is more often than not their diet.

Question 4: How long has your pet been eating their current food?

I like to ask how long your pet has been on a the same food because that can answer some questions pretty quickly.

If your pet has suddenly become picky, sometimes that could indicate that they are bored with what they are eating. Your pet may not be suffering from an allergy or any sort of discomfort from their food, but after eating it for maybe years, it just isn’t interesting anymore. I like to say to our customers: If you were eating the same food, morning and night, for years and years, maybe your WHOLE LIFE, wouldn’t you get bored too?

Plus, a varied diet can guard against your pet becoming allergic to a specific protein, especially dogs. If fed the same protein, like chicken, for too long, your pet’s body can begin to recognize it as an allergen and react accordingly.

And that’s another reason why we ask how long your pet has been eating the same thing. If they are exhibiting symptoms of allergy or sensitivity, it may be because they have eaten the same thing for too long. A smart change may drastically improve their health and comfort.

Question 5: What do you hope to accomplish by switching your pet’s food?

You must know why you are switching foods. What do you hope to gain in a new food that you are not necessarily getting from your old food? Or there may be nothing wrong with your old food, but your pet just needs a change, some variety.

If you can communicate WHY you are switching foods, then we can help you find options. Personally, I don’t mind if you fumble it a little bit, but if you can at least try to tell me what’s happening with your current food that you’d like to change, or what you don’t like (no matter how “crazy” you think it may sound!), I can help you.

We’re quite good at decoding what most people are trying to say about their pet’s food here, so even if you have to draw pictures — it really happens more often than you’d think — go ahead!

Question 6: What does your pet like?

Some people look at me like I’m crazy when I ask this question, but really, I think it may be the most important one.

If you’re taking the time and money to find your pet a healthy food, shouldn’t they enjoy eating it? So often people complain that they spent so much on a pet’s food, only for them to turn their nose up at it.

Sweetie is a dog who knows what she likes!

This is why we strongly suggest letting us give you as many samples as possible when you are shopping for a new food. Sure a food might be fabulously healthy and the “right” food for your pet, but if they won’t eat it, it’s pointless. At least if you take home samples, you can find the one or two foods that you pet likes, and then you have options.

Pay attention to what your pet happily gobbles up. Chicken? Beef? Fish? Lamb? Getting your pet excited about eating is not only important for their health, but as any loving pet parent can attest to, the sound of your pet contentedly munching on their dinner is one of the most heartwarming sounds on earth.

Hope this helps! In the long run, knowing about your pet’s food can only help you make wiser eating decisions for them in the future.

And as always, if you have any questions never hesitate to ask us.

Happy Munching!

~Your Loyal Calvin & Susie Blogger

Always check with your vet before making any changes to your pet’s diet. The Calvin & Susie Blogger always researches to the best of her ability, but she is not a vet. This blog is not in any way meant to replace veterinary advice or care. When in doubt always ask a vet.

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