Chew on This: 6 Superfoods for Pets

America’s relationship with food and nutrition has undergone a significant change in the past decade or two. Because of our heightened awareness, many of us are taking a second look at labels and thinking twice not just about what we put into our bodies, but also where it comes from. We’re seeking out whole foods, locally sourced ingredients, free-range and antibiotic-free meats, vegan options, gluten-free products and organic produce to help make our diets and our lives better. As we make more informed choices about our own food, it’s only natural that we begin giving more consideration to what we feed our pets.

It used to be that a bag of dog or cat food from the local grocer was sufficient to feed our four-legged family, and little thought was given to where and how that food was manufactured, let alone the integrity of its ingredients. But as veterinary science has advanced, we can no longer ignore the connection between our pets’ diet and their overall health and longevity.

Thanks to a rash of recent pet food recalls, we all know the risks posed by poor-quality food and treats, but we hear much less about the rewards of feeding pets high-quality, balanced diets that incorporate whole foods and minimally-processed ingredients. Working with some of the country’s best vets at Petplan, I’ve come to gain a true understanding of the link between good nutrition and good health. I recently asked Dr. Ernie Ward—a friend and regular contributor to fetch! magazine and Petplan’s Vets for Pets blog—to suggest some “super” ingredients to look for when deciding which food and treats are best for your pets. Here are his power picks:

Fabulous Fish

The omega-3 rich, healthy fats found in cold-water fish like salmon, tuna, sardines and anchovies have been shown to do everything from keeping your pet’s coat radiant to combating cancer. Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, which is good for the brain, the heart and the joints.

Super Sweet Potatoes

The yellow-orange color of sweet potatoes comes from beta-carotene, which helps stabilize blood sugar and lower insulin resistance (great for diabetic pets!). Sweet potatoes are high in vitamins B6, A and C, copper, manganese, potassium and dietary fiber. They aid in digestion, help boost the immune system and provide a potent antioxidant to support healing.

Multi-Tasking Carrots

The vitamin A in carrots has long been associated with promoting eye, heart and lung health, and carrots are high in fiber, vitamins B6, C and K, potassium, niacin, magnesium and folate. They also help cleanse the liver and promote thyroid health.

Mighty Yogurt

Live acidophilus in yogurt keeps the bacteria in your pet’s intestines balanced. The “healthy” bacteria contained in yogurt are important not only in digestion, but also in promoting the immune system, fighting infections, and even preventing cancer.

Chipper Chickpeas

The soluble fibers in chickpeas help maintain healthy blood sugar levels, keep the heart and arteries healthy, and promote proper digestion. They’re also excellent antioxidants and may help protect pets against cancer.

Eggs-cellent Eggs

Eggs top the list of protein sources for dogs and cats. Loaded with vitamins D, B2, B12, K and biotin, as well as the minerals calcium, selenium, iodine and phosphorus, eggs are easily digestible and provide essential fatty acids for immune, hormonal, skin, kidney, heart, liver, reproductive, coat, and brain health.

Besides giving your pet a boost of vitamins, minerals and other disease-fighters, feeding your four-legged family a balanced diet will keep obesity at bay, which is one of the biggest health risks our pets face today. Obesity shortens the lifespan, is linked to cancer, and predisposes our pets to several other health risks, like arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, decreased immune function, and respiratory illness. While estimates vary, many veterinarians agree that more than 25 percent of cats and 22 percent of dogs can be classified as obese. In some regions, the percentages may even be as high as 40 percent. Selecting healthy, nutritionally-rich foods for your pets, getting regular exercise to help prevent obesity, and protecting your pet with pet insurance are your best bets for ensuring a long, happy and healthy life for all.

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