How to Ensure Your Pet Is Getting the Best Nutrition Possible Committing Yourself to Never Stop Learning

How to Ensure Your Pet Is Getting the Best Nutrition Possible Committing Yourself to Never Stop Learning

When my parents let me have my first pet as a young boy, one of those dime store turtles, I wanted Willie to live as long as possible. A long, healthy, and vibrant life has been my goal for each pet since. I have been a pet care professional for over 27 years and have yet to meet someone with a pet who felt differently.

In the early 90s, I learned that the buck stopped with me when it came to my pet's health. It was my responsibility to ensure they had the best nutrition possible. I could not blindly rely on TV commercials, breeders, veterinarians, and what I was told at the pet store.

My wife and I brought home a Cairn terrier puppy named Gus in 1991. Within his first year, he started experiencing chronic urinary tract infections. His veterinarian, Paula’s boss, told us he was sure Gus’ illness was related to nutrition. Then he said that veterinarians are taught little about pet food and suggested we start learning everything we could. We took his advice and have been pet nutrition geeks ever since. And yes, we cured Gus with better nutrition. [ FMI – Our Introduction to Pet Nutrition – Gus – ]

At our store, we believe: “Fresh, wholesome, nutritious food is fundamental to optimal physical, mental, and emotional health. We want our pets and your pets to do more than survive; we want them to thrive and live a long and vibrant life.”
This is the first in a series of articles in which I will teach you the basics of what I have learned.

Step 1a – Commit to educating yourself about pet nutrition for life. That means more than listening to breeders, veterinarians, and pet stores telling you what to feed your pet. Anyone who sells pet food is biased, especially if they only recommend a single brand or type of pet food. Instead, I encourage you to read books and articles and avoid listening to TV commercials and social media. Lastly, you need to be committed to continuing your education, as the world of pet food is constantly changing and not always for the better. My wife and I have done that, but it is time-consuming and challenging work, so I have an alternative for you to consider.

Step 1b – Find someone you can trust to do your research for you. I get it; you may not have the time to research as I do. If that is the case, find one or more people you can trust. Here is what you should look for:

•   someone who recommends more than one brand, formula, and type of pet food. If anyone suggests that you should never change your pet's food, understand that what he is saying only benefits the company making and selling the food. For example, would you follow the advice if your doctor told you only to eat XYZ cereal or drink ABC complete nutrition shakes? Of course not; you’re smarter than that. No single brand of food is the best for all pets, even if a veterinarian recommends it. My dog and cat are fed various brands, proteins, and food types to optimize their diet. [ FMI – Don, What Do You Feed Your Dog? –  & The Benefits of Rotating Your Pets Diet – ]

•    someone who understands that fresh whole foods benefit your pet. We all know that fresh foods like fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, and dairy are healthier than the ultra-processed food in the supermarket's middle aisles. We might like mac and cheese from a box because it’s cheap and convenient, but it’s not a healthy choice. The same is true for our pets. While they cannot eat all the fresh foods we do, they can eat many. Fresh food contains natural vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients that are healthier than the chemically synthesized vitamins added to most commercial pet food. This is a partial list of some of the fresh foods I have fed my dog in the past year, beef, bison, chicken, pork, rabbit, salmon, trout, turkey, venison, whitefish, apples, blueberries, carrots, kale, pumpkin, and pineapple. I also often added moisture, such as bone broth or goat's milk, as kibble, dehydrated, and freeze-dried foods do not contain adequate water. [ FMI – Our Pets Most Important Nutrient – Water – ]

In future columns, I’ll describe how pet foods are regulated, what to look for on the package, what to look out for, and more.
Don Hanson lives in Bangor, Maine, where he is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( ) and the founder of, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. He is a Professional Canine Behavior Consultant (PCBC-A) accredited by the Pet Professional Accreditation Board (PPAB) and a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP). Don is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG), serving on the Board of Directors and Steering Committee and chairing the Advocacy Committee. He is also a founding director of Pet Advocacy International (PIAI). In addition, Don produces and co-hosts The Woof Meow Show podcast, available at, the Apple Podcast app, and Don's blog: The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.
©13-Feb-23, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved

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