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Making Food Recommendation
 

Knowing the basics about pet nutrition is a solid foundation for beginning to help pet owners select a food for their special pet. The key to making successful recommendations is asking the right questions to help owners realize how their pet's age, body condition and life stage or lifestyle along with their own preferences for cost and convenience affect their choice. This section contains a set of questions arranged in logical order for helping pet owners choose products for their pets. These questions are diagrammed in a "Decision Tree" at the end of the section. Refer to it often to understand the order of the questions and how they fit together. You may not always need to ask each question explicitly, but having as much information as possible will improve your recommendation.

How Old Is Your Pet?
If the animal is older than one year of age they are often considered adults and require consideration of additional items prior to making a food recommendation. Skip to the question: "Which activity level or life stage most closely matches that of your pet?"

For pets less than one year of age: Pets less than one year of age require foods adequate for growth. Recommendations for these animals will be different than for adults so it is best to identify the age of an animal first.

What Is The Body Condition Of The Puppy?
Use the pictures and word descriptions in the graphic at the end of this section to choose the body condition which most closely matches the pet.

If a pet falls into either the "Thin" or "Overweight" group, it is recommended they visit a veterinarian. Both of these conditions may be an indication of problems which could require medical attention.

Categories Of Products
Based on an animal's age and body condition, a category of foods with the appropriate nutrition to meet these varying needs are indicated on the Decision Tree. These categories are described based on the level of nutrients they contain. It is these nutrients which are important to the proper growth and continued health of the puppy or kitten.

Dog Food Categories for Young Animals
Growth Foods - Growth or All Life Stages Claim
Protein 21% or greater
Fat 8% or greater

Adult Foods - All Life Stages Claim or Maintenance Claim
Protein 21- 26%
Fat 8 - 18%

For Pets Over 1 Year Of Age:
Which Activity Level Or Life Stage Most Closely Matches That Of Your Pet?
Again, different activity levels demand different levels of nutrients. Use the word descriptions to select either sedentary, moderately active or active/reproducing. This important piece of information will be a factor in determining the correct category of foods for a specific pet.

What Is The Body Condition Of Your Dog?
These are the same as used with young animals, and the same recommendation for visiting a veterinarian applies to those pets identified as thin or overweight.

Categories Of Products
Based on an adult animal's age, activity level and body condition, a category of foods with the appropriate nutrition to meet these varying needs are indicated on the Decision Tree. These categories are described based on the level of nutrients they contain. It is these nutrients which are important to the continued health of the dog.

Dog Food Categories for Adult Animals
Growth Foods - Growth or All Life Stages Claim
(appropriate for reproduction and hardworking dogs)
Protein 21% or greater
Fat 8% or greater

Adult Foods - All Life Stages Claim or Maintenance Claim
Protein 21- 26%
Fat 8 - 18%

Reduced Calorie Foods - Maintenance Claim
Protein 14 - 25%
Fat 7 - 8%

Performance Foods - All Life Stages Claim
Protein 27% or greater
Fat 9% or greater

Owners of both growing and adult animals should answer the next questions to further narrow their choice of products, based on their own preferences for cost and convenience.

Does The Pet'S Current Food Fit Within The Recommended Nutritional Category?
If the answer is yes, then jump to the question: Is the pet owner happy with the current food?

If the answer is no, then the pet owner may want to consider switching to a product which has the nutritional characteristics of the recommended category. This provides greater assurance the pet's nutritional needs will be met.

Is The Pet Owner Happy With The Current Food?
If the answer is yes, the owner is already making a good choice and there is no reason for them to change. If the answer is no, the pet owner may want to consider switching to another food in the recommended category which more closely matches what they would like in a pet food. The following descriptions may help them in choosing among the products in the recommended category:
Palatability products - high palatability or variety
Super Premium products - nutritionally dense formula requiring smaller serving size
Premium products or traditional "Grocery Store Brands" - good palatability and good digestibility at a good price
Non-premium products - low cost
Store Brand products - claim similar performance to national brands, but at a lower price

Following this set of questions can be extremely valuable when selecting a pet food. The more practice a person has and the more experience making recommendations, the more natural it will become. To start, practice with friends and family members to get a feel for how the questions fit together.

It is extremely important to keep in mind that these questions are designed to help pet owners who have healthy dogs and cats. If a veterinarian has made a specific recommendation for a pet food or the pet is under a veterinarian's care, the pet owner should always ask before making any change in that product.

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