Much wisdom is expressed in the statement "we are what we eat." If we eat healthy food, we are healthy; if we eat junk food, our health is 'junk.' This also goes for our pets. Well-fed animals are happy and healthy, and if they get sick their health rebounds rapidly. Malnourished animals suffer chronic illnesses and may take a long time to recover from any acute disease.
Nutrition plays a two-part role in our animal's health. First and foremost, illness may be prevented with a correctly balanced diet, comprised of wholesome ingredients. Secondly, illness may be treated by means of modification to the basic diet, along with the addition of specific nutrients.
Animals are resilient. A dog may live a happy and healthy life while eating the cheapest kibble available on the market. For some people, that is the only choice and it is the best one to make under the circumstances. However, an animal has better chances of being healthy, of reaching its full potential, if fed a well-balanced diet, utilizing unprocessed ingredients (meat, carbohydrates, and vegetables). Foods that have been cooked under pressure, dehydrated, ground up and passed through a machine – as is the case with kibble – have a lower biological value than the same ingredients in their natural form. A kibble may be well-balanced in terms of its chemical components, but processing has sucked all of the life out of it.
However, a natural homemade diet may not be practical for most of us. A second-best choice is a kibble made of high quality ingredients. One should choose a kibble with a short list of ingredients. The first ingredient should be meat without qualification – the quality of the meat ingredient is lower when accompanied by the word "
Ideally, a kibble for cats should be carbohydrate-free (corn, potatoes, oats, etc.) because cats lack the enzyme required to process the sugar generated by the digestion of carbohydrates (see also The Natural Connection Between Selective Weeding, Pest Control and Cat's Bladder Troubles and Chasing the Mouse of Evolution to Feed the Diabetic Cat).
The food should not contain chemical preservatives such as ethoxyquine, BHT, BTH or proponylgycol. It is best to feed your pet a variety of formulas; most brands now carry more than one formula for the same stage of life.
The animal body is not perfect and despite the best of care, disease may occur. Nutritional modifications may be used as a support for other therapies, either natural or standard. Cats suffering from diabetes or from chronic urinary tract infections benefit substantially from a natural diet. Dogs frequently develop allergies to foods. In these cases I advise a rotation of foods, along with the targeted use of vitamins to dampen the allergic trigger mechanisms. In general a dog with a chronic illness will benefit from a natural diet or from the highest quality commercial food available.