A pet is many things.

A constant companion – who else is unfailingly thrilled to see your sorry face?

A personal trainer – who else gets you out for a brisk walk, if not the dog?

A therapist – who else can you count on for bottomless consolation?

Given all the roles a pet plays in our lives, it makes sense that we devote some scholarship to ensuring that they get the best, most suitable, and ideally, the most enjoyable meals.

… who else gets you out for a brisk walk, if not the dog?

Over the last couple of decades, Canada has become one of the countries with the highest pet ownership.  According to the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, over 35 percent of Canadians have a dog and about 38 percent have a cat.  In round numbers, that means that there are about eight million dogs in Canada and 8.5 million cats. If they got the vote, they could swing an election.

The Ontario Veterinary Medical Association recommends that dog owners set aside about $1,200 for pet food plus $2,300 for vet and related annual expenses. Like everything else, pet food costs have gone up. StatsCan figures state that prices for pet food and supplies were up 9.5 per cent in September 2022 on a year-over-year basis. 

Clearly, Fluffy and Fido are costly additions to our lives. Worth every penny – yes – but a pet is an investment to be properly attended to.

Photo by Hannah Lim

Balanced with proper exercise, what we feed our pets is the critical component of their health.  Obesity is a killer.  One way to keep your vet bills down, according to David Zuzuki’s program, The Nature of Things, is to ensure that you’re feeding your pet high-quality, natural pet food. 

One is sleek and fit, 
the other looks like a baked potato on legs.

I occasionally take care of two rescue dogs. One is sleek and fit, the other looks like a baked potato on legs. They both get the identical amount of exercise; they both get the recommended amount of food. 

It’s a mystery.

Photo by Kabo

I’m on the phone with Natalie Asaro. Natalie studied animal biosciences and graduated with a Masters of Science specializing in pet nutrition.  Pet nutritionists work with veterinarians or within the pet food industry.  Natalie works for Petcurean, a Chilliwack-based company that produces a high-end line of dog and cat food.  I start by asking her about my dog’s treat of choice: cheddar cheese. No amount of cajoling can persuade Natalie to endorse my choice.  There’s too much fat in cheddar for it to qualify as a healthy treat.   

Given that Canada is a country known for its regulatory red tape, it’s surprising that we don’t have a specific body riding shotgun on the pet food industry.  For the most part, Canadian manufacturers subscribe to the American Animal Feed Control Officials’ guidelines and are subject to oversight by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in Canada and the Food and Drug Administration where food components are exported from the USA.  

Photo of puppy by Kacper Chrzanowski

This means you have to read the labels. This means you have to pay attention. Pet food is a complex subject. Convenience is a big part of the equation but quality must underpin the selection. Ideally, you want locally sourced ingredients that are minimally processed and not misrepresented.  Natalie walks me through the various recipes that make up the Petcurean brands and I’m impressed by the variety.  Pumpkin, peppermint, parsley, peas, herring, lamb and venison are mentioned as key components in various formulas.  Surprisingly, berries are part of many of the recipes.

… pumpkin, peppermint, parsley, peas …

So, either the chubby mutt has developed opposable thumbs and is getting into the fridge on her own or she’s on the wrong food. 

Time to read some labels.

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This week’s question for readers:


Submissions to last week’s question:

What’s your seasonal display?  Do you keep it traditional or personalize your display?

I just read your article on your mother’s annual Christmas display.  Boy, did that bring back a flood of memories!  I remember driving up to your house  Christmas day and seeing the display for the first time.  I didn’t think I could have aughed any harder!  That year, we had a wonderful family Christmas dinner at your house.  Later, we sat in the living room watching all the cars driving past your home looking at the sign.  Some people had looks of glee and others, looks of disdain!

Judy McDonald

Your Mom and I think alike! When my three sons were growing up in North Delta, we built a wooden sign out of 1″ x 3″ planks onto which we stapled strings of old-school incandescent Christmas lights, spelling Bah Humbug!  Like your Mom’s sign, ours also hung on the second floor sundeck railing.  It measured about 4′ high and was almost 20′ long.  After the first few years, we added another batch of lights to the sign that spelled Noel.  Sometime after midnight on Christmas Eve, we would unplug the lights spelling Humbug, and plug in the ones spelling Noel, indicating that our house, like Scrooge’s, had received a nocturnal visit from the three spirits.

Gord Frampton

My favourite display is the nativity scene which I crafted from the remains of other stained glass projects.  The characters are about six inches tall and are arranged on the mantlepiece. The first year I made Mary, Joseph and the Baby, The following year, the shepherds and sheep, following the three wise men, and then the angels.  I put down a layer of cedar branches for a base and add berries and cones from the garden. The white small christmas lights are added to set off the display. Enjoyed yearly by all, especially our grandkids. 

Christine Margaret Harlington.

When my parents moved from the family home into a condo, my dad’s love of Christmas lights didn’t stop. He took all those strings of lights and festooned our sailboat! The reflection made for a beautiful sight.

B. Wong

Not quite your mom’s huge Bah! Humbug! sign, but I like to hang a garland in our front window that reads JOY in felt letters. I hang it so that the word is facing inside, so to the outside it reads YOJ. People like to point it out to me each year and it truly cracks me up!  I guess I am saying ‘YOJ to the world’. 

Chris Walton

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