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Ask Marc: Pet Nutrition

Martha Stewart Living Television

My vet told me to feed my dog a premium food that is more expensive than the supermarket version my dog prefers. If the more expensive food is so good, why does my dog like the supermarket brand better?
-- Tabitha, New York City

Compare the two brands' ingredients; if they're exactly the same, the less expensive brand is fine! However, lower-priced dog foods often have meat by-products or grains, not actual meat, as their primary ingredients. These lower-priced brands may also contain a lot of salt and sugar, as well as colored bits and pieces that are there solely for human benefit -- dogs are color-blind. Furthermore, dogs tend to eat more of the cheaper brands, as they cannot digest the grains, so it's possible that you'll end up buying more dog food and spending the money you saved.

My vet says that because my dog is overweight, I have to cut down on her treats. I love giving her treats, and she loves getting them! Can you suggest a healthy, lowfat dog treat?
-- Griffin, Washington, D.C.

People love to give their pets treats, and of course, pets love receiving them. But just because your dog loves a certain treat doesn't mean it's healthy for her. Marc suggests giving dogs cut-up pieces of fruits and vegetables as treats, but advises owners to steer clear of citrus fruits, which dogs do not digest easily.

My boyfriend gives my ferret raisins as treats. Are raisins good for ferrets?
-- Annie, San Diego

Ferrets are obligate carnivores and cannot easily digest anything other than meat. A raisin once in a while won't harm your ferret, but there are better ferret treats to be found. Drops of ferret-tone and furo-vite, fatty oils that are healthy for ferrets, make good treats; dispense the oil from a squeeze bottle.

My house bunny loves alfalfa hay, but I have been told that too much alfalfa is not good for adult rabbits. What should I be feeding her?
-- Rita, Honolulu, Hawaii

Alfalfa hay is high in protein, which an adult rabbit doesn't need in her diet; sometimes too much protein can even be unhealthy for an adult rabbit. Most pet shops sells grass hays such as Timothy hay, which should be a major part of any adult rabbit's diet.