It is hard to know what pet food is best. This can be an overwhelming decision to make considering that pet food options are growing weekly. Be warned that the label that is on the package is a marketing tool used to attract your attention and it does not signify what is found inside the bag or can. Unfortunately, this means that a lot of the information provided on the packaging list and use of catchphrases like “holistic,” “premium” or “grain free” do not amount to much as far as the quality of the food you end up feeding your pet.
Soooo….. where do you go? You would think reading the ingredients list would be helpful. Nope, not true, but some red flag ingredients to look for would be garlic – which is toxic; flaxseed – cats cannot metabolize it; and vegetables being low on the ingredient list.
Here are some easy questions to ask the pet food company PRIOR to purchasing food for your pet. Go to the company’s website to obtain the phone number or you may call us. (Often if you wait until you get to the store, employees may have a biased influence over your purchase.)
1. Now this is a biggie: Do they employ a full-time qualified veterinary nutritionist? i.e., a PhD in animal nutrition or board-certified veterinary nutritionist?
Keep in mind that anyone can produce pet food. All they need is money and a good recipe. It would be best to find a pet food company that knows how their food is nutritionally balanced in for your cat, dog, ferret etc.
2. Are their diets tested using AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) feeding trials or by formulation (a recipe) to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles? Overall, feeding tests, or trials, are best.
3. Where are the foods produced and manufactured for their pet foods? It is best if the company has its own plants and outsources production little to not at all.
4. What quality control measures do they take to make sure the food product is consistent in the quality of ingredients used? If no quality control, then there are no guarantees on what you will get.
5. If you have a good food representative on the phone, also ask them what kind of product research has been conducted on their foods and is this research published in peer-reviewed journals. This can be tricky because many will say on the label or via phone call that they research their food but often it is “inside” review of the research and numbers may be modified based on the company’s desired result.
What if you see these crazy statements??
- “No byproducts” on the label as an advertisement for the pet food. The FDA does not allow unclean body parts including organ meats, hooves or hair, to go into pet foods. The byproducts that are allowed in pet foods are CLEANED meat tissue, which can include cleaned intestines. Keep in mind that if your pet is an outdoor, indoor/outdoor or great mouse hunter he/she does not take the time to clean his food prior to consumption.
- How about my favorite: “Grainfree”- ugh!! “Gluten free”- really!
There is NO veterinary scientific research that supports the need for a grain free/gluten free diet for your healthy pet. Grain allergies are uncommon and grains are nutrients that animals can metabolize. Remember, your pet is not a human. A gluten allergy has only beed identified in one family of dogs. One family in the world…
If you come into the clinic and your pet is already on a grain free/gluten free diet, am I going to deter you from that food? Not necessarily, but you are likely wasting your money. Money that you could be using for other things like… a vacation, new pet clothes or better yet, pet insurance.
- If you have trouble contacting the pet food companies you may give us a call. We have done the legwork for you for some of the pet food companies. Also be careful when you are using “Dr. Google.” There are some great websites that provide research-based information but a large majority is based on biased opinion without substantiated animal nutrition background (i.e. dog advisor). BE AWARE!!!