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Food For Your Pet

Take a look at a few tips on how to choose high-quality food for your furry friend.

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American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) Statements

The AAFCO regulates nutritional adequacy statements. Every pet food provides one of the following statements (in order of highest to lowest quality):

  • Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that [food] provider complete and balanced nutrition for [life stage].
    • This is the highest quality food.
  • [Food] is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Food Nutrient Profiles for [life stage].
    • This is the next level of quality.
  • [Food] provides complete and balanced nutrition for [life stage] and is comparable in nutritional adequacy to a product that has been substantiated using AAFCO feeding tests. Because of the AAFCO “family member” rule, products that are nutritionally like other products tested under the “feeding test” method do not need to be tested themselves.
    • This product is intended for intermittent or supplemental feeding only.
  • No AAFCO statement.
    • This product is not recommended.

Evaluating the Ingredient List and the Guaranteed Analysis

Ingredients are listed in order of weight, including their water content. This means that “meat,” which is about 75% water, may actually contribute less protein to food than the meat meal listed lower on the list because meat meal is only 10% water.

Guaranteed Analyses list only minimum or maximum percentages, so they’re not very helpful. Two foods with the same Guaranteed Analysis may have considerably different nutrient content.

Look Carefully at the Food Name (using lamb as an example meat)

  • Lamb Dog Food must contain at least 95% lamb (or 70% if water has been added).
  • Lamb and Chicken Dog Food must contain 95% total between the two types of meat.
  • Lamb and Rice Dog Food must still contain 95% lamb since it’s the only meat listed.
  • Lamb Dinner/Formula/Recipe must contain at least 25% lamb (10% with added water). It could contain more of another meat type (such as chicken) than lamb. Lamb and Rice Dinner does include the rice in the 25% minimum.
  • Dog Dinner with Lamb must contain at least 3% lamb.
  • Dog Food with Lamb Flavor only needs to contain enough lamb for a trained dog to detect.

Use Correct Diet For Size & Life Stage

Puppies and kittens need more concentrated nutrition than adult pets do, so it’s preferable not to buy food “for all life stages”. For larger breed puppies, it’s best to feed a puppy food formulated for large breed dogs to help keep the dog slightly thin to prevent arthritis later on.

Pet obesity is one of the top two diseases veterinarians see in patients. The disease can start when feeding puppies too much. Over-feeding puppies can lead to orthopedic, behavioral, and gastrointestinal problems. Please consider referencing this feeding calculator for your pet.

Your veterinarian can give you the ideal weight for your puppy and how to adjust the volume as it grows. A rough guideline is 1 cup of dry food per 20 pounds of body weight for most dog foods manufactured in the U.S. The pet nutrition calculator should reflect this estimate. Individual variation can occur. Consulting your veterinarian should always be your best source of information.

Marketing Buzz Words

“Organic,” “premium,” “holistic,” “sensitive,” “gourmet”: none of these words have a legal definition in pet foods. Extra-label advertising is protected free speech in the US, even if it is misleading.

Raw & Homemade Diets

The FDA and AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) advise against raw/dehydrated non-sterilized foods because of potential health risks (for both the pet and owners). Homemade diets are typically not nutritionally adequate unless formulated by a veterinary nutritionist (for example, using BalanceIT nutritional counseling: www.balanceit.com)

Avoid Grain-Free Products

The FDA is investigating a potential dietary link between canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and certain grain-free dog foods. The foods of concern are those containing legumes such as peas or lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes listed as primary ingredients. Dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM, is an ailment that causes a dog’s heart to grow and struggle to pump blood effectively.

View FDA statement on grain-free diets.