Choosing the Right Food for your Pet

Diet is such an important part of keeping our pets happy and healthy.  But with endless options to choose from, how do you know which diet is best for your pet?

A pet that eats a healthy diet will likely live a longer, healthier life.  Your veterinarian should serve as your pet's nutritional counselor, so before choosing a new diet, always check with your veterinarian first, . 

Here are some ways to narrow down your search.

1.  Look for food that has undergone feeding trials. A good diet will say on the label "Animal feeding test using the American Association Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) procedures substantiate that this food provides complete and balanced nutrition…." This means that food underwent actual feeding or digestibility trials prior to being sold to pets.  A not-so-good food will instead say "This food is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO" which means that the food did NOT undergo actual feeding or digestibility trials. The formulation method is quicker and cheaper, but does not document the effect on animals.

2.  By-Products are NOT a bad thing!  They may actually be the best thing to feed pets because of the nutrition they contain and because they use parts of animals that would otherwise be thrown away when producing human food. By-products include vegetable oils, chicken fat, and pork, chicken and beef liver – the internal organs of animals used for human consumption that would otherwise be trashed. Feeding by-products = green living.

3.  Check the Ingredients:   Ingredients are listed in descending order by their predominance by weight. However, weight values are not included in the ingredient statement, meaning that the listed ingredients could vary by weight only .1 percent, or by 20 percent.

4.  Learn the Lingo:  Pet foods that are labeled "dinner", "platter", "entrée", "formula", etc. are required to include only 25 percent of the main ingredient (chicken dinner, beef entrée, etc.). If you purchase a can of cat food labeled as "seafood entrée", the manufacturer is required to include only 25 percent seafood in the product.   If a label includes the phrase "with ingredient X", the pet food is required to contain only 3 percent of ingredient X (chicken, beef, seafood, etc.)  The only requirement for including the word "flavor" on a pet food package? It must be "recognized by the pet".

5.  Holistic vs. Natural vs. Organic:  There is no legal definition of the term Holistic under pet food laws, so anyone can claim that their food is "holistic".  According to AAFCO, the term "natural" requires a pet food to consist of only natural ingredients that have not been subjected to chemical synthesis. Natural does not mean that a food is also organic.  Foods that are labeled "organic" must be certified as organic in accordance with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and AAFCO regulations. In order for a product to carry the USDA organic seal, at least 95 percent of its content must be organic by weight. To be organic, the components of a product must be grown with only animal or vegetable fertilizers, such as manure, bone meal compost. etc.

We all want our pets to live long, healthy lives.  Feeding them a nutritious diet is one way you can have a direct impact on their health.  Stop in today for your pets' free weight check and dietary assesment to determine which diet is right for them. 

**information from items 1-5 gathered from Hills Pet Nutrition, learn more here.


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