Webster Lake Veterinary Hospital

How to Pick a Good Pet Food


True or False? A pet food that costs more is better than a cheaper food.


Answer: False, in many cases. There are some pet foods that are inexpensive but still good quality and are wholesome. Some of the most expensive foods are NOT necessarily the best foods.


Here are some things to look for and ask about a pet food when considering different brands to purchase for your pet.


1. AAFCO Feeding statement: Foods that have undergone feeding trials are considered by nutritionists to be superior to foods that are only formulated to meet the standards put in place by the American Association of Feed Control Officials. This is because foods that are being tested in a test tube sometimes act differently in the actual pet’s body, so it is always a good idea to feed a food to the target animal first to ensure it is balanced and wholesome.


Example of a AAFCO statement from a food that has done feeding trials


Example of a AAFCO statement from a food that has just been formulated to meet AAFCO

Animal feeding trials using AAFCO procedures substantiate that Product X provides complete and balanced nutrition for the maintenance of adult cats.

Product Y is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO for cat food nutrient profiles for all life stages



2. Larger companies that have the resources to test both their incoming food items and their outgoing products are more desirable because they know the products being put into their foods are good because they have tested them. Many smaller companies cannot do these tests, usually due to financial constraints. Because of that they tend to have more recalls than the larger companies who usually catch contaminants and batches that have imbalances prior to even being shipped out to the consumer. Go to the official FDA pet food website to see for your self:http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/Products/AnimalFoodFeeds/PetFood/default.htm


3. Dogs and cats are not miniature humans. They both have their unique nutritional requirements that can be very different from humans. Any pet owner knows that while chocolate is a nice treat for humans, it is very toxic to cats and dogs! Because of this, pet food companies that employ a veterinary nutritionist to help formulate their pet foods are considered superior to companies that do not employ board certified veterinary nutritionist. You can call a pet food company to ask if they employ a nutritionist and whether or not that person is also a vet.



Common Myths


Myth #1:

Animal digest is made from the digestive tract of animals. This is FALSE! Animal digest refers to the process of hydrolyzing the animal protein or muscle tissue into a liquid or powder that is pure protein and is much more shelf stable than muscle meat left as is. It is used because it is extremely palatable to pets and it is an excellent source of protein.


Myth #2:

Animal by-products are poor quality ingredients. This is also FALSE! Animal by-products are what are left over from a clean carcass after the muscle meats have been removed. It includes liver, spleen, lungs and bones. It does not include teeth, hooves, feathers and intestinal contents. Diets that include muscle meats alone and no by-products often have to add in additional calcium and vitamins, as muscle meats are deficient in many things. Not all by- products are the same. Some companies purchase poor quality ingredients, so make sure that your pet food company is purchasing from good, clean, wholesome places that are USDA inspected.


Myth #3

Wheat and gluten are common food allergens in dogs and cats. FALSE! Food allergies in general are a lot less common than we think, accounting only for 10% of allergic skin disease in dogs. Of that 10%, most common proteins allergies are beef, dairy, and soy. Wheat allergy or Celiac disease has only been documented in one family of Irish Setters. Wheat is a wonderful protein source and provides many essential amino acids.


Myth #4:

Corn is a filler in animal foods. This is FALSE. A filler is defined by the AAFCO as an inedible additive with little to no nutritional value. Corn is a valuable addition to any pet food as it provides carbohydrates, proteins and essential fatty acids for both dogs and cats. It also has lots of antioxidants like vitamin E and beta-carotene. Corn gluten meal is an excellent source of protein and it is very easy to digest. Corn is definitely not a cheap filler because the price of corn keeps going up due to the increased costs of animal feed and because of the bio-fuel industry. Corn allergies are also very rare.


Myth #5:

When it comes to pet food, “natural”, “organic” and “holistic” all mean the same thing. This also is FALSE. Many companies use these terms on their labels to imply that their food is healthier or better than another diet. There is no legal term for holistic in pet food and just saying organic can mean very different things in pet food. Look for the USDA organic seal to ensure the food you are paying for is actually 95-100% organic. Natural does have a definition and it means a pet food has only naturally derived products in it. This means it must be from a plant, animal or mined source and not synthetically made. This is very difficult to do and many “natural” products have “with added vitamins and minerals” in its label in small print. It is also legal for companies to state they are “natural” but can have chemically synthesized vitamins, minerals and other trace nutrients in it without any labeling. Remember that there is no guarantee that natural, organic or holistic products provide any additional benefits for your pets.


Here is a list of helpful websites to answer any further questions you may have about pet foods

AAFCO website- good for regulations, labels and facts:http://petfood.aafco.org/

FAQs about pet foods:www.tufts.edu/vet/nutrition/faq/general_pet_nutrition.html

Pet Food Institute:http://www.petfoodinstitute.org/Index.cfm?Page=Consumers