How to Choose a Pet Food

The information is provided by the Hills Nutrition Company. It will help you decide which are the best foods to feed your pets.  As always if you have specific questions please contact my office.     Dr.L

AAFCO  Association of American Feed Control Officials.  This organization sets the nutritional standards for pet foods sold in the U.S.  The  nutritional adequacy of  pet foods is determined by one of two methods based on nutritional levels and procedures defined by the AAFCO.

1. Formulation Method- This is the less expensive method. Feeding and  digestibility trials are not required. There is no guarantee of pet acceptance or nutrient bio availability  when using this method.  A label statement example with this method is,”Brand X Cat Food is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO for Cat Food Nutrient Profiles for Maintenance”.  If you know and trust a company making this claim that the stated ingredients are in the food than this would be an acceptable food.

2. Feeding Trial Method – This is the Gold Standard for determining adequacy.   The manufacturer must perform an AAFCO protocol” feeding trial” using the food being tested as the sole source of nutrition.  Feeding trials are the best way to document how a pet will perform when fed a specific food.  An example of a label statement with this method of testing is ,” Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that Brand Y Adult Dog Food provides “Complete and Balanced” nutrition for maintenance of adult dogs”.

The AAFCO life stages for specific foods tell you which age group of pets the food is made for.  Not all foods are necessarily meant to be fed to all ages of pets.

1.Growth-Gestation-and Lactation,

2.  Adult

3. All Lifestages – a food making this claim can be fed to all age pets.

The AAFCO has requirements for naming pet food.  If a Pet Food has one of the names below, it must contain at least the stated % of the named ingredients

Chicken, Beef , Seafood without modifiers   must have  95%

Dinner, entree, platter (ie chicken dinner, beef entree, seafood platter) must have at least 25%

With (with chicken, with beef, with seafood)   must have at least  3%

Flavor  (chicken flavor, beef flavor) can have 0%  but must disclose source of the flavor


Some Definitions

0.  “Complete and Balanced”  -the gold standard for choosing a pet food based on nutritional testing by the AAFCO

1. Carnivore-  An animal subsisting primarily on animal tissue  ie. meat

2. Herbivore- An animal subsisting entirely on plant tissue

3.  Omnivore- An animal subsisting on both animal and plant tissues

Dogs are omnivores

Cats are true carnivores.  They have a higher protein requirement and higher dietary requirements for nutrients that aren’t available from plant tissue,  like taurine.

4.  Organic- According to the USDA organic may only be applied to pet food labels when the ingredients are grown with only animal or vegetable fertilizers such as manure, bone meal or compost.

5. Natural implies ingredients arise from nature : in accordance with what is found or expected in nature.  It must be produced or exist in nature: not artificial or manufactured. According to AAFCO the term “natural” requires that a pet food to consist of only natural ingredients without chemical alterations

6. Holistic- there is no legal definition of this term under the laws relating to pet foods. Any food manufacturer can make a claim of “holistic” in their literature or brochures regardless of the ingredients chosen

7 By-Products is a secondary product produced in addition to the principal product. Simply speaking it is a product made in the making of something else,ie vitamin E is a by-product of soy beans processing, and vegetable  oils, (corn oil, soy oil),  are extracted from seeds that are  processed for consumption purpose.

8. Preservatives are ingredients used in pet foods to prevent spoilage and rancidity.  Natural preservatives include Vitamin E, spice extracts, and citric acid. Antioxidant preservatives stabilize fats and fat soluble vitamins against oxidation which leads to rancidity and loss of nutritional value.  BHA and BHT are synthetic antioxidant preservatives.

9. A filler is a food ingredient that supplies no nutrients  and serves no nutritional purpose.