We should give our pets the perfect nutrition, but with so many options, how do we separate the very best from the remainder?
Do words like “premium” and “gourmet” actually mean anything? Are foods labeled “natural” and “organic” actually healthier? The stark reality is, when it comes to pet food, several terms have no standard definition or regulatory meaning. There is no body perfect source for comparing kibbles and chows. There is, however, some basic information that you need to use to evaluate that which you feed your four-legged family members.
Checking out the food label
Pet food labels have two basic parts: the principal display panel and the data panel. The very first occupies a lot of the packaging – it offers the brand and name of the food, and descriptive terms and images. But the most crucial the main label is the data panel, that is the parallel of an individual nutritional information label. It offers the guaranteed analysis, ingredient list, feeding guidelines and nutritional adequacy statement.
You won’t find as much detail here as on human foods, nevertheless the nutritional information does give minimum percentages of crude protein and crude fat, and maximum percentages of crude fiber and moisture. “Crude” refers to the strategy of measuring that’s used, not the caliber of the protein, fat or fiber pet foods. These percentages are on “as fed” basis, so foods which contain more water (canned foods) appear to have less protein than foods with less water (dry foods) – but that’s not usually the case.
Ingredients in a puppy food must be listed on the label in descending order by weight. One detail to consider, though, is that the weight includes the moisture in the ingredient, so certain ingredients may appear higher on the list even if lower – moisture ingredients contribute more actual nutrients. The order isn’t by nutritional value, but by weight.
As an example, the first ingredient on a name might be “chicken”, which weighs a lot more than other individual ingredients because it may contain 70% water. But wheat might be contained in various forms which are listed as individual ingredients, such as for instance “wheat flour”, “ground wheat” and “wheat middling “.Thus, the diet could possibly contain more wheat than chicken. Must be protein source is listed first does not mean the diet is saturated in protein.
Feeding guidelines will also be on the data panel of the label. Like human food labels, pet food labels give broad feeding guidelines. Pet food guidelines are based on average intake for many dogs or cats. But a pet’s nutritional requirements can vary according to his age, breed, bodyweight, genetics, activity level and even the climate he lives in. So, these guidelines are a starting point, but may require adjusting for the particular furry friend. If your dog or cat starts gaining weight, you might need to feed her less, and vice versa.
Let’s go through the nutritional adequacy statement, developed by an advisory organization that standardizes pet food nutrient contents called the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). This statement assures pet parents that when your pet food is fed as the only source of nutrition, it meets or exceeds nutritional requirements for a dog or cat at one or more life stages. However, the AAFCO recognizes only “adult maintenance” and “reproduction” (which includes pregnancy, lactation and growth) as life stages; or, if the diet meets both, “all life stages “.
The nutritional adequacy statement also shows how manufacturers have met the AAFCO’s standards, either by calculations or by feeding trials. Calculations estimate the total amount of nutrients in a puppy food either on the foundation of the average nutrient content of its ingredients, or on results from laboratory testing. Such a food will carry a statement like: “Brand A is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Food Nutrient Profiles for (stated life stages) “.
Feeding trials signify that the manufacturer has tested the product by feeding it to dogs or cats under specific guidelines. These products carry a statement such as for instance: ” Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that Brand A provides complete and balanced nutrition for “.
The ingredient panels on pet food labels contain lots of information for pet parents to digest, but there’s still more to savor, including finding a taste for the terms on the principal display part of these labels. As an example, a puppy food can claim to be “light/lite” or “lean” only if it meets the AAFCO’s standard definitions for these terms, which differ for cat and dog food and be determined by the dietary moisture content.
“Less calories” and “reduced calories” mean only that the product has fewer calories than another product, and the same goes for “less fat” or “reduced fat.” Pet food labels are not usually required to offer calorie content.
Some pet parents try to eat a natural diet, and often they desire their pets to eat like that, too. Bear in mind, though, that even if a puppy food is “natural” or “organic” it usually contains added synthetically-produced vitamins and minerals. To date, you will find no studies showing that natural or organic foods provide any health benefits over conventionally manufactured processed family pet foods.
Recently, there is a trend for feeding “biologically appropriate raw food” (also referred to as BARF) and “grain free” pet food.
Barf diets have already been reported to have many health benefits over conventionally processed food items, such as for instance being easier for pets to digest. While no scientific publications have documented medical great things about raw diets, they have not been shown to be detrimental, either. When feeding any raw food, there’s always concern about the risk of bacterial infection, such as for instance Salmonella, but of course, conventional pet foods have been recalled for contamination.
Proponents of “grain-free” diets claim they have many health benefits for pets, including increased digestibility and decreased allergens. But in fact, dogs and cats easily digest carbohydrates from grains or vegetable sources. Food allergies tend to be blamed on the grains in the diet, but this is simply not based on scientific data either, and most food allergies might be as a result of chemical reactions between the protein and carbohydrate ingredients in a diet.