We should give our pets the perfect nutrition, but with so many choices, how do we separate the best from the rest?
Do words like “premium” and “gourmet” actually mean anything? Are foods labeled “natural” and “organic” actually healthier? The stark reality is, in regards to pet food, several terms have no standard definition or regulatory meaning. There is no-one perfect source for comparing kibbles and chows. There is, however, some basic information that you should use to judge what you feed your four-legged family members.
Looking into the meals label
Pet food labels have two basic parts: the principal display panel and the information panel. The very first takes up a lot of the packaging – it offers the brand and name of the meals, and descriptive terms and images. But the most important area of the label is the information panel, that is the parallel of a human nutritional information label. It provides 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 method of measuring that is used, not the caliber of the protein, fat or fiber dry foods. These percentages are on “as fed” basis, so foods that contain more water (canned foods) appear to possess less protein than foods with less water (dry foods) – but that’s not usually the case.
Ingredients in a pet food should 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 though 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 label may be “chicken”, which weighs significantly more than other individual ingredients because it may contain 70% water. But wheat may be within various forms which are listed as individual ingredients, such as for example “wheat flour”, “ground wheat” and “wheat middling “.Thus, the dietary plan may actually contain more wheat than chicken. Wish protein source is listed first doesn’t mean the dietary plan is high in protein.
Feeding guidelines are also on the information panel of the label. Like human food labels, pet food labels give broad feeding guidelines. Pet food guidelines are based on average intake for all dogs or cats. But a pet’s nutritional requirements may differ 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 cat or dog starts gaining weight, you might need to feed her less, and vice versa.
Let’s look at the nutritional adequacy statement, produced 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 the pet food is fed as the only real source of nutrition, it meets or exceeds nutritional requirements for a cat or dog 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 dietary plan 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 quantity of nutrients in a pet food either on the cornerstone of the average nutrient content of its ingredients, or on results from laboratory testing. This kind of 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 maker has tested the product by feeding it to dogs or cats under specific guidelines. These items carry a statement such as for example: ” 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 the labels. For instance, a pet 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 depend on the dietary moisture content.
“Less calories” and “reduced calories” mean only that the product has fewer calories than another product, and the exact same goes for “less fat” or “reduced fat.” Pet food labels aren’t usually required to provide calorie content.
Some pet parents try to eat a natural diet, and often they want their pets to eat that way, too. Keep in mind, though, that even though a pet food is “natural” or “organic” it always contains added synthetically-produced vitamins and minerals. To date, you will find no studies showing that natural or organic foods provide any health advantages over conventionally manufactured processed cat or dog foods.
Now, there is a huge trend for feeding “biologically appropriate raw food” (also referred to as BARF) and “grain free” pet food.
Barf diets have been reported to possess many health advantages over conventionally processed food items, such as for example being easier for pets to digest. While no scientific publications have documented medical advantages of raw diets, they have not been demonstrated to be detrimental, either. When feeding any raw food, there’s always concern about the risk of bacterial infection, such as for example Salmonella, but obviously, conventional pet foods have already been recalled for contamination.
Proponents of “grain-free” diets claim they have many health advantages for pets, including increased digestibility and decreased allergens. However in fact, dogs and cats easily digest carbohydrates from grains or vegetable sources. Food allergies tend to be blamed on the grains in the dietary plan, but this isn’t based on scientific data either, and most food allergies may be because of chemical reactions between the protein and carbohydrate ingredients in a diet.