Pet Food Myths/Truths That May Surprise You!
Do you have questions about what to feed your dog? Do you see things like “human grade”, “grain free”, “organic” and wonder if that food is better? When choosing a pet food, there is a lot of misinformation and confusing terms out there. Read below to learn what is and what isn’t important in purchasing a pet food.
Myth: Organic is better
Truth: The term “organic” is not regulated in pet food. It is strictly a marketing term and any
pet food can be labeled organic. That is also true of “human grade”, “premium”
and “holistic”. Spending more money for these phrases does not guarantee you a
Myth: Don’t buy food from pet food companies that have recalled one of their foods
Truth: A lot of the recalls today are voluntary recalls (the pet food companies are getting better at screening their product) and salmonella testing has gotten better. Some
companies that have never had a recall are not screening their product as
well. At the same time, if a pet food company is having their food recalled
every other week, this may be indication of a problem.
Myth: Grain-free foods are better for my pet, or grains are making my pet fat
Truth: Grains do not cause increased obesity, and if fed with a balanced diet, do provide
important nutrition for your pet. In fact, in foods labeled “grain free”, the
grain is usually substituted for tapioca or potato which has higher calories
and is less nutritious than grains.
Myth: My pet is allergic to grains
Truth: Pets are seldom allergic to grains. More often protein sources such as chicken, beef,
and soy are the allergen that can cause itchy skin, ear infections and anal gland issues. If you dog has any of these non-seasonal recurring problems, ask your vet about a novel protein feeding trial. If your dog does not have these problems, chicken and beef are good proteins for your dog.
Myth: By-products are bad for my dog. When questioned, many people believe by-products are hooves, hair, teeth or horns.
Truth: By-products are organs such as heart, lungs, spleen and are very nutritious! In the wild what do the carnivores eat first?- the organs. The term by-product CANNOT
refer to hooves, hair, teeth or horns.
Myth: Small, designer pet food companies are better.
Truth: Larger pet food companies often have more funding and therefore can perform quality
control tests on their foods, hire nutritionists and conduct feeding trials to produce a well balanced food. Certain small pet food companies may be just as good as some of the larger companies but ask… do they have a quality control program? Do they have a full time nutritionist on staff with a pHD or a board certified veterinary nutritionist? Do they perform food trials for their foods? Do they have their own manufacturing plants or do they have to
Myth: Raw diets are better for my pet.
Truth: Both the American Veterinary Medical Association and American Animal Hospital
Association discourage feeding raw food for their increased risk of carrying salmonella and campylobacter which can be transmitted to pets as well as owners handling the food. There is also increased concern for nutritional imbalances in commercial and home prepared raw diets. The American College of Veterinary Nutritionists stated “At this time, the vast majority of purported benefits of feeding raw foods remain unproven, while the risks and consequences have been documented.”
Myth: It is essential to have a protein source (such as chicken or beef) as one of the first 2 ingredients on the label
Truth: Ingredients are listed in decreasing order of weight. A food that has “rabbit”
listed as the second ingredient may have the exact same nutrition as a food with “rabbit meal” listed as the fourth or fifth ingredient. The difference is that the “rabbit” is not dehydrated while the “rabbit meal” may be the exact same rabbit meat but is dehydrated (no
water weight so it weighs less).
So now you’re probably thinking what can I trust on a pet food label? How do I find a good food for my pet. Keep reading…
Advice for pet owners: How to select a good pet food
There can be many marketing tools used by pet food companies used to draw you into their pet food product- cute pictures of dogs/cats, words exclaiming things like “organic”, “grain- free”, etc. The most important information on your pet food bag is the “Nutrition Adequacy Statement”. This is sometimes hard to find, but it is usually listed in small font near the ingredient information on the side or back of the food bag.
On the Nutrition Adequacy statement, look for these terms as indicators of superior pet foods:
1) Words indicating “Animal Feeding Tests or Feeding Trials ”. If the statement only says “meets minimum calculation or formulated to meet AAFCO feeding requirements”, the diet may meet minimum nutrient requirements but have never been proven in a food trial with real animals to test it. (If your particular food does not have this statement check to see if the manufacturer has at least tested other foods they produce since they may not test every single food type.)
2) Words indicating “complete and balanced”. If your food says intended for intermittent or supplemental feeding this is not ok for a maintenance food unless directed by your veterinarian.
3) Words indicating the food’s intended life stage. You want to make sure the life stage is
appropriate for your pet. For example “maintenance” is for adult pets and “growth” for puppies or kittens. If your adult food says “for growth” this has higher calories intended for a puppy and is not usually recommended for an adult. Be a little wary of foods that advertise “for all life stages”. Most of the time nutritional requirements for puppies are very different than adults.
Let’s take a look at an example:
If you look at the last paragraph on this food label, this bag of pet food made by Purina would be a good option for an adult small breed dog since the bag indicates 1) feeding
trials have been conducted 2) complete and balanced is on the nutrition
statement 3) the life stage intended is adult small breed dogs. This food would not be appropriate for a puppy.
There are a lot of food options out there, so I hope this helps you make better decisions about your pet food and helps you avoid paying more for fancy terms that may mean nothing.
*Still have questions? Ask your veterinarian for recommendations- they are a great resource. *
WANT TO LEARN MORE? Here are other helpful links about choosing a QUALITY FOOD: