We want to give our pets the perfect nutrition, but with so many options, how do we separate the best from the remainder?
Do words like “premium” and “gourmet” actually mean anything? Are foods labeled “natural” and “organic” actually healthier? The reality is, as it pertains to pet food, a number of these terms don’t have any standard definition or regulatory meaning. There’s no one perfect source for comparing kibbles and chows. There’s, however, some basic information that you should use to gauge what you feed your four-legged family members.
Looking at the foodstuff label
Pet food labels have two basic parts: the principal display panel and the information panel. The first takes up all of the packaging – it provides the brand and name of the foodstuff, and descriptive terms and images. But the main area of the label is the information panel, that will be the parallel of an individual 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. These percentages are on “as fed” basis, so foods which contain more water (canned foods) appear to own 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 when lower – moisture ingredients contribute more actual nutrients shop dog. The order isn’t by nutritional value, but by weight.
For instance, the first ingredient on a label may be “chicken”, which weighs significantly more than other individual ingredients because it could contain 70% water. But wheat may be within various forms which can be listed as individual ingredients, such as for instance “wheat flour”, “ground wheat” and “wheat middling “.Thus, the diet might actually contain more wheat than chicken. Must be protein source is listed first does not mean the diet is full of protein.
Feeding guidelines will also be on the information panel of the label. Like human food labels, pet food labels give broad feeding guidelines. Pet food guidelines derive from average intake for several dogs or cats. But a pet’s nutritional requirements may differ in accordance with his age, breed, bodyweight, genetics, activity level and even the climate he lives in. So, these guidelines are a starting place, but may require adjusting for your particular furry friend. If your dog or cat starts gaining weight, you will 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 your pet food is fed as the only real source of nutrition, it meets or exceeds nutritional requirements for a dog or cat at more than one 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 quantity of nutrients in a puppy food either on the cornerstone of the typical 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 up 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. The 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 a lot 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 those labels. As an example, a puppy food can claim to be “light/lite” or “lean” as long as it meets the AAFCO’s standard definitions for these terms, which differ for cat and dog food and rely 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 supply calorie content.
Some pet parents try to eat a natural diet, and often they want their pets to eat this way, too. Keep in mind, though, that even when a puppy food is “natural” or “organic” it always contains added synthetically-produced vitamins and minerals. Up to now, there are no studies showing that natural or organic foods provide any health benefits over conventionally manufactured processed cat or dog foods.
Recently, there is a huge trend for feeding “biologically appropriate raw food” (also referred to as BARF) and “grain free” pet food.
Barf diets have now been reported to own many health benefits over conventionally processed foods, such as for instance being easier for pets to digest. While no scientific publications have documented medical benefits of raw diets, they’ve 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 instance Salmonella, but needless to say, conventional pet foods have also been recalled for contamination.
Proponents of “grain-free” diets claim they’ve many health benefits for pets, including increased digestibility and decreased allergens. In fact, dogs and cats easily digest carbohydrates from grains or vegetable sources. Food allergies in many cases are blamed on the grains in the diet, but this isn’t centered on scientific data either, and most food allergies may be as a result of chemical reactions between the protein and carbohydrate ingredients in a diet.