Choosing a pet food can seem like an overwhelming task when the market is saturated with companies and products. Pet food companies skillfully use marketing techniques to promote their brand. This is a brief introduction to understanding the information presented on commercial pet foods.
Pet food labels include the product identity as well as an information panel. The product identity consists of the manufacturer’s name, brand name & product name. The information panel is where key nutritional information is found: ingredient statement, guaranteed analysis, nutritional adequacy or nutritional purpose statement (product description), feeding guidelines, & statement of calorie content.
The ingredient statement is a list of the ingredients in descending order according to weight. This information cannot be used alone to assess nutritional adequacy of a diet, as it may be misleading, but is important information when performing food trials. The guaranteed analysis provides the consumer with the minimum percentages for crude protein & crude fat and the maximum percentages for crude fibre and moisture within the food.
A nutritional adequacy statement claims the completeness (or balance) of the diet for a particular life stage. These statements must be substantiated through standard testing protocols set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). AAFCO has established minimum standards of food nutrient profiles for the formulation of cat and dog foods. The nutrient profiles differ for growth and reproduction and adult maintenance.
Recommendations on the amount of food to feed pets are found in the feeding guidelines. They are expressed as a volume or weight per day based on the weight of the animal. These recommendations are just guidelines and may not be appropriate for all pets depending on their breed, activity level and many other factors. Veterinarians assess the body condition of all pets they see and can make further suggestions on feeding quantities.
Nutrition plays an important part in the overall health and well being of animals. Clients should be encouraged to discuss any questions they have regarding nutrition with their veterinarian.