Buying pet food is like buying any other consumer item. Buyer beware. The pet food we buy should be the product that supplies our dog or cat with his or her nutritional requirements and stays within our budget.
There are many dog and cat foods on the market today. Bags, cans and boxes of pet food are for sale in supermarkets, pet stores, vet clinics and feed stores. Which one do we buy for our dog or cat?
In order to sell dog and cat food, in Canada today three things are required by law to be stated on the label
That's it. Anything else stated on the label is at the discretion of the manufacturer.
- Must state Dog Food or Cat Food (in English and French)
- The weight (kilograms) and
- The name of the Manufacturer or Distributor.
- (Dr. J. David Mitchell, Pet Food Association of Canada)
In the United States, the Association of American Feed Control Officials, AAFCO, have set forth some guidelines in cooperation with the industry and various other Government Agencies so that the pet food manufacturers and pet food buyers have some consistent information presented.
For example, Regulation PF2. Label Format and Labeling outlines what and how information is to be put on a label of pet food. If a claim is made that the ration is "complete and balanced",then"1. Contains ingredients in quantities sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements for all life stages established by the AAFCO Dog or Cat Food Nutrient Profiles, as the case may be, or some other AAFCO-recognized authority on animal nutrition. "Feed ingredients by-products, meat meal etc., vitamins, minerals and additives are defined. Additives for preserving, coloring and flavoring are stated with their amounts. Ingredients are listed in order of their amounts. The most first on to the least.
(1994 Official Publication of the AAFCO)
By reading the label we can get some information with regard to the contents if we understand the definitions and chemical names.
Where does this all leave us, the average consumer? Which pet food do we buy? Reputable companies, manufacturing quality pet food, have spent time and money on testing, quality control and packaging. They are eager to let us know, about their product, by printing extensive labels, with 1-800 numbers for consumer feedback. This is big business and consumer satisfaction is important. In other words, the more they put on the label, the more they want to tell us about their product.
Which brings us back, which one do we buy? As dog and cat feeders we must:
- Know what our dog or cat requires as far a nutrients. ( for a growing puppy or kitten, a nursing bitch or queen, a working dog or house cat)
- Select and feed a pet food that supplies those nutrients in a form and quantity that satisfies our pet.
- Stay within our budget.
- Evaluate our dog or cat after they have eaten it, not just because they like it, and
- Make adjustments when necessary. (add home recipes or supplement with vitamins and minerals)
By understanding what nutrients our pet needs depending upon his or her age, environment and work load, we feed foods to meet those needs.
The dog or cat will tell us which is the best. By his or her appearance, hair and body condition, attitude and activity level they will show us that we have supplied all of the nutrient requirements.
We must learn to read the labels, understand, what it says and doesn't say and we must learn to read the signs of good nutritional health in our dog and cat.
That will then be the pet food to buy.
About Edmund R. Dorosz, BSA, DVM
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