Posts Tagged: cat food

Deciphering Pet Foods

We love our pets as much as we love our children and we want them to eat the best quality food possible. Does this mean that we should be cooking for our pets or buying them a raw or high-end diet? It is important to know that most pet food companies put a lot of research and effort into developing these diets specifically for dogs and cats. Their dietary requirements are different from ours and something as simple as excess nutrients can have an impact on a pet’s health.

Cat and dog looking for meat in the refrigerator

This is especially important with homemade diets and raw foods, where the diet is not scientifically calibrated for a pet. When making a homemade diet for a pet, it is not sufficient to feed them a portion of a protein, a carbohydrate, and a vegetable each day. The diets need to be much more balanced and orchestrated than that. Some examples: excess sodium may play a role in heart failure and cause the progression of renal disease; and excess calcium may cause skeletal disease or urinary bladder stones.  In large breed puppies, too much calcium can predispose to diseases like hip dysplasia. Magnesium, which is a nutrient we don’t traditionally think much about, can worsen feline lower urinary tract syndrome, which is an ailment many domestic cats struggle with. In general, the nutrients are more important than ingredients, despite the claims of the pet food companies that emphasize grain free, or no corn.

Corn is overall a great ingredient in pet food and it is low cost, making the foods more affordable. Corn provides good energy, fatty acids, and protein; it is a carbohydrate with the added power of vitamins and antioxidants because of the color (vs. rice with a general lack of color). There is no evidence that grains are bad for your pets. This is a marketing strategy employed by pet food companies that has become a fad in the pet food industry.  Ingredients such as cartilage, tendons   and ligaments count toward the protein level in pet foods, but they’re not good proteins.

The quality of the protein provided in the pet’s food is important. The higher the quality of the protein, the less of the actual protein you will need to include in the diet. For example, eggs offer a higher quality protein available to your pet than other products like wheat, rice or whole corn. Of the protein in an egg, your pet can use 94% of those proteins, compared to the amount in beef, chicken, or pork where only 74% of those meat’s proteins can be used. This does not mean chicken is a bad protein. It is still a great protein source, especially compared to something like rice, which only 64% of the protein is available to your pet. The quality of the protein is especially important in pets with kidney disease; the less protein volume a pet has, the less strain on those ailing kidneys.

Pet Food Labels:

When evaluating a pet food for your pet the first thing you want to look for on the bag is the AAFCO Statement.  Check for it to say “feeding test” vs. “formulated”.  Feeding test will indicate that the food was actually tested for a minimum of 6 months following requirements set by AAFCO before going on the shelf, whereas formulated indicates no testing was done. We are all in the habit of looking at the nutrition facts on our own food and the “guaranteed analysis” is the pet food equivalent, but it does not offer all of the same information. The analysis does not provide an actual percentage of a nutrient, just the minimum and maximum amount that could be found in that food.


Image Courtesy of Pup Culture MagazineImage Courtesy of Pup Culture Magazine

Here are some guidelines for how they label foods to give you more of an idea of the actual content of the diet.

  • If the food is called an “entree, dinner, formula”, 25-95% of that diet contains that ingredient. That is a large range! If the word “with” precedes an ingredient in the title, then only 3%-24% of the diet is made of that ingredient.
  • If a diet is turkey “flavor”, then 3% or less of the food in the bag is actual turkey.
  • If you are looking for a diet food, the label “light” has to follow AAFCO standards, “Lite” does not.
  • To label a diet as “organic” it must have a USDA organic seal on it which indicates that 95% or more of the ingredients are truly organic. The diet does not have to be 100% organic to obtain the label!
  • If a label says “organic ingredients” and does not have a seal visible on it, then that is not an organic diet.
  • The term “natural” on the label would indicate that there are no chemical alterations to the food. However, it is important to note that GMO ingredients are not restricted from a natural diet, only from organic diets.
  • If you are looking for a holistic diet, interestingly there is no legal definition, and this has no guarantee if you see it on a label.
  • If you are hoping for a diet labeled as “human grade” then the USDA must monitor the entire production process and no pet food at this time qualifies as human grade.

Additional Resources:
AAFCO – Association of American Feed Control Officials
WSAVA – The World Small Animal Veterinary Association
Pet Nutrition Alliance – Optimal Nutrition for Every Pet

 

img_7371.jpegContributed by:

Dr. Destiny Coleman
(with her dog, Rex)
Associate Veterinarian

Busting Myths with Nutritional Truths

With so many pet food options on the market today, it’s easy to get mixed up in all the labels and articles about what is healthy vs unhealthy, best vs worst, organic vs natural.. etc. It’s a lot to take in, even for a seasoned pet owner.  And every day new things products added and old recipes get upgraded; your go-to brand becomes “new and improved!” and you ask yourself, “what was wrong before?!” Well, in today’s blog brought to us by Royal Canin, we’re giving you the basics of what you need to know about what you’re feeding your pets- regardless of which brand you love, and busting any myths about nutrients that you may have heard or seen.

shutterstock_37727902By-products provide valuable nutrients for your pet:

AAFCO confirms that by-products are suitable for animal food and may include clean internal organs such as liver, lungs, and heart
By-products are a valuable source of energy, vitamins and minerals

Grains provide valuable nutrients for your pet:

Grains such as corn and wheat are excellent sources of quality protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber
Many grains are highly digestible sources of protein
Excluding the rare dog with a true allergy, there is no evidence to support claims that grains  cause health problems
Many “grain free” diets substitute potato or tapioca (for the grains), which contribute fewer nutrients than grains

Wheat gluten provides a valuable source of protein for your pet:

Wheat gluten is more than 80% protein, highly digestible and has an amino acid profile similar to other proteins

Chicken Meal is an excellent source of protein for your pet:

Chicken meal consists of dehydrated and defatted chicken and provides a very digestible source of concentrated protein

Flax seeds contain a precursor to EPA and DHA:

Flax seeds do NOT actually contain EPA or DHA, but instead contain a precursor from which your dog must
manufacture EPA and DHA itself
This manufacturing or conversion process is not efficient.
Most veterinary research supporting benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in the support of the skin, joint, kidney and heart
has been done evaluating EPA and DHA (Found only in certain marine plants and fish)

Organic:

Does NOT refer to quality of the raw material or final ingredient; It’s a description of process (under which plants/animals are grown/raised).
There are NO scientific data to back up the “claim” that organic is healthier for pets.
Organic diets frequently use flax seed instead of marine plants and fish as source of fatty acids.

Raw:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states raw meat diets for animals are not “consistent with the goal of protecting the public from significant health risks particularly when such products are brought into the home and/or used to feed domestic pets.
The FDA has not seen any objective evidence to suggest that raw meat diets are better than other kinds of diets.

Human-grade & Holistic:

Not defined by AAFCO and therefore cannot be accurately used to describe a pet food.

We hope with this nutrition myth-busting, that you can go out with more food knowledge and insight than you had. Our pets are a big part of our families, and we take care of them like they were our own children. Part of that care includes feeding them the best food to keep them active, healthy, and happy.

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