We should give our pets the perfect nutrition, but with so many selections, just how do we separate the very best from the others?
Do words like “premium” and “gourmet” actually mean anything? Are foods labeled “natural” and “organic” actually healthier? The fact remains, as it pertains to pet food, several terms haven’t any standard definition or regulatory meaning. There’s nobody perfect source for comparing kibbles and chows. There’s, however, some basic information that you can use to evaluate what you feed your four-legged family members.
Looking into the food label
Pet food labels have two basic parts: the principal display panel and the info panel. The very first takes up all the packaging – it contains the brand and name of the food, and descriptive terms and images. But the most important part of the label is the info panel, which will be the parallel of an individual nutritional information label. It offers 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 strategy of measuring that’s used, not the grade of the protein, fat or fiber. These percentages are on “as fed” basis, so foods which contain more water (canned foods) appear to have less protein than foods with less water (dry foods) – but that’s not usually the case.
Ingredients in a pet food must be listed on the label in descending order by weight. One detail to remember, though, is that the weight includes the moisture in the ingredient, so certain ingredients may appear higher on the list even if lower – moisture ingredients contribute more actual nutrients. The order isn’t by nutritional value, but by weight.
Like, the initial ingredient on a tag may be “chicken”, which weighs a lot more than other individual ingredients because it may contain 70% water. But wheat may be contained in various forms which are 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. Wish protein source is listed first does not mean the diet is saturated in protein.
Feeding guidelines are also on the info panel of the label. Like human food labels, pet food labels give broad feeding guidelines dry foods. Pet food guidelines are based on average intake for several dogs or cats. But a pet’s nutritional requirements may differ according to his age, breed, body weight, genetics, activity level and even the climate he lives in. So, these guidelines are a starting point, but may require adjusting for the particular furry friend. If your cat or dog starts gaining weight, you may need to feed her less, and vice versa.
Let’s look at the nutritional adequacy statement, developed 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 the pet food is fed as the only real source of nutrition, it meets or exceeds nutritional requirements for a cat or dog 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 total amount of nutrients in a pet food either on the foundation of the typical nutrient content of its ingredients, or on results from laboratory testing. This kind of food will carry a record 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 manufacturer has tested the item by feeding it to dogs or cats under specific guidelines. The products carry a record 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 lots of information for pet parents to digest, but there’s still more to savor, including obtaining a taste for the terms on the principal display part of the labels. For instance, a pet 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 depend on the dietary moisture content.
“Less calories” and “reduced calories” mean only that the item 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 offer calorie content.
Some pet parents try to consume a natural diet, and often they want their pets to consume like that, too. Remember, though, that even if a pet food is “natural” or “organic” it always contains added synthetically-produced vitamins and minerals. To date, you will find no studies showing that natural or organic foods provide any health advantages over conventionally manufactured processed dog or cat foods.
More recently, there is a huge trend for feeding “biologically appropriate raw food” (also called BARF) and “grain free” pet food.
Barf diets have been reported to have many health advantages over conventionally processed foods, such as for instance being easier for pets to digest. While no scientific publications have documented the health great things about raw diets, they’ve not been shown to be detrimental, either. When feeding any raw food, there’s always concern about the danger of bacterial infection, such as for instance Salmonella, but obviously, conventional pet foods have been recalled for contamination.
Proponents of “grain-free” diets claim they’ve many health advantages for pets, including increased digestibility and decreased allergens. But in fact, dogs and cats easily digest carbohydrates from grains or vegetable sources. Food allergies are often blamed on the grains in the diet, but this is not predicated 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.