March 31st, 2022
Everybody wants to feed their pet a healthy and nutritious diet. But what exactly does “nutritionally balanced” really mean? This term can be very confusing. According to AAFCO (a certifying agency that publishes guidelines to minimize the risk of malnutrition in animals), the term balanced “may be applied to a diet, ration, or feed having all known required nutrients in proper amount and proportion based upon
recommendations of recognized authorities in the field of animal nutrition, such as the National Research Council, for a given set of physiological animal requirements. The species for which it is intended and the functions such as maintenance or maintenance plus production (growth, fetus, fat, milk, eggs, wool, feathers, or work) shall be specified.”
As you can see, this statement is very broad. Our hope is that the following information on nutrition can help you to make informed decisions about choosing a diet for your pet, as well as what to watch out for when considering using supplements, feeding a home-made diet, or dealing with a medical issue in your pet.
How do I know my pet is on a good quality or balanced diet?
The WSAVA Global Nutrition Committee provides many useful nutrition resources including: Recommendations on Selecting Pet Foods.
How to Select a Food for your Pet:
Frequently asked Questions and Myths about Pet Foods:
To help determine if a pet food manufacturer produces a good quality diet, look for the following:
- Do they employ a full-time qualified nutritionist, either a PhD in animal nutrition or someone board-certified by the American or European specialty veterinary colleges?
- Who is it that formulates the diets and what are their credentials?
- Where is their food production and manufacturing located?
- How do they certify their “complete and balanced” claims?
- Do they provide details for their quality control measures?
- Do they provide a complete nutrient profile (“typical analysis”) for products?
- Calorie content is listed
- Do they provide any product research (either published in peer reviewed journals or elsewhere)?
A general rule-of-thumb is companies that manufacture veterinary therapeutic diets generally use the same quality standards for their over-the-counter diets. Companies that perform testing above and beyond AAFCO trials (i.e., strive to provide more than the recommended minimum) are also better. Finally, company longevity also a sign of a better food manufacturer.
What else should you look at when selecting a pet food?
- Choose the form or forms that you and your pet prefer – kibble, cans, and pouches are all available and have their pros and cons
- Read the label – look at the ingredient list, the guaranteed analysis, and evidence of certification of its nutritional suitability
- Ask the vet if your pet has special nutritional requirements based on their age, breed, or health problems they may have like kidney disease, diabetes, or food allergies
- Check out the manufacturer’s website or call them to get more information on how they make their foods and where they source their ingredients from