Choosing a Diet for Your Pet

Diet plays a huge part in your pet’s health. As an owner, you want to feed your pet the best but with all the choices out there it can be very difficult to decide on one diet. Many companies have all kinds of claims, some stating that you should feed your dog like the wolf it is related to. Others claiming that wheat and corn-free diets are far healthier than any other. All this conflicting information can make it confusing and hard to make a choice.

When picking a pet food, you need to consider many things, e.g. your pet’s species, life stage, and health.  Working at the clinic I have people ask a lot of advice about pet food. It is impossible to be knowledgeable about every diet out there so I often urge people to look for something call the AAFCO feeding statement. AAFCO stands for The Association of American Feed Control, your pet food should have this statement somewhere on the bag. It plays a role in regulating pet food, from defining ingredients to establishing nutritional adequacy. AAFCO does not necessarily approve pet foods but lays a general standard. It is a sad reality, but really anyone can make a pet food. Using AAFCO as a basis for your choice of diet can help give you a piece of mind about what you are feeding you pet.  Although helpful, it can take a bit of practice reading and understanding an AAFCO statement.

There a few main points that everyone should look for in an AAFCO statement:

  • “Complete and balanced”- Some AAFCO statements will only say “complete” while yes that means the food is a complete diet it also means that it is not properly balanced. Excess of fats, vitamins and minerals may be present in the diet, and more does not always mean better. You want a diet that is also balanced.
  • Life stage- You want a diet that is appropriate for the life stage of your pet. For example, if you have a puppy, you want the AAFCO statement to have “Growth/Growing” labeled in its statement.
  • “Maintenance”- You want a diet that is appropriate for long-term feeding. Some products are only good for supplemental or short-term feeding.
  • Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedure- I like the AAFCO statement to contain this phrase. I wouldn’t say that it is the most important statement, as testing can sometimes be very limited, but I think it is worth looking at. This phrase means that the food has undergone a feeding trial for a specific amount time and followed the procedure as outlined by AAFCO and has met the nutritional requirements.

Eg. AAFCO Statement

“Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that “World’s Best Kitten Food” provides complete and balanced nutrition for growing kittens and gestating/lactating adult female cats”

Overall when choosing a pet food, I urge pet owners not to look at specific ingredients. But look at the nutritional value of the food, and if it is appropriate for your pet.

By: Stephanie Withers ,RVT