How to Choose the Best Quality Pet Food for Dogs and Cats

quality-pet-foodWhen it comes to choosing the best food for dogs and cats, pet owners often get pulled into dietary trends that may or may not have all of the nutritional or caloric benefits that their pet needs. With all of the choices available on the market today, it can be difficult to identify quality pet food out of a sea of not-so-great and downright unhealthy options. For example, the current trend in pet food is the “all natural” or “veggie based” pet foods that are made for both dogs and cats. These are designed to appeal more to pet owners, rather than to the nutritional requirements or needs of pets.

It is more important than ever before that pet owners check labels and look for official statements, such as the Association of American Feed Control Officials or AAFCO, to ensure that the pet food meets at least the basic nutritional requirements. Pet owners should know that terms like “natural,” organic,” and “holistic” have not been established or supported by AAFCO, so the interpretation by the pet food companies as to what those words mean and the ingredients that are allowed to be used is up in the air. Just like with human food, pet owners need to be aware of these marketing terms and ploys to ensure that they get quality pet food that will ensure the health and well-being of their pets.

The TRUTH: What Most Pet Owners Don’t Know About Pet Food

Very little regulation of the quality of pet food even exists in the United States. Most pet owners don’t know that neither the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) or the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) gets involved in what is fed to pets in this country. AAFCO establishes minimum nutritional requirements for dog and cat food, however it does not address the quality of the ingredients that are used to create pet food formulas. Beyond that, there is no regulation that states that pet food manufacturers even have to meet the minimum nutritional guidelines established by AAFCO.

Pet food manufacturers are aware that more and more pet owners are becoming concerned with the quality of pet food that they serve to their pets. Many pet owners try out different formulas or spend hours trying to find the best food for dogs and cats that is available. Don’t fall for the hype! It is impossible for anything to be “organic” or “all natural” if it is processed and put into a bag or a can. Avoid products that use other types of marketing hype, such as “new formula” or “better ingredients”. Manufacturers are adding a couple of popular or trendy ingredients to the same old formula and are trying to pass it off as something that is healthier or better to get you to buy it for your pet.

Quality Pet Food: Less than 10 Percent of the Market

Studies of current commercial pet food formulas have shown that pet owners who are looking for the best food for dogs or cats really have their work cut out for them. In fact, less than 10 percent of the commercial products on the market are truly quality pet food that will meet the nutritional, biologically-appropriate needs of your pet. Grain-free formulas that are made with human-grade ingredients are very expensive and difficult to find. In fact, they run approximately three times the cost of traditional pet food products.

It is important to also note that getting a true “organic” or “all natural” pet food is nearly impossible, as even these higher priced grain-free, human-grade ingredient formulas contain additives, preservatives, extra fats and flavor enhancers to get pets to eat them. Canned or bagged pet food must sit on a shelf for 6-12 months without becoming spoiled or growing mold, so certain additives are required. The only way to guarantee that your pet is getting truly “all natural” pet food would be to cook it for him or her yourself.

Before starting any type of new pet food diet or switching from commercial varieties to a homemade formula, check with your veterinarian at Anchor Animal Hospital in Dartmouth. You can do this at your regular vet check-up, which should be performed to see if your pet has any special dietary needs or requirements that aren’t being met with the current pet food formula. Your vet can help you to choose a quality pet food that addresses your pet’s unique needs and nutritional requirements based on age, weight, lifestyle and breed.

What to Avoid/What to Look For

When it comes to looking at commercial pet food brands and varieties to speak with your veterinarian about at your next regular vet check-up, consider the trendy language used to lure pet owners into thinking that one brand is the best food for dogs and cats over another. Then, think about what your pet actual needs so you can begin to look for the best-possible formula of quality pet food available.

  • What to Avoid – Pet food labels that use words like: organic, all-natural, low-fat, weight loss, whole grain, holistic or anything that says it’s “a good source of” anything. These are “hype” or “marketing” words and they should be avoided or ignored when searching for quality pet food. Also avoid ingredient labels that include meat by-products, grain fragments, corn, soy, sweeteners, BHT/BHA
  • What to Look For – Pet food labels that inform of high levels of EPA/DHA, a high moisture content, a small amount of fruit and fresh cut veggies, high in high-quality protein (not parts or pieces), moderate animal fat levels, no grains and no starches to offset the meat content. Meat and fat ingredients should be identified by the species, such as beef, turkey, lamb, fish, etc. and preservatives should be natural, such as tocopherols, which use vitamins E and C to increase shelf life instead of artificial preservative ingredients.

Questions to Ask Pet Food Manufacturers

While your local veterinarian at the animal hospital in Dartmouth can help you choose the best quality pet food for your cat or dog, you can also contact the manufacturer direct for more information about the food that they sell. While some companies will not answer your questions, which should be an answer in itself, others will take the time to speak with you to help you find the best food for dogs and cats. Here are some questions that you should ask commercial manufacturers, as well as any advocates of holistic, organic or all-natural homemade pet food diets before you jump in and start feeding it to your pet.

  • Do you have a veterinary nutritionist or similar type of professional on staff?
  • Who creates the formulas for your pet foods and what are their credentials?
  • Do you employ any specific quality control measures to ensure quality pet food and consistency in your product line?
  • Which of your foods have been tested according to AAFCO feeding trials and nutrient analysis?
  • Where are your foods manufactured and produced?
  • What is the caloric value per cup or can of your pet foods?
  • Do you offer a grain-free variety of your pet food?
  • Is it possible to visit your manufacturing plant?
  • Can you provide a complete product nutrient analysis of your top-selling dog and cat food brands?
  • Has there been any type of research or studies done on the benefits of your products and where could the results be reviewed?

The Best Food for Dogs and Cats in Southeastern Massachusetts

If you want to make sure that you are providing a quality pet food and that your pet’s unique nutritional and caloric needs are being met, your best bet is to make an appointment at Anchor Animal Hospital in Dartmouth. Our team of veterinarians and veterinary staff can help you find the best food for dogs and cats, while providing your pet with a regular vet check-up to make sure that every area of your pet’s health is being addressed. Some pets have allergies to the ingredients that are common in commercial pet foods, which can be exhibited in symptoms such as dry skin, itchiness, upset stomach and hair loss. Make an appointment today for a regular vet check-up and get your pet on the road to health and wellness with quality pet food and veterinary care.