Variations In Pet Food

“Diet” Pet Foods

A new study from Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine found a significant variation in both calorie density and suggested consumption in “low-calorie” dog and cat foods.

Diets with weight management claims and specific feeding instructions or foods with weight managements but no feeding instructions were studied by researchers. The researchers found that more than half of all foods in the study had a calorie density greater than the maximum calorie density for light diets as recommended by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).

The authors point out that pet foods described as “light, lite, low calorie, less calorie, or reduced calorie” are expected to provide calorie content on the label. In addition AAFCO requires that these diets must adhere to maximum kilocalorie per kilogram restrictions and must list the kilocalorie per kilogram content on the food label.

However some foods imply use for weight control avoiding the recommended AAFCO terms above. By not using these terms “light, lite, etc.,” these foods are not required to meet AAFCO standards. These diets may suggest weight control with terms such as “weight loss, obese prone, to maintain healthy weight, avoid unwanted weight gain, lose excess weight, and reduced calorie”. The result is confusion
for the consumer in choosing an effective weight control for their pet.

Key findings:

  • Dry dog foods ranged in calorie density from 217-440 kcal/cup
  • Dry cat foods ranged in calorie density from 235-480 kcal/cup
  • Diets range in price from 4 cents/kcal to more than $1.10kcal
  • 58% of foods with weight control claims and feeding instructions for weight loss exceeded
    AAFCO maximum calories densities for light foods
  • 48% of goods with weight control claims but without feeding instructions for weight loss
    exceeded AAFCO maximum calorie densities for light foods

Tufts researchers concluded that veterinarians should recommend diets for pets based on the needs of the particular animal and cannot rely solely on the labels of pet foods.

The authors concluded that “Veterinarians can play a critical role in optimal pet health by educating owner on selection of an appropriate pet food, making specific recommendations for the amount to feed and most importantly, education owners on assessing body condition of their pets and the serious health conditions that can result from or be exacerbated by obesity of their pets”.