Which brand of pet food should I feed my pet? That is one of the most common question that we get here at My Vet Animal Hospital – Waterloo. Feeding your furbabies has never been harder now that there are so many brands of pet food out there in the market. Even our paw-parents here in My Vet, are finding it challenging. Naturally, being a paw-parent, you want to feed your furbaby the best diet to ensure that they live a happy and healthy life. Proper nutrition is one of the most important factors in managing health and diseases to ensure excellent performance and longevitiy in our furbabies.
We are currently inundated with information about foods for our furbabies through every media avenue. Paw-parents are receiving conflicting advise everywhere they go. Grain free? No by-products? No fillers? Fish is good for sensitive skin? Kangaroo is better for stomach? Rather confusing. Which brand is better? Brand A? Brand B? C? D? Each Brand promotes that they are the best and better than the rest.
So, who regulates the pet food standards? A lot of food companies follow the AAFCO standards. Who is AAFCO? AAFCO stands for Association of American Feed Control Officials. They are a voluntary membership association of local, state and federal agencies charged by law to regulate the sale and distribution of animal feeds and animal drug remedies.
For food that are produced in European countries – such as Royal Canin Australia – the AAFCO equivalent for European countries is FEDIAF (The European Pet Food Industry Federation).
So, what should you feed your pet? When choosing a brand, here are a few things that a paw-parent should take into considerations.
1.Where does the food come from?
It is always very important to know where the food is being manufactured as every country will have their own food safety and regulation standards. Food that are being manufactured in Europe, America and Australia will have a much higher standard than food that are being manufactured in other countries like China or Malaysia.
It is also important to know where the ingredients are being sourced. Personally, I never buy anything that is made/ingredients sourced from countries like China/Thailand. There was a massive recall back in May 2015 for Jerhigh Chicken treats as they were believed to cause some serious kidney and liver disease. Click HERE to read more about reported illnesses associated with jerky pet treats.
2.Who created the food?
When choosing the best food for your furbaby it’s important to find out who formulated the diet. Are they a vet or a certified veterinary nutritionist? Formulating the right diet for your little one is a very complex procedure, requiring detailed knowledge and further training. At a minimum, they need to have achieved a PhD in animal nutrition or board certification by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN) or the European College of Veterinary Comparative Nutrition (ECVCN).
Having just a veterinarian formulating a diet is just the same as a human medical general practitioner formulating baby’s milk formula!
3.Product consistency and quality control
When choosing the best pet food company to purchase from, they must show clear evidence of systems, protocols and testing to ensure product consistency and quality control within and between products. What steps are taken to ensure good quality control and ingredients safety checks?
4. Do they test their food using proper AAFCO feeding trials?
AAFCO is a body which recommends regulations in the sale and distribution of pet food. Ideally pet foods should not only meet AAFCO ingredient standards, but should be tested through feeding trials. These trials establish that a food is truly “complete and balanced” and that no detrimental effects were observed through feeding the diet being tested. So what exactly does this mean? It means that the food contains the nutrients they claim to contain on the label and that they can actually be absorbed! So, it is not enough to just meet the basic nutrient requirements set out by AAFCO, the food needs to be tested to ensure they can be properly absorbed by the body. View this article for frequently asked questions about AAFCO.
5. Read the ingredients
I always encourage owners to read ingredients as there are many pet food out there that contains garlic in their food! For example, Vets All Natural which is formulated by a veterinarian, most of his food contains garlic which is toxic to dogs. By-products is something that is a “hot” topic at the moment. Every company/country, has their own definition of by-products. Personally, I avoid it at all cost because if it isn’t good enough for me, then it isn’t good enough for my furbabies!
If the manufacturer is unable or not willing to provide any information on the above questions, then you must be cautious about feeding the particular brand to your furbabies.
AAFCO Adequacy Statement:
In some countries, the AAFCO adequacy statement is included on the label (eg USA). There are 3 statements that a paw-parent should be aware of.
AAFCO’s feeding trial has been conducted
1. Whether the diet is complete and balanced? All over the counter food from the pet store should be complete and balanced.
2. If the food is complete and balanced, which life stage of the food is it intended for?
-Gestation and lactation
-All life stages
3. If the food is complete and balanced, how did the company determine this? Does it say
-“Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate [Product Name] provides complete and balanced nutrition for [life stage(s)]”? OR
-“[Product Name] is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO (Dog or Cat) Food Nutrient Profiles for [life stage(s)]”
Take home message?
When purchasing a pet food brand, it is essential that paw-parents should be aware that there are many differences among all the manufacturers, products and lifestages, and you must not be afraid to ask questions. Do not get persuaded easily with all the wonderful branding and cool marketing hype words. It is one thing to create a food that meets a particular standard, but another to ensure that the pets receives adequate nutrition when they eat it. Hence, by making sure that a manufacturer that formulates their food using BOTH methods ie meeting the AAFCO nutrient profile and AAFCO feeding trials, is best.
Personally, I would only recommend Hill’s Science Diet or Royal Canin because they are the only 2 major companies that not only produce vet exclusive diets (eg, special diets for liver issues, kidney failure, joint problems etc), but they do extensive testing on their food. I would NEVER buy anything from the supermarket because almost all of them contain by-products and most of them are not balanced and complete.
Remember, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to have a chat to one of our pawesome staff members here at My Vet Animal Hospital – Waterloo! We will be more than happy to help!