The Truth behind Pet Food Labels

The production of pet food is a multi-billion dollar industry and fiercely competitive. Finding a high quality healthy diet for your pet can be a daunting task. Pet owners are bombarded with advertisements featuring foods that may claim to be all natural, holistic, and grain free, but are these diets really the best one for your particular pet?

Unique Nutritional Needs

First and foremost it should be kept in mind that dogs and cats are not tiny humans. Their nutritional needs are not the same as humans and are unique to their species. So pictures of turkey, beef, carrots and peas may appeal to us, but may not actually reflect the true nutritional value for your pet.

Nutrients are components in the diet that are used by the body to support growth, tissue maintenance and health. Some nutrients cannot be synthesized by the body and need to be included in the diet. There are 6 major categories of nutrients: water, protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. A good diet not only provides the proper nutrients for the cat or dog, it includes the nutrients in the appropriate proportions and in a way that the animal can best digest them.

Many commercial diets are ingredient based. In these diets ingredients are listed in whole form, for example corn and chicken. In a nutrient based diet corn gluten and chicken meal are listed, which are the source of nutrients. Ingredient based diets will always sound more appetizing to the human but that does not mean it is a healthier or better quality diet than a nutrient based diet.

Are pet food labels misleading?

Pet food labels can be misleading. By law, pet food companies are required to list ingredients from highest to lowest percentage based on pre-processed weight. So although chicken, based on pre-processing weight, may represent the highest percentage (the first ingredient) it may not be a major source of nutrients (such as protein) after it is processed and added into the kibble.

Take corn gluten meal for example. Corn gluten is the protein part of corn and corn gluten meal is the dried form of this protein. Corn gluten meal is not a filler. It is easily digested by dogs and cats and a good source of protein, B complex vitamins, vitamin A, omega 6 fatty acids, minerals and anti-oxidants. It is an excellent source of energy. As a potential allergen, in studies it ranked lower than beef, wheat and chicken. Corn is a great source of nutrients and easily digested.

Making Informed Choices

So how can you make the best choice for your four-legged family member? Educate yourself on reading pet food labels. Make sure you know what each ingredient listed means and what nutritional value it holds for your pet. Are the ingredients actually providing a necessary nutritional benefit that contributes to the health of your pet?

Not only are the Lomsnes Veterinary Hospital team members continuously educated on nutrition, we also have access to your pets medical records to make a recommendation based on your furry family members individual needs.