With the vast number of pet food choices out there, owners have many options when it comes to picking a diet for their pet.
From boutique, to standard kibble, specialty diets to grain free, pet owners have a difficult choice to make for their furry friend. How do we pick one out of the hundreds that are on the shelf? The easiest place to start is by looking at the label.
In the United States, labelling of pet foods is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration as well as the Association of American Feed Control Officers. These two entities ensure all labels provide accurate information for pet owners to include what the food is intended for, its ingredients, if it meets nutritional adequacy and the feeding directions.
The AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement is one of the most important parts of a pet food label to look at. The presence of an AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement guarantees the food is a complete and balanced diet. Feeding your pet a complete and balanced diet that provides 100 percent nutritional adequacy ensures they are receiving all of the nutrients they need daily through solely feeding this diet. No protein, vitamin or mineral supplementation is necessary.
Pet foods earn an AAFCO statement through formulation to attain nutrient profiles or feeding trials. With the first method, the food has been formulated with specific ingredients to ensure that it meets nutritional adequacy.
For feed trials, the food has been fed to animals following strict AAFCO protocols to prove that it meets the nutritional adequacy standards. For pet foods that have achieved this standard they will state: “(name of product) is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO (dog/cat) Food Nutritional Profiles” or “Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiates that (name of product) provides complete and balanced nutrition.”
Another important factor to look for in the AAFCO statement is what life stage this food provides balanced nutrition for. Diets are formulated for maintenance, growth or all life stages. We want to ensure that we are feeding for the correct life stage of our pet. Diets that are labelled for all life stages can safely be fed to growing puppies or kittens as well as healthy adults. These types of diets however contain unnecessary calories for some adults potentially leading to problems with weight and obesity.
If the diet you are looking at does not contain an AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement and claims to be a complete and balanced diet, proceed with caution as these diets might not have been tested and could be unsafe for your pet.
As always, if you have any questions about your pet’s diet or would like a diet recommendation, consult your pet’s veterinarian.
(Editor’s note: Abell is a veterinarian at the Fort Leonard Wood Vet Treatment Center.)