Reading Pet Food Labels



The Internet is filled with information on what is best to feed your pet. The truth is, there is no one best food. I wish it was that easy. It would make my job sooo much easier. I have special interest in nutrition as my own pets are beloved members of my family. In addition, my dogs are competition dogs and breeding dogs. I am also active in showing cats. I want my four legged Olympians to have every advantage I can give them.

I know from almost 30 years of experience in veterinary medicine that diet makes a huge difference in the quality of life of all pets. A basic rule advised by veterinarians that are board certified in nutrition (the true experts!) is that any food that a pet owner chooses should have had AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) feeding trials performed. A particular food may have met AAFCO standards, but not have the feeding trials to back it up. If the food meets the standards without the feeding trials, it may be a good diet, it just isn’t proven to be. With all the pet foods available, making this basic choice is an easy way to be assured that you are choosing a quality diet.

My personal preference is for premium diets that do not have the food dyes that make the food attractive to the human eye, but mean nothing to the dog. I prefer diets that do not have exorbitant sodium levels. Dogs love salt, so manufacturers load up on salt to increase palatability. Canned cat food for cats helps prevent urinary tract disease; since that is a major problem for many cats, canned food is the way to go for kitties!

Corn seems to have the reputation of pit bulls in the advertising world these days. Despite what the grain free proponents say, corn in most forms is highly digestible, provides needed Omega 6 fatty acids in easily absorbed form and is a good source of other nutrients. Don’t forget, dogs are not carnivores! There were meant to eat a diet that includes meats as well as other food sources.

Confused? Well, the team at SVH is happy to help. We carry premium and prescription diets that we recommend. We carry these brands BECAUSE we believe in them. There is not much profit in pet food, so on a small scale like we are, we do it because we think it is best for the pets.

What about cooking for your pet? Excellent, if you make the effort to do it right. Again, the team at Schuylkill Veterinary Hospital is happy to provide you with sources of recipes for a balanced diet.

What about reading pet food labels? They can be so confusing and manipulated to give the consumer reading them heartburn! For example, dry kibble foods that have chicken listed first on the ingredient list means they have more meat. Or do they? The ingredient list is in order of weight. What if the chicken was weighed BEFORE it was dehydrated for the food? Of course it would be heavier due to all the water in it! If was weighed after the dehydration process to make the dry food, the weight would be much lower and the chicken would be significantly further down the list!

A  seminar to learn how to read pet food labels is scheduled for Monday, July 30 at 7:30 pm in the Canine Learning Center on Route 61 in Pottsville. Admission is free. Anyone can sign up by calling 622-1098. It is sponsored by Hill’s Pet Nutrition with free bags of food for those that attend.

photo courtesy of silent (e) via Flickr