Today choosing a food for your pet can be almost as difficult as deciding what you want to eat for dinner. Between the endless shelves in the pet store, commercials on TV, and ads on Facebook, there are countless options to choose from. But many, if not most, of these diets can cause very serious health problems for your pet. So how do you decide?
As crazy as it might sound, one of the first steps to choosing the right food is to STOP reading the ingredients. Yes–you read that right! Despite what many pet food review sites claim, selecting food based on the label is not an accurate way of determining the real quality or nutrition behind each diet.
The ingredients list exists to satisfy legal requirements and must abide by strict regulations that determine how each ingredient appears on the label. For example, ingredients are listed in order of weight (which includes water weight in meat and vegetables) rather than actual nutritional value or importance. Many pet food manufacturers use this as a marketing ploy to tell pet owners that meat being the “first ingredient” is superior to diets that do not list meat as the first ingredient or those that include meat by-products.
In reality, even if there is more meat in the diet by weight, that does not mean it contributes more nutrients nor does it say anything about the quality of the meat. In fact the “by-product” (which consists of tissues, bones and organ meat) are a greater source of essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals and protein than regular muscle meat and often times even higher quality than the “deboned chicken” that is listed first.
Instead of reading the ingredients list to select your pet’s food, the Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionists of the Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University recommend asking these questions in regards to your pet’s food. In short, some of the most important questions include:
- Does the manufacturer employ at least one full-time qualified nutritionist?
- Does the manufacturer own the plant(s) where their food is manufactured?
- What quality control measures does the manufacturer practice?
- Does the company conduct any research? Do they publish it in peer-reviewed journals?
- Does the manufacturer bash other pet food companies (especially using information that is based on myths, rather than factual information) in their advertisements or on their websites?
The answer to some of these questions can be found on the Pet Nutrition Alliance manufacturer report, and we encourage you to read about your pet’s food producer and discuss the questions with our veterinarians.
We have cared for thousands of patients at GOVC since we opened in 2015, and based on the real results we have seen with our patients in the past few years, the only diets we can confidently recommend include the following “Big 5”:
- Purina Pro Plan
- Hill’s Science Diet
- Royal Canin
These specific companies have invested decades of research to formulate diets that are scientifically proven to help improve and extend the quality of life for our pets. They also have some of the highest quality standards in the industry. More importantly we have seen first-hand the incredible improvement in the gastrointestinal, urinary and even behavioral health of countless pets who transitioned from “boutique” or grain-free diets to one of the “Big 5”.
If you are considering a change in your pet’s food–or want to know if you should be–set up a nutrition consultation with one of our veterinarians. You can also order your pet’s food online and use the promo codes to save!