Choosing a good pet food for your dog or cat can be confusing but making the right choices is essential to your pet’s health.
Unfortunately, there are many different opinions about what’s good and what’s bad in pet foods. Figuring out who to listen to and who to ignore can be difficult at best. Here are some of the things to consider when choosing the best dog or cat food for your pet.
Learn to Read the Pet Food Label
Forget about the marketing claims of any pet food. These claims are all designed to sell food. None of them are going to tell you that the food is not the best.
Look for an AAFCO statement on the label stating that food is “complete and balanced.” Ideally, the claim should be supported by feeding trials as opposed to formulated based on a nutrient formula. This information should all be provided on the label.
Also, consider the life stage of your dog or cat. Pet foods can carry a claim of being balanced “for all life stages” or “for growth and reproduction.” If your pet is a puppy or kitten, look for a food that is complete and balanced “for growth and reproduction” or “for all life stages.” If your pet is mature, a food “for all life stages” is acceptable. If your pet has health issues, your veterinarian may recommend special food requirements. In such cases, follow your veterinarian’s instructions.
Look at the Ingredients in the Pet Food
All pet foods are required to have a list of ingredients. The ingredients are listed by weight. Keep in mind when looking at the ingredients list that they can be somewhat deceiving. For instance, chicken may be listed as the top ingredient, which is good. However, chicken is comprised largely of water so it will naturally weigh more than many other ingredients. Ingredients such as chicken meal may actually contain as much or more nutritional value than whole chicken but will be lower on the ingredient list because the water has been removed from this ingredient.
By-Products as Ingredients
By-products are made of organ meats and other parts of the animal that are not normally consumed by humans. By-products can provide good nutritional value or they can provide little nutritional value, depending on what parts of the animal are included in the by-product. Unfortunately, this is not something you can determine from looking at a pet food label.
Reputable pet food companies source their by-products to provide high-quality nutrition. Trust comes into play here. That’s one of the reasons that some people prefer not to feed their pets products containing by-products.
Whether or not to feed by-products is a personal decision. Many manufacturers do use high-quality by-products in their pet foods. If feeding by-products, buy a brand you trust to provide top-quality.
Grains in Pet Foods
Grains are a controversial topic also, especially corn. Again, this is a personal choice. Many pets do very well on diets containing corn and other grains. There are small number that do better on grain-free diets, perhaps because they suffer from allergies to particular grains.
It is a common misconception that grain-free foods are also low carbohydrate diets. This may or may not be true. Many simply utilize a different carbohydrate source, such as potatoes.
Where Are the Ingredients Sourced?
This is an important factor in choosing a pet food. Though it may be not be possible for all pet food ingredients to be sourced from the United States, there are some localities that have bad track records. Companies sourcing products from China should be avoided.
Where Are the Foods Manufactured and Packaged?
This also is an important distinction between pet foods. Many times, pet food companies outsource the manufacturing and packaging of their foods. By doing so, they lose much of the control over the processes used. Choosing a pet food company that manufactures and packages its own food is a safer choice.
To find out where food ingredients are obtained or where the foods are manufactured and packaged, it may necessary to contact the pet food company directly. A reputable company should be able to answer these questions.