It is important to ask questions when it comes to the wellness of your pet. Pet food companies place sales reps in stores acting as nutrition experts for the store itself. As these are biased individuals they may not be the best source of guidance. Additionally, anyone can post their opinion about nutrition on the internet and may not have any education whatsoever in nutritional needs of pets. When evaluating pet food choices, a discerning consumer can make an educated choice by following a few simple guidelines:
- Does the brand have an established a reputation for quality?
- Does the company conduct research and publish their results in peer-reviewed journals and textbooks?
- Is the food fed to animals in clinical food trials before marketed and sold? (AAFCO feeding trials)
- Does the company in question employ veterinarians or have a scientifically-grounded quality control?
When researching individual brands, we advise our clients to look for red flags on marketing websites and product labels.
- Grain-free: It may be a popular diet choice for humans; however, very few animals cannot tolerate rice, wheat or corn. Some grains contain beneficial nutrients and are active ingredients rather than simple filler. There is no evidence of alternate ingredients having higher nutritional value.
- Veterinarian-approved: A meaningless term requiring no testing or regulation.
- However, while not a guarantee of quality, AAFCO tested brands signify that the manufacturer was willing to undergo feeding testing, thus the designation carries some weight.
- No byproducts: Not an indication of quality, as many animal byproducts are more nutritionally beneficial than standard muscle meat.
- Raw diet: Raw food is also a dangerously misleading dietary trend. Marketed as being closer to their pet’s natural diet, raw food can contain dangerous parasites and bacteria, causing severe illness if consumed, not to mention the risks to the human handling the food. Prepared (cooked) food eliminates these dangers by killing bacteria. In addition, these types of diets are commonly very deficient in vital minerals and nutrients that pets require for general health. The American Medical Veterinary Association made a policy discouraging the feeding of raw diets in 2012.
As with any food, the most important part of the equation to consider is that pets can tolerate a poor diet for a long period of time before symptoms develop. A pet may be developing heart disease, vision loss, immune deficiencies, bladder stones or other severe diseases far before the pet becomes ill. Only a veterinary professional can evaluate your pet’s nutritional needs and determine what foods are best.
If you have questions regarding pet food or specialty diets, please contact a Bear Valley staff member today.