Demystifying those Dog and Cat Diets

Written By Dr Rose Anderson

It's a big responsibility having lifetime total control over your pet's food intake.

Say you've found a pet food that appeals to your pet - how do you know if it's any good? 

You could start by giving the manufacturers a call. 

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association recommends specific questions to ask, such as:

Do you employ a full-time qualified nutritionist? You're looking for someone with a PhD in animal nutrition or a registered specialist animal nutritionist.

Do your diets meet AAFCO nutrient profiles? This is important. AAFCO is the Association of American Feed Control Officials. 

They review the science on pet nutrition and make recommendations - all pet foods should meet their nutrient profiles. 

I'm stressing 'nutrient' here, not 'ingredient', because potatoes are not all equal (their nutrient profile will depend on the soil they were grown in, how fresh they are etc.).

Where are your foods manufactured? Ideally locally! (Sorry China).

What kind of research have you done on your products? They should have published scientific papers to prove their claims.

In general, don't be sucked in by some of the claims, fancy ingredients, or the order the ingredients appear on the list. 

Did you know 'human-grade' has no legal definition? 

Or that kelp sometimes contains arsenic? 

Any fruits or vegetables listed after the vitamins on the ingredients list might as well not be there. 

And 'chicken' (70 per cent water) at the top of the list doesn't mean the food is more nutritious than a food with 'chicken meal' (10 per cent water) further down the list.

Personally, I add a garnish of fresh veggies to my dog's kibble (it's hard to overdo the antioxidants) along with fish oil and a weekly bone (cats, of course, are trickier). 

Most importantly, I try not to feed too much. 

The only thing we know that significantly increases the lifespan of animals that are eating a balanced diet (humans included) is staying lean. 

So take one hand and stroke the fingers on the knuckle side of your other hand. 

Your dog's ribs should feel the same (cats, again, are trickier)

So please - choose wisely and feed lightly!