Do You Know What’s In Your Pet’s Food? petMD Has Some Doubts


We recently wrote about current concerns over the Beneful Dog Food brand, and the importance of visiting the vital DogFoodAdvisor. We’re pretty careful about our cat foods, too. We also endorse our pals at petMD and their very helpful Nutrition section. The folks there have their doubts about most pet owners, though. They’ve released a survey that suggests today’s pet owners aren’t looking at the labels on their pet food packaging. Or, more accurately, pet owners are often getting the contents wrong. Here’s the site’s findings, per the official press release:  [image via petmd]

Misunderstood Terms: A majority of survey respondents said they believe that animal hair, teeth and hooves are included in meat by-products, when in fact, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) expressly prohibits these body parts from being included in a by-product used in pet food.

The Importance of Feeding Trials: While the majority of pet owners look to the label to learn about ingredients, they fail to look for other key quality information. According to the petMD survey, only 22 percent of respondents check to see if the diet has undergone a feeding trial. All AAFCO approved pet foods must display a statement indicating how the pet food manufacturer determined that particular diet would meet the needs of pets. This can be done in one of two ways: via a computer program or by actually feeding the food to dogs or cats. According to [petMD spokesperson  Dr. Jennifer] Coates, “feeding trials are a far superior method for determining whether or not pets will thrive on a particular diet.”

Misidentifying Potential Allergies: More than 40 percent of respondents cited grain ingredients as the most common allergens in pet food, with more than 30 percent specifically implicating corn. However, some studies have shown that the protein or meat source in pet food is far and away the biggest culprit.

An Under-appreciation of Balanced Nutrition: 69 percent of respondents recognized that protein is a key nutrient for pets, yet only 2 percent named fats, 3 percent named carbohydrates, and less than 25 percent named vitamins and minerals. “To satisfy all the nutritional needs of dogs and cats, pet foods must provide all of these ingredients in the right balance,” states Coates. “Too much of one or too little of another can be harmful to a pet’s health.

Skepticism of Label Accuracy: More than 70 percent of pet owners surveyed believe pet food labels do not list all of the ingredients. However, AAFCO regulations mandate that every ingredient contained within a pet food be included in the ingredient list, in order from the biggest to the smallest contributor, by weight.

The press release goes on to complain some more about misconceptions, and we’d also like to everyone making smart choices about what to feed their animal companions. The press release also has Coates making a fine point about discussing your pet’s diet with the veterinarian. We’re a little less trusting of the AAFCO, but at least petMD is being very helpful by stressing things that an educated pet owner should know. We’ll still stay a little bit paranoid.

Originally posted 2013-01-18 12:19:47.