How should you choose a pet food that will be the best for your pet? The sheer number of brands and diets available is truly beyond belief. The issue is made more confusing with inaccurate or misleading advertising and package wording, including words like holistic, human-grade and organic which have no legal meaning when referring to pet food. The pet food industry is not regulated, so manufacturers do not have to adhere to any sort of standard for ingredient quality or quality control.
Food labels should be read carefully and ingredient lists ARE important, however one must pay close attention to the listing. For example, some grains are sometimes listed by their component parts as opposed to the whole grain so that they appear lower on the ingredient list than they actually are. We know of one company that was listing corn on its ingredient list under its Latin name so that the word corn was not obvious to the consumer! Companies can also omit ingredients from the list, change ingredients without changing the list and add ingredients that are not on the list. There are no laws in place to protect the consumer in this regard.
We always recommend you speak to us about what food or foods would best meet the needs of your pet. In general though, we recommend sticking with companies that hire veterinary nutritionists and have an active research program. Companies should list the specific nutritional breakdown of their foods, including the calorie content per cup. Call the manufacturer to ask for their 36 essential nutrient panel, where they source their ingredients, where they make the food and for details on their quality control. Companies should be able to provide this information when asked, and if they can’t, stay away from that food. It is best to stay away from very inexpensive foods as they tend to use cheap, poor quality ingredients and change their ingredients frequently based cost fluctuations.
Feeding a raw food or BARF (bones and raw food) diet is becoming more popular. At Glendale, we don’t recommend feeding this type of diet. One concern that we have with this type of feeding is that the mineral and nutrient balance of these foods can sometimes be unbalanced, leading to problems with bone density and growth, among other things. In addition, the incidence of food borne illness in pets fed raw food is higher than in pets fed cooked or commercial diets. Owners can obtain food borne illnesses like salmonella from their pets, even if the pets themselves are not ill. Food borne illness can be fatal in both people and pets. Should you chose to feed a balanced home cooked diet, it is our recommendation to cook all meat fully prior to feeding it.
We do strongly recommend doing your homework when choosing a pet food. Be cautious when reading food company websites as most are biased as they are created and paid for by that food company. You can always contact us and we can help you find an appropriate food.
For an impartial website, check out http://www.petfoodnutrition.com. The contributing experts of this website are veterinary nutritionists, PhD nutritionists, Masters of nutrition, veterinarians, internists, processing engineers and other pet or nutrition experts. They are not affiliated with a pet food company; they just want to provide you with the truth about animal nutrition. There is even an “Ask the Expert” area where you can send them your pet food questions and one of their experts will get back to you.