Several times a day clients inquire about what to feed their pets. Should it be grain free, gluten free or a raw diet? It is becoming more difficult to discuss with clients about their pet’s nutritional requirements when national campaigns advertise data that has little or no basis in proper pet food nutrition.
There is a large profit margin in pet foods, so numerous companies with no experience or knowledge of pet nutrition have jumped on the pet food band wagon. The food they sell generally do not meet the American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards, nor was the food manufactured in their own facility. Instead, many foods are co-packed or have several different manufacturers with the label being done by the end-of -the-line company that sells it.
If the pet food bag states “distributed by” instead of “manufactured by” or “manufactured for”, this informs the consumer the food was made somewhere else but the company is placing it’s label on the bag and selling it as their own.
Not all manufacturers of pet food have veterinarian nutritionists on staff, practice strict quality control, or conduct nutritional research. There are numerous pet food companies that do co-packing from several manufacturers so when contamination occurs, multiple pet foods are involved. An example: Diamond Pet Foods, their plant caused the largest food recalled in history, with 30,000 tons of food contaminated with Salmonella. Diamond Pet Food distributes food under the labels of Chicken Soup for the Pet Lovers Soul, Canidae, Kirkland, Solid Gold Wolf, Taste of the Wild, Premium Edge to name a few. Read about other recalls: http://pets-ahoy.com/2015/02/26/pet-food-recall/
As veterinarians, we advise clients to be aware of the ingredients in the foods they chose for their pet. Unfortunately, regulatory agencies don’ require manufacturers to test their final product for actual content or Salmonella. So it is buyers beware. A recent article reported that 20 of 52 food that were PCR-tested for ingredients showed a discrepancy between the labeled ingredients and what was actually in the diet. Chicken and Pork were the most common undeclared protein found in the diets. Another study found beef, corn and soy added to the diets and not listed in the ingredients. This can be a problem when clients are trying to avoid a potential food allergen for their pet.
Grain free diets have become the fad diet. Unfortunately, grain free does not mean hypoallergenic. There is no AAFCO definition of Grain free. Thus, it may have a different meaning from one manufacturer to another. Most clients are misinformed thinking that grains are not good for their pets digestion. The opposite is true. Though dogs are of the carnivore species, their eating habits are omnivores. So complex carbohydrates are actually needed for a well formed stool. Obesity is not from carbohydrates but from all the high fat diets on the market.
Raw diets are also a fad diet resulting from all pet food recalls. Clients began to fear commercial diets and decided to try making their own pet foods. Most of the Raw diet recipes were found to have nutritional imbalances. Safety risks for freezing and freezed-dried raw diets were found as freezing does not kill all pathogens. Of the studies regarding raw diets, Salmonella, Listeria, Campylobacter, E. Coli, Toxoplasma, Trichinella were some of the contaminates found in these diets.
So what brand of food should you feed your pet?
Pet food manufacturers falsely advertise their products are veterinarian-approved. Veterinarians do not approve labels or product, only state regulatory agencies can. The Association of American Feed Control Officials allow manufacturers to use the terms veterinarian-recommended or formulated. Food manufacturers who usually manufacture in house, employ board-certified veterinary nutritionists, publish nutritional research in veterinary journals, adhere to strict quality-control measures, actually feed their food via AAFCO feeding guidelines and provide complete nutritional analysis of their products are the pet foods veterinarian recommend. At our hospitals we recommend Royal Canin and Hills (Science Diet) Pet Food.
For more information regarding pet foods, research the annual pet food manufacturer list published by Whole Dog Journal. The content of this blog was done with the help of Dr. Alice Jeromin, RPh, DVM, DACVD
From the other side of the exam table,
Dr. Gloria Williams