Nutrition has a major effect on pet health. Obesity is an ever increasing problem in our companions, currently affecting an estimated 50% of them. Obesity has been linked to liver disease, pancreatic disease, Diabetes Mellitus, and skeletal problems like arthritis- diseases which can shorten a pet's life up to 2 years! We customize our dietary recommendations based upon breed, activity, and other current medical issues. We specialize in diets designed to treat medical conditions as we consider nutrition a vital component to overall wellness.

Indoor hunting feeder: Dr. Bradley and Dr. Yackey love this product! It encourages natural hunting behavior to enrich the lives their indoor cats, Fiona and Ginny. These lucky cats find Hills t/d treats hidden in the feeders that are shaped like little mice. Find it here.

Interpreting pet food labels:

This guide is intended as information for pet owners to learn how to read and interpret pet food labels and how to avoid clever marketing tricks and

get the real facts.

The AAFCO statement:

AAFCO stands for the Association of American Feed Control Officials. AAFCO is a group of veterinarians, researchers, and members from industry, who are experts in the field of nutrition. They meet each year to discuss and establish the nutrient requirements for our animals. All dog and cat food is required to have an AAFCO statement as part of the labeling information. It is small and sometimes hard to find on the package, but this one line holds some of the most important information you need to know about the food that you are purchasing.

Can you tell which is probably the better food using these two sentences?

Example 1: “Animal feeding trials using AAFCO procedures substantiates that this diet is complete and balanced nutrition for the maintenance of adult dogs.”

Example 2: “This diet was formulated using AAFCO standards to be complete and balanced nutrition for all life stages.”

Sounds pretty good right?

Now let us show you what some of these “key words” really mean.

Feeding trials (Tested) Vs Formulated: A feeding trial tells you that this company did its nutrition research on real animals to determine feeding recommendations. They know the food will support a healthy weight and good coat, provide proper nutrients for internal organ function, etc. Feeding trials cost a lot more money, so a company that invests in feeding trials has put more behind their product. A formulated diet is one that was created using a computer. So the question you have to ask yourself is, “Do you want your pet to be a test subject?”

“All Life Stages”: This may seem like a good concept, but in reality pets have different nutritional requirements at different stages of their lives. To be labeled as a product that is OK for all life stages it must meet the requirements for growth and development, which is the most calorically and nutritionally demanding phase of life. This means that no matter what the front of the bag says… This is Puppy Food. High protein and other nutrients in growth specific formulas can actually harm an adult or geriatric pet over time. AAFCO recognizes only two life stages: Growth and Adult. Some companies further split adult food into maintenance, active, senior and other categories, which can be helpful, but their claims are not evaluated by AAFCO.

Conclusion: The better diets are tested and are for a specific life stage according to the AAFCO statement.

Want to know more? Keep reading…

Fixed Vs Variable Formulas: Do you know whether the food your dog eats is a fixed or variable formula? Unfortunately this information is not required to be on the bag. The only way to find out is to contact the company.

Fixed Formula: A fixed formula is one where the company does not change or vary the formula in any way regardless of increased cost of economic commodities such as meats and grains.

Variable Formula: A variable formula allows a company to change the ingredients of their food based on the current market prices. The scariest part of this is that a company has 6 months to change a label on their food once they have changed the ingredients. If they switch back within that timeframe, they don’t have to let anyone know that their ingredients weren’t what was printed on the wrapper. With a variable formula the bag might say lamb and rice but it could really be chicken and barley.

Take Home Message: There isn’t much regulation in the pet food industry, which is how the food scares of 2008 with the melarsomine being added from China to boost protein levels occur. (As an aside, our own food industry is largely without testing and regulation as well, which is every bit as scary. Check out documentaries like “Food, Inc” for an eye-opening experience.)

Our advice: It is best to evaluate your labels and stick with a provider that you trust. To aid you in that effort, we compiled a list of manufacturers and diets carried by the pet stores, grocery stores, and outlets in our area in the summer of 2008. These results reflect what was listed on their packages at that time and they may have been updated. We include the brand, the diet, whether that diet was tested or formulated, what life stage it is intended for, and the calories (kcal/cup) on our table.

What do we use? Within our hospital, we carry Royal Canin prescription brand food because it is tested in food trials and they adhere to fixed formulas. We have been very happy with our results, and if your pet doesn’t eat it or isn’t doing well on it, they will refund you the cost of the food. We are happy to help educate, but everybody must make up their own mind about what to feed their pets.