Every loving pet owner wants the best for their dog or cat. A considerable piece of that puzzle is a healthy, reliable diet. That being said, with so many pet food companies competing for people’s business, it’s important to arm oneself with responsible knowledge. Let’s take a look at some common words and terms found on pet food labels so you know you are feeding your pet as well as you would hope to.
“Natural” Pet Food
On the surface, the word seems to please one’s conscience – but is it actually an important label to consider when choosing pet food? According to Dr. Hughes (licensed DVM) over at PetMD, “natural” refers to a product that the FDA has concluded possesses no chemical changes in its ingredients. A diet devoid of chemically-altered food can be potentially beneficial for animals.
Different Kinds of “Organic”
The USDA has special seals for foods which pass their test of organic or not. If the pet food container simply says “Organic,” then at least 95% of the ingredients (by total weight) must be organic. The word organic, in food speak, refers to a food or ingredient lacking genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.
Furthermore, “Made with Organic Ingredients” guarantees that at least 70% of the food’s ingredients organic. Finally, companies can define individual ingredients as organic on their label list, but if less than 70% of the total ingredients are organic then an official USDA seal won’t be on there.
“All Life Stages” and “Adult Maintenance” Diets
The AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) helps establish standards for healthy and balanced pet foods. They have created two distinct nutritional definitions, “All Life Stages” and “Adult Maintenance,” to develop guidelines for companies and pet owners.
The former are intended for puppies or pregnant dogs; there is a higher concentration of calories, protein, calcium and other nutrients. For full-grown dogs though, “adult maintenance” indicates a pet food product that is perfectly acceptable for their daily diet.
Proof of Feeding Trials
In addition to the AAFCO’s label suggestions for diets, they also hold real feeding trials with pets. This is a significant step in legitimacy for the safety and quality of the pet food product being sold. A pet food that has experienced these trials will read, “Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate [Name] provides complete and balanced nutrition for [life stage(s)].”
The word supplemental carries several shifty definitions depending on your source. From the expertise of veterinarian Dr. Hughes of Friendship Hospital for Animals though, she asserts it signifies a pet product intended to augment – not replace– a regular diet. Hence, take care to not confuse a pet food for supplemental use with one meant for daily consumption. Always check with your local veterinarian on whether supplemental foods would be helpful for your particular pet.