Not all pet food is created equal

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The type of pet food you choose to feed your pet can affect their quality of life and overall health.

One of the most important decisions you will make for your pet is the type of food they eat. Though generic, run-of-the-mill pet food may be cheap and easily available, there are certain pet foods that are a cut above, which can provide important benefits to the health of the pet. But finding the most nutritious food at a good value can be a daunting task.

Understanding AAFCO Regulations

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) develops model state regulations for animal feed, including pet food, with the main goal of ensuring the consumer protection and health of both animals and humans. However, consumer confusion over what they see on pet food labels can make it difficult to choose the right food.

"One mark of quality you should look for is whether the food is only formulated to meet nutritional levels set by AAFCO, or whether the nutritional adequacy is established through actual pet feeding trials," said Dr. Carla Case-McCorvey, of Case Veterinary Hospital.

"Most pet food companies don't make the investment required to perform these trials, even though it assures that the pets are actually able to digest and receive the required nutrients," she said. Dr. Case-McCorvey recommends looking for a label that says: "Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate" that the pet food "provides complete and balanced nutrition" for the specific life stage of your pet, rather than "all life stages."

The Benefits of Feeding Trials

Case-McCorvey said that some companies cite concern for test animals as a reason for not performing feeding trials. "However," she adds, "some companies that do conduct feeding trials have opened up these facilities for tours by veterinarians. I have personally been on a tour of Hill's (maker of Science Diet and Prescription Diet) world class research facility in Topeka, Kansas," she said, "and was deeply impressed by the gentle, loving nature of the staff who care for these dogs and cats as well as their sincere commitment to develop products to give pets healthier and happier lives and longer relationships with their human families. The animals at Hill's are cared for in beautiful, clean buildings where they receive excellent veterinary care. They live normal lives and are never used for any other purpose but to monitor their health while being fed regimented pet food."

Checking the pet food label for the method used to establish nutritional adequacy, as well as investigating the companies that make the food, will give you peace of mind that the food you are feeding your pet on a daily basis is made with your pet's health and well-being as a top priority.

To learn more about your pet's food, visit www.hillspet.com, or visit Dr. Case-McCorvey's blog at www.coastalmommies.com.

Courtesy of Family Features content