How to Find Quality Pet Nutrition Information Online

Pet owners commonly seek out dog and cat food information online, whether it’s product reviews, advice on alternative diets, or how to manage your pet’s weight.

But how do you know if the information you are looking at is trustworthy and accurate?

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association has created two helpful guides for finding quality dog and cat nutrition information online.

 

Here are a few important tips (be sure to check out the full guides and other great pet resources on the WSAVA website):

  • Research the credentials of authors of the materials you are reading.  Advice from a certified veterinary nutritionist is more reliable than information put out by pet owners and pet food companies.
  • Be aware if a website’s address is a .com (commercial), .edu (educational), or .org (non-profit).  This can make a difference in the quality of the information.
  • Check to see if any statements or claims are backed up by legitimate sources.  Does the article link to any references, and are they quality references?  Research studies are better sources than promotional materials.

  • Make sure the information you are reading is recent and up to date, as veterinary medicine is always changing.
  • Be especially careful of any anecdotal information, such as pet owners stating that their pets were “cured” by a particular product.

  • Many articles about the “best” pet foods or ones that rate pet foods come from websites that get financial compensation if you click on a product link (such as Amazon affiliate websites).  View these sites with plenty of caution.
  • When in doubt about any information about pet nutrition you find online…ask your veterinarian for guidance and advice!

 

Vets Explain Health Risks of Homemade Cat Food Diets

Researchers at the University of California–Davis have found that homemade diets for cats are often lacking in essential nutrients and could even contain potentially toxic ingredients.

The study, shared in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, evaluated over 100 published recipes and found significant problems with almost all of them.

Most of the recipes, even those written by vets, lacked three or more essential feline nutrients, such as zinc, iron, thiamine, and vitamin E.

Some of the recipes contained ingredients that are toxic to cats, including garlic, onion, and leek.  Some also included bones, which can damage the gastrointestinal system.

Many of the recipes also lacked adequate preparation and feeding instructions, forcing readers to make assumptions about how to make the food and how much to feed their cats.

Feline health experts note that the trend of homemade pet food diets, while popular for dogs, can be trickier for cats because of their unique nutritional requirements as true (or “obligate”) carnivores.

Cats require certain specific nutrients (like taurine) that are only found in animal proteins in order to survive.  The safest option for cat owners is to buy high-quality commercial cat food.

Sometimes vets will recommend a homemade diet for medical reasons, but it’s important to follow a diet that has been created by a certified veterinary nutritionist.

 

How to Read Pet Food Labels

Pet food1

With so many dog and cat food options to choose from, all promising that they are the best choice for your pet, how can you really know if you are buying a high quality pet food? Pet food labels are strictly regulated by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). As with food for humans, there are certain types of information that must be clearly stated on pet food packaging. The AAFCO requires the following:

  • Product and brand name
  • Which species the food is for
  • Quantity statement
  • Guaranteed analysis of certain specific nutrients in the product
  • Ingredient statement in order of prominence
  • Nutritional adequacy statement (type of pet and stage of life)
  • Feeding directions
  • Name and address of manufacturer (or distributor)

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Pay special attention to the nutritional adequacy statement. Look for the words “complete” and “balanced” in this section. This will tell you that the food contains all required nutrients in the proper amounts. Categories in the guaranteed analysis section are maximum percentages of protein, fat, fiber, and moisture.

Besides making sure you read the label, pet nutrition experts have some general pet food choice guidelines to ensure that you are buying high quality food. Verify that highly digestible forms of animal protein are in the top 2-3 spots on the ingredient list. This would include chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, and fish. Stay away from foods that list meat by-products (or any unidentified meat or bone meal), vegetables, or grains first. Pet foods that are soybean, corn, or rice-based do not contain enough protein compared to meat-based diets.

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The AAFCO has lots of great information for pet food consumers. Check out their website HERE.

 

Pets and Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving just a few days away, you may be wondering if it’s OK to share some of your Thanksgiving feast with your dog or cat. Here’s some guidance to help you give a thumbs up or thumbs down to some traditional holiday foods, courtesy of Catster and Dogster.

Cats

Turkey: Yes. Skinless, boneless white meat is safest, as too much fat could upset their stomachs.

Gravy: Only in moderation, because of the fat and salt.

Mashed potatoes: No. Cats have difficulty digesting dairy, and they should never eat garlic, onion or shallot.

Stuffing: No. Keep cats away from bread, garlic and onion.

Cranberry sauce: OK for cats to eat, some like the taste, but some don’t.

Dogs

Turkey: Yes. Make sure it’s skinless, boneless and fully cooked. White meat is best.

Gravy: Fine in moderation, as it is rich.

Mashed potatoes: Only if cooked very plainly, skip if they have lots of butter, cream, garlic or onion.

Stuffing: Only in moderation, and only raisin-free, as raisins are toxic to dogs.

Cranberry sauce: Yes, as long as it’s the alcohol-free type.

Make sure your pets don’t get into the Thanksgiving trash filled with turkey bones and meat trimmings. Bones are dangerous if swallowed and too much fatty meat and skin could lead to an upset stomach and even pancreatitis.

Happy Thanksgiving!