Petfoodology

the scientific study of pet nutrition by veterinary nutrition specialists and experts.

Asking the Right Questions to Make Informed Decisions about Pet Foods

Asking the Right Questions to Make Informed Decisions about Pet Foods
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If you’re like most of our Petfoodology readers, you love your pet and want to feed him or her the very best food possible.  But there are thousands of choices of pet foods, making it confusing to select the best pet food for your pet.  If you’re like most pet owners, you base your decision primarily on the ingredient list.  In past Petfoodology posts, we’ve recommended not using the ingredient list or ratings websites to select your pet’s food.  Instead, we recommend using more objective information for this important decision about what to feed your pet, such as nutritional expertise, quality control, and other important factors about the manufacturer.  The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) developed recommendations for selecting the best food.  Unfortunately, most of that information is not on the label so requires calling manufacturers which can be a time-consuming process (although often educational or even entertaining).

This month, the Pet Nutrition Alliance (PNA) launched a new resource on their website called, “Dare to Ask” which can help in the process of making more objective decisions about pet food.  The PNA is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing resources to support veterinary professionals in helping pets live longer through better nutrition.  I should disclose that I’m on the Board of Directors of PNA, am now the Past-President, and was involved in developing this new resource.  But I also use the PNA calorie calculators and other resources on the website regularly (and will probably use this new tool daily to help me advise owners!).

The PNA developed this Dare to Ask tool because we saw the need for this information being readily available.  To do this, we contacted more than 200 manufacturers last year that were selling pet food in the United States and Canada and asked them questions based on the WSAVA criteria. The results answer important questions including details on the manufacturers’ nutritional expertise, where their foods are manufactured, and whether they can provide information on a requested nutrient (and if that nutrient meets the Association of American Feed Control Officials profiles).

While this resource doesn’t give information on all the WSAVA criteria, it provides important details that can help people to navigate the overload of information (and misinformation) so they can select what is truly the best food for the pet – not just the food that has the best marketing.  Not all manufacturers were willing to provide information when we asked them last year, but we’re starting the process of contacting them all again to update the information for 2019.  So, if your favorite manufacturer did not provide information, please encourage them to participate this year.  Having this objective information is one step in ensuring you can make an informed decision and provide your pet with the best food possible.

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Lisa M. Freeman, DVM, PhD, DACVN

Dr. Freeman is a veterinary nutritionist and a professor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. She is on the cutting-edge of science, with hundreds of articles in prestigious journals, speaking engagements at national and international conferences, and awards for her scientific achievements. However, she also is passionate about providing objective and accurate information on pet nutrition to veterinarians, pet owners, and other animal enthusiasts.

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