Because pets are such beloved members of the family, it isn’t a surprise that pet parents want what is right for the health of their furry friends. In fact, nearly four out of five pet owners say they choose a pet food based on how nutritious or how healthy they think it will be for their pet, while only 10 percent say they make a selection based on how their pets may like the taste, according to the Buying & Choosing Pet Food survey recently conducted by PetMD and Pet360.
While the survey found that 60 percent of respondents said they always consider the label when making a pet food purchase, 34 percent of pet parents agreed that it is “virtually impossible to determine the quality of pet food ingredients simply by reading the information on the package or ingredient label.” It might surprise pet owners that what’s on the pet food container doesn’t necessarily tell them how nutritious the food is.
“Pet food labels aren’t always straightforward in terms of helping pet parents determine the quality of the ingredients and the nutrition found in a specific food,” says Dr. Ellen Lowery, director of U.S. Veterinary and Professional Affairs at Hill’s Pet Nutrition. “What is listed on the label is often different from what a pet parent imagines it to be, and it can be difficult to determine the true quality of the ingredients.”
Dr. Lowery has several tips to help pet parents find the right food for their pets.
* Discuss your pet’s nutritional needs with your veterinarian.
* Review the brand’s reputation. Many start-up brands don’t have veterinary nutritionists on staff, nor do they have the facilities to test the nutritional quality of the food they make, such as through feeding trials with real pets. Established and trusted premium pet food brands like Hill’s Pet Nutrition have robust quality-assurance programs in place to ensure the quality and safety of the foods your pet consumes.
* Pay attention to the regulatory statement. If the pet food brand bag includes a statement containing the initials AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials), you know that the food has been tested against this organization’s measures to contain at least the minimum nutrients required for that statement to be included on the packaging. This statement simply certifies that the product contains that nutritional element – it doesn’t certify that the element is healthy for your pet, or that it will help Fido or Fluffy live a healthier life.
* Know who makes the food. Many pet parents assume a brand makes the food it sells but this is often not the case. Dr. Lowery recommends pet parents look for a “manufactured by” listing on the product to know if the brand made the food or is just selling it.
“I think it’s best to trust a company that makes its food under the watchful eyes of its own employees to make sure the food meets the company’s quality standards, rather than trusting the safety procedures of an unknown manufacturer,” she says.
* Is there a phone number to call? Brand companies should value your feedback, especially when it comes to feeding a beloved pet. Look for a toll-free consumer phone number on the packaging that you can easily call if you have questions or need additional information.
Good food will keep your dog’s tail happily wagging and your cat content and purring. Use these tips from Dr. Lowery to know what makes a premium, high-quality pet food, so you know that your pawed friends are getting the best food you can give them.