Do you have a group of personal nutritionists who spend their days making sure your every meal is healthy and balanced? Do you have a staff of scientists and technicians who work to keep all the food you eat free from potentially harmful contaminants
Yeah, neither do I, but your cat does if you feed him or her a diet formulated and produced by a reputable and conscientious food company.
Now, I’m not talking about the foods that are more marketing gimmick than nutrition. Good pet food brands focus at least as much attention (hopefully more!) on what is inside the can or bag as they do on their advertising campaigns.
How can owners determine whether or not the company that makes their cats’ food is primarily concerned with providing optimal nutrition? First, you can use the MyBowl tool to assess the diet. Next, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has come up with a list of questions, based on their Nutritional Assessment Guidelines, we should be asking pet food companies.
Below are some of the questions, as well as my comments, as to what you should be looking for in the way of answers from the pet food company.
- Do you have a veterinary nutritionist or some equivalent on staff in your company? Are they available for consultation or questions?
The answer should obviously be "yes" to both questions. Veterinary nutritionists are uniquely qualified to make recommendations about what pets should be eating.
- Who formulates your diets, and what are their credentials?
One or more veterinary nutritionists would be ideal. Look for credentials like DVM, PhD, DACVIM (Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine), and DACVN (Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Nutrition).
- Which of your diet(s) are tested using AAFCO feeding trials, and which by nutrient analysis?
Feeding trials are superior to a nutrient analysis that is performed on a computer.
- What specific quality control measures do you use to assure the consistency and quality of your product line? Where are your diets produced and manufactured? Can this plant be visited?
The answers to these questions will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but the company should be more than willing to discuss with you what they do. In fact, they should be proud to show off their plants and quality control measures.
- Will you provide a complete product nutrient analysis of your best-selling dog and cat food, including digestibility values?
Openness is key. If they truly believe in their food, why wouldn’t they provide this information?
- What kinds of research on your products has been conducted, and are the results published in peer-reviewed journals?
We don’t know all we should about feline nutrition. Research is essential and food companies are in a unique position to be able to spearhead this important work. If they are truly dedicated to the well-being of pets, they should dedicate a substantial portion of their resources to moving this field of study forward.
Don’t be shy; ask your cat food company these questions. After all, you are counting on their products to cover all of your cat’s nutritional needs. To make it easier for you, the manufacturer (or other responsible party) is required to provide their contact information on the product’s label. Most responsible companies will even include a toll free phone number and/or a website address for customer service inquiries.
Dr. Jennifer Coates