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Nutrition Terms

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Terms that have no defined meaning on pet food labels:

3.1.1.Holistic
3.1.2.Human grade
3.1.3.Human quality
3.1.4.Premium
3.1.5.Super Premium
3.1.6.Gourmet

As pets have become more important to their owners, what the pets are fed has become more important as well.  Most pet owners are concerned about the quality and nutrition level of the food they are feeding their furry family members.  There are now hundreds of pet foods available to the consumer.  How do you know what to believe regarding pet food claims?

Many pet foods line the shelves of groceries and pet food stores, each with their own marketing claims.  Some of the terms used have a definite meaning to nutritionists, some are just marketing.

Terms that have a legal meaning are natural, organic, and by-products.   The  AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) defines these terms and publishes recommendations for pet foods.

Natural refers to a "feed or ingredient derived solely from plant, animal, or mined sources, either in its unprocessed state or having been subject to physical processing, heat processing, rendering, purification, extraction, hydrolysis, enzymolysis, or fermentation, but not having been produced by or subject to a chemically synthetic process."

Organic has been defined as " a formula feed or a specific ingredient within a formula feed that has been produced or handled in compliance with the requirements of the USDA National Organic Program."  Under this category are three levels:

  1. 100% organic - must have 100% organic ingredients and additives, including processing aids
  2. Organic - at least 95% of the content is organic by weight
  3. Made with Organic - at least 70% of the content is organic

By-products are defined as " non- rendered clean parts of carcasses such as heads and viscera ( organs), free from fecal content and foreign material except in such trace amounts as might occur unavoidably in good factory practice."

The important thing to know is that any food labeled Natural or Organic is not necessarily a good food, and that a food with by-products can be an excellent food.  Natural substances can still be very dangerous; cocaine, heroin, arsenic, and cyanide are all natural but, of course, they are not good for you.  Organic foods may contain ingredients that are free of pesticides, but the food may not be balanced or nutritious. 

Some pet food companies suggest that foods that contain by-products are of a lower quality, but the term doesn't deserve this reputation.  In actuality, by-products are often a good source of vitamins and minerals. 

In summary, some claims by pet food companies are just marketing, without real science to back up their advertisements.  How do you know which food to use?  The best general advise is to choose a food that has been formulated with AAFCO standards and had feeding trials.  Your veterinarian can help you in this choice.

AAFCO.org


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Testimonial

Don't take a good vet for granted, that's what I say. I currently live in another state and have taken my 10 year old dog to numerous vets over the years (California, Colorado, Vegas, and then some). Never have I ever received the attention and care I've gotten w/Dr. Hines. Within the past 3 months alone, my dog went to 3 different vets for a horrible and painful skin problem that broke out all over her body.

The first vet: I spent more time ponying up the $175 for the visit than the Dr. spent actually looking at my dog. He performed a woods lamp exam for ringworm. Even without Google or a veterinary degree, I could tell it wasn't ringworm. Thanks for taking my money.
Second vet: "Here's some spray, now here's your bill. Bring her back in two weeks so I can charge you another visit." No tests, nothing.
Between the two, I felt like I got nowhere. No definitive answer on why this affected my dog and the medication given wasn't even for a diagnosed condition. Just some general topical spray. I could have bought it at Petsmart and saved myself the time and money.
Recently, on a visit to Idaho, I planned ahead to bring my dog to the Rupert Animal Clinic. I asked the same questions, had the same concerns and now have different results. Dr. Hines gave me options on what route to take, ran appropriate tests and communicated with me every step of the way (even calling me personally when test results came in). My primary concern was cancer. Our dog is like our child- we'll pay the money if we can keep her healthy and safe. In the future, I've resolved to bring my dog to Rupert Animal Clinic on our annual trip for all of her exams. I know she won't be treated as a little cash cow to exploit an owner's love for pets.

Sung L.
Rupert, ID

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