Pet Food and Pet Nutrition
The Right Stuff:
Choosing a Good Pet Food
So how can pet owners
choose the right food for their pets? Examine three
parts of the pet food label: the life stage claim, the
contact information for the manufacturer, and the list
Pet owners should look
for the word "feeding" in the life stage claim (found in
the nutritional adequacy statement on the label). This
means the food was proven nutritionally adequate in
animal feed tests.
Another item to check on
the label is the contact information. Pet owners should
look for the manufacturer's telephone number. Only the
manufacturer's name and address are required, but people
should be able to call manufacturers to ask questions
about their products, says Burkholder, and manufacturers
should be responsive. "They will not tell you how much
liver, for example, is in their product, because that's
part of their proprietary formula. But they should tell
you how much of any nutrient is in the product."
The ingredients list on
the label is an area of consumer preference and
subjectivity. Pet owners who do or do not want to feed a
pet a certain ingredient can look at the list of
ingredients to make sure that particular substance is
included or excluded.
Pet Food Safety and
No matter what choice
they make, consumers can take comfort in knowing that
pet food is manufactured under a series of standards and
regulations. These regulations require some nutrients
and additives, disallow others, and stipulate certain
information that must be on the label. The labels of
packages and cans of commercial cat and dog food must
list five pieces of information: guaranteed analysis,
nutritional adequacy statement, ingredients, feeding
guidelines, and the manufacturer's name and address.
With the exception of a nutritional adequacy statement,
these items must also appear on commercial food labels
for other pets, such as gerbils, snakes, and parakeets.
Table Scraps May Be
Some people think a food
that they eat is good for their pets. Not true. Some
human foods, in fact, may be dangerous to pets. "Most
pet owners simply do not know that small amounts of
chocolate, onions, macadamia nuts and bread dough can be
fatal if ingested by a dog," says Steve Hansen, D.V.M.,
senior vice president of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control
Center. "And cats, in particular, have a body chemistry
quite different from ours," and so are susceptible to
poisoning from a number of human foods.
Also because of their
different body chemistry and nutritional requirements,
cats should not be fed dog food, says Burkholder.
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