By Dr. Susanne Krägeloh
Hello again, it is Dr. Susanne Krägeloh. This crazy year is drawing to an end, and despite increased measures to contain Covid19 we all hope for a peaceful Christmas and holiday season.
Typically around this time there are warnings about foods which can be poisonous or dangerous to our pets when consumed; this is a huge concern but I just would like to give everyone a helpful link: good information and an extensive list of toxins and what to look for when ingested are to be found at petpoisonhelpline.com. Also, you can always contact your veterinarian!
I would like to address a few misconceptions which are widespread when it comes to pet food. We all want the best for our pets. There are literally hundreds of different options, brands, and formulations, as well as thousands of opinions. What about the legal side of it with labelling, though? What do the words on the label mean?
First, the label must include the common or generic name (“dog food”/”cat food”), the amount of product, and the information of the manufacturer or importer. Additionally, the following information should be included: list of ingredients, feeding instructions, guaranteed analysis and nutritional adequacy or intended life stage. The ingredients must be listed by their common name. If an ingredient or combination of ingredients add up to 90% of the total weight of the ingredients it may form part of the name. That means if the food contains 90% chicken it can have “chicken” in its name (“House Brand Chicken Cat Food”). (See: Consumer packaging and Labelling Act)
Then there are a host of different claims which are used on the labels. The claim “natural” is often found – the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has a definition what can be called “natural”; in essence it is free of artificial flavours, colours, and preservatives. “Natural” also is not to be confused with “organic”, which refers to the conditions under which the plants were grown, or animals where raised. Currently there are no official rules to be applied to the term “organic” other than said conditions.
What do we expect from out pet food? We often hear that people do not want “fillers”. What do we think fillers are? Especially for “weight control” or “light” foods, but also for all others it is important to have good fibre in the formulation. Fibre is an ingredient with a purpose – it helps the digestive process in a very desired way, and also can make our pets feel full longer – who likes a pet begging for food because the digestive process went too fast! So – fibre has a place in our pet food!
And why is meat not always the first ingredient? First of all: dogs (not cats though) are omnivores, which means their nutrition contains animals as well as plant-based foods (fruit and vegetables as well as grains and other starchy foods). So, they need a variety of food items, not just meat. Then the processing comes into play: ingredients have to be listed by weight, and during processing water is removed from the ingredients, which makes up a good chunk of meat. So, a food with a non-meat ingredient in first place can still be a qualitative high-ranking food!
All in all, pet food labels contain a lot of information, just sometimes not what we expect or read into it! For the readers who want to delve in detail into this: more information can be found here: Guide for the Labelling and Advertising of Pet Foods (Government of Canada); the website of AAFCO; and also worthwhile looking at, is the website of the FDA (pet food labels). Or have a chat with your veterinarian!