The most reputable manufacturers of “super premium” and “natural” foods agree with holistic veterinarians and other experts that the very best diet for your animal companion is feeding a combination of raw and cooked home food. However, many of us do not have the time and money to do this.
Instead, because of cost and time constraints, the vast majority of pet owners buy pre-packaged, processed feeds from the their local pet or grocery stores. If that includes you, here are some tips to help you pick the best feed you can within your budget constraints.
Store Bought Pet Food Check List
- When selecting a pet food for your animal companion, make sure the label has an “AAFCO guarantee,” preferably one that references “feeding tests” or “feeding protocols” rather than Nutrient Profiles.
- In general, avoid foods that rely on by-products as the sole source of animal protein. By-products consist of organs and parts either not desired, or condemned, for human consumption. An occasional can of by-product-based food may be okay, since, in the wild, carnivores do consume the whole prey including the organs, but these foods are not acceptable as a steady diet.
- Never buy a food containing “by-product meal” or “meat and bone meal.” These rendered products are the most inexpensive sources of animal protein. The contents and quality of these meals can vary tremendously from batch to batch, and are not a reliable source of nutrition for your animal.
- Look for a named meat or meal (“lamb” or “chicken meal,” for example, instead of the generic term “meat”) as the first ingredient. Be sure that a specific animal “meal” is listed before any other ingredients other than meat.
- Avoid generic or store brands. These may be repackaged rejects from the big manufacturers, and generally contain cheaper — and consequently poorer quality — ingredients.
- Unless specifically recommended by your veterinarian, avoid “light,” “senior,” “special formula,” or “hairball formula” foods. These foods may contain acidifying agents, excessive fiber, or inadequate fats that can result in skin, coat and other problems. Often, these gimmicks offer no true solutions to your pet’s problem.
- In general, try to choose brands promoted to be “natural.” While they are not perfect, they may be better than most. Several brands are now preserved with Vitamins C and E instead of chemical preservatives (such as BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin and propyl gallate). While synthetic preservatives may still be present, the amounts will be less.
- Check the expiration date to ensure freshness.
- When you open a bag of dry food, give it a sniff — if there is any rancid odor at all, return it immediately for an exchange or refund.
- Store dry pet food in a sealed non-porous container (a large popcorn tin is ideal) in a cool, dry place. Opened canned food is best removed from the can and refrigerated in a glass or ceramic or sealed plastic container.