Choosing the right food for your dog or cat can be challenging. There are so many schools of thought out there and it’s hard to know what’s right. We were able to grab a few minutes with Dr. Elizabeth DeLomba, Professor at Anne Arundel College and practicing veterinarian, to learn more about what to look for when choosing your pet’s food.
Look for AAFCO certification
First and foremost, Dr. DeLombda advises making sure any pet food you are feeding to your four-legged friend has been formulated to meet the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) standards. “Pet food companies cannot put the words ‘complete’ or ‘balanced; on their product unless these guidelines have been met,” DeLombda says.
You will find many of your favorite, high quality pet food companies such as Halo Purely for Pets and Newman’s Own Pet Food, are made to meet and exceed the standards set by the AAFCO. My dog Charlie is allergic to grain and has been eating Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet food for years, so it was reassuring to know that even without the grains, his food is healthy and nutritious.
Consider pets’ different needs
Dogs and cats have very different nutritional needs. While dogs are omnivorous and can eat a variety of food in their diet and remain healthy, Dr. DeLomba explains, “Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they need a much higher percentage of protein in their diets.”
If you’re thinking of switching your pet to any type of specialty diet (such as a vegan diet for dogs), you should consult with your veterinarian first to make sure you are meeting all of their needs.
Avoid lesser-known or non-established brands
To ensure the quality of your pet food, Dr. DeLomba says accessibility to information is extremely helpful. She tells her patients, “It’s good to get brands that they recognize because if there is a recall on the food it they will hear about it quickly and they can take care of it right away.” As you know, there have been a number of recalls on pet foods and treats in recent years, so it’s best to stick with a brand that has something to lose if they have a production or safety problem.
Read labels carefully
And lastly, if you’re looking for the most natural food for your dog or cat, pay close attention to the labeling. Dr. DeLomba explains, “There is an FDA definition for ‘organic’ but there is not an FDA definition for ‘natural’.” In choosing and organic food for your dog or cat, she says, “You have to vigilant about what you get.”