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Food for Thought: Part 2

Busting Pet Food Myths, And The Importance Of Reading Labels

Thinking about pet food? I know it’s not necessarily the most gripping topic, but it can be of critical importance to your pet’s health. We started last month with busting a few pet food myths, and we’ll continue this month, along with tools in evaluating a pet food choice. (Note: If you missed last month’s Part 1, you can find it at

Now to dive in to dismissing a few more myths about pet foods.

Myth No. 1: Raw diets are healthier.

Not true. No scientific studies have been published showing health benefits from raw food diets. Rather, several raw pet food nutritional studies highlighted potential concerns for nutritional imbalances, as well as public and pet health risks. Nutritional deficiencies can lead to significant health impacts for a patient. While contamination risks are one of the primary reasons that pet foods are pulled by manufacturer or the FDA as pets and people can become severely ill. If you review pet food recalls, you will find that many are small, raw processors.

Myth No. 2: By-products are bad for my pet.

Not true. By definition, by-products are the animal parts that we don’t typically eat such as liver, kidneys or other organ meats. Many of these are considered delicacies in other cultures but are not generally popular in the United States. For pet foods, there are very strict definitions about what can be considered a by-product versus what cannot be used. Pet foods cannot contain feathers, hair, horns, teeth or hooves. By-products offer excellent sources of protein and other nutrients, and to our pets taste delicious.

Now a question rather than a myth: Is the ingredient list the best way to determine the quality of a food?

The answer is, no. Our pets require nutrients rather than ingredients. Individual ingredients do not determine the quality of the food, but rather the nutritional value of each ingredient in combination with each other is what provides nutrition. The ingredients must provide the proper nutrients to meet the guaranteed nutrient analysis provided on the pet food label and for how the product is to be used.

The most important role a pet owner has with regards to nutrition is to be an educated consumer. Your veterinarian can help with information, but there are things already available to you to implement today.

The first is reading the label and looking at the nutritional adequacy statement – this is the AAFCO statement of what life stage the food is appropriate for such as growth, adult maintenance or supplemental only.

Keep in mind that in all life stages food must meet the demands of the most nutrient needy stages of life – pregnancy and growth, for example. Food for pets in these stages may not be appropriate for an overweight or senior pet due to high calorie or protein content.

The second is to be savvy about information. The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) is a great resource for information. The following summary handouts offer great information for cat and dog owners as you pull out that smartphone to look up information.



Dr. Margot can be reached at

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