If you think you know all you need to know about your pet’s nutrition, you’re probably wrong — at least according to a recent survey from PetMD. Although 57% of the respondents say they check pet food labels, they often misinterpret what the labels mean.
"Misconceptions surrounding pet food and canine and feline nutrition can lead owners to make ill-informed choices about what to feed their companions," said Jennifer Coates, a spokeswoman for PetMD. "Veterinarians are the best source of information about what to feed pets. They can take into consideration a pet's unique combination of life stage, lifestyle and health to make individualized diet recommendations."
Here are some of the survey’s findings:
Misconception: Many respondents misunderstand terms. For example, they said they thought that animal hair, teeth and hooves are included in meat byproducts.
Fact: The Association of American Feed Control Officials prohibits these body parts from being included in a byproduct used in pet food.
Misconception: The only important information on the label is the ingredients. Only 22% of respondents check to see if the diet has undergone a feeding trial.
Fact: “Feeding trials are a far superior method for determining whether or not pets will thrive on a particular diet," according to Coates. All AAFCO-approved pet foods must display a statement indicating how the pet food manufacturer determined that particular diet would meet the needs of pets. This can be done via a computer program or by feeding the food to dogs or cats.
Misconception: More than 40% of respondents cited grain ingredients as the most common allergens in pet food, with more than 30% specifically citing corn.
Fact: Studies have shown that the protein or meat source in pet food is the biggest culprit.
Misconception: Almost 70% of respondents said that protein is a key nutrient. Only 2% named fats, 3% named carbohydrates and fewer than 25% named vitamins and minerals.
Fact: "To satisfy all the nutritional needs of dogs and cats, pet foods must provide all of these ingredients in the right balance," Coates said. "Too much of one or too little of another can be harmful to a pet's health."
Misconception: Pet food labels do not list all of the ingredients.
Fact: AAFCO regulations mandate that every ingredient be included in the list, in order from the biggest to the smallest contributor, by weight.