TALK OF THE TOWN: What to look for when choosing the best pet food

(WIS) - We spend so much time putting emphasis on what WE eat.  What about what our pets eat?

Dr. Wendy King of Spears Creek Veterinary Clinic says to look past the pretty packaging on the front as the claims made are all marketing to get you to buy the product.  What you need to do is check the information on the back of the bag. "Grab your reading glasses," Dr. King said. "Because it's all in fine print."

Dr. King said there's an AAFCO statement. AAFCO stands for Association of American Feed Control Officials. It's a voluntary membership association of local, state and federal agencies charged by law to regulate the sale and distribution of dog and cat foods. They also look after animal drug remedies.

There are two AAFCO statements to look for. "Problem is, they're very similar. One says feeding tests prove that this is complete and balanced nutrition by AAFCO. The other one says this is formulated to meet AAFCO standards. So the first one means they've tested the food, made sure the pets can eat it and they can get the nutrition out of it. The second one means someone made a recipe, followed the recipe and, hopefully, it's good enough for the pets," Dr. King said.

She emphasizes that, when you look at the information on the back, you want feeding tests. You do not want formulated. Dr. King says that means the majority of foods on the shelves are not the best nutritional sources for your pets.

And what about "grain-free" foods that seem popular right now? Again, Dr. King says it's marketing. "Grains are carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are very small. Dogs are not allergic to grains," Dr. King said.

King adds, "They're allergic to the protein. Those are large molecules. The number one allergy I see is to chicken. So, if a dog is having symptoms of a food allergy, like chronic ear infections, then I'll suggest they take chicken out of the diet." Dr. King likes fish-based formulas with one or two (at the most) proteins in them.

When it comes to pet foods that have been recalled, Dr. King says to go to the FDA website. It pulls up a search window with the first choice being "pet food recalls."

Click it and it takes you to a page of recalls. It has the date of recall, food brand name, description of the product, the reason it was recalled and the company from which it comes.

Dr. King says that on the same page, there is a section to report a pet food complaint and to report animal drug side effects and product problems.

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