How To Read Pet Food Labels — Part 4

Feeding Directions

Feeding directions guide pet owners on the amount of food that is recommended to feed their pets. However, these recommendations are based on the average dog or cat and may not be suitable for every pet. Actual amounts that your pet should consumer vary between species, breed, temperament and activity level. The most accurate way to determine how much to feed your pet would be to look at the calorie statement. The calorie statement tells the amount of calories in a suggested serving of the food. You can use this as a rough guide in determining the amount of food your pet can consume.

To find out the proper amount to feed your pet, your best bet is to work closely with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can more accurately determine the amount of food your pet should be eating each day. He may also recommend a feeding pattern such as twice-daily or free feeding.

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How To Read Pet Food Labels — Part 2

Dog Food

The net quantity statement tells you how much product is in the container. When looking for a pet food a cost-per-ounce or per-pound comparison is always important. Check the labels carefully, a 40-lb bag may actually only have 35 lbs of food if the food has been “puffed up.” The bag holds the same volume, but might not actually contain the amount of food it says.

Look for the manufacturer’s name and address, the label should at least include a state and zip code. Some manufacturers include a toll-free number or a web address for consumer inquiries.

Next check out the ingredient list. Everything that makes up the pet food will be listed. The first items listed are what predominately makes up the food or is the main ingredient. Usually the first thing listed is a meat or corn or something similar. Lower down the list you start seeing all of those complex names, which are usually vitamins and minerals. The last things listed are usually artificial colors, stabilizers and preservatives.

There are a couple of ingredients that you might want to watch out for though. According to the FDA:

If scientific data are presented that show a health risk to animals of an ingredient or additive, CVM can act to prohibit or modify its use in pet food. For example, propylene glycol was used as a humectant in soft-moist pet foods, which helps retain water and gives these products their unique texture and taste. It was affirmed Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) for use in human and animal food before the advent of soft-moist foods. It was known for some time that propylene glycol caused Heinz Body formation in the red blood cells of cats (small clumps of proteins seen in the cells when viewed under the microscope), but it could not be shown to cause overt anemia or other clinical effects. However, recent reports in the veterinary literature of scientifically sound studies have shown that propylene glycol reduces the red blood cell survival time, renders red blood cells more susceptible to oxidative damage, and has other adverse effects in cats consuming the substance at levels found in soft-moist food. In light of this new data, CVM amended the regulations to expressly prohibit the use of propylene glycol in cat foods.

Another pet food additive of some controversy is ethoxyquin, which was approved as a food additive over thirty-five years ago for use as an antioxidant chemical preservative in animal feeds. Approximately ten years ago, CVM began receiving reports from dog owners attributing the presence of ethoxyquin in the dog food with a myriad of adverse effects, such as allergic reactions, skin problems, major organ failure, behavior problems, and cancer. However, there was a paucity of available scientific data to support these contentions, or to show other adverse effects in dogs at levels approved for use in dog foods. More recent studies by the manufacturer of ethoxyquin showed a dose-dependent accumulation of a hemoglobin-related pigment in the liver, as well as increases in the levels of liver-related enzymes in the blood. Although these changes are due to ethoxyquin in the diet, the pigment is not made from ethoxyquin itself, and the health significance of these findings is unknown. More information on the utility of ethoxyquin is still needed in order for CVM to amend the maximum allowable level to below that which would cause these effects, but which still would be useful in preserving the food. While studies are being conducted to ascertain a more accurate minimum effective level of ethoxyquin in dog foods, CVM has asked the pet food industry to voluntarily lower the maximum level of use of ethoxyquin in dog foods from 150 ppm (0.015%) to 75 ppm. Regardless, most pet foods that contained ethoxyquin never exceeded the lower amount, even before this recommended change.

Stay tuned for the Guaranteed Analysis….