Choosing food for your pet involves knowing how to make sense of all the ingredients listed on the label. Some commercial foods include ingredients that are potentially harmful to pets, while other ingredients aren’t ideal for pets with certain food sensitivities or allergies. When you want to make sure that you’re getting healthy pet food, keep the following information in mind.
How to Read Pet Food Labels
When you’re checking pet food labels, keep in mind that the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) requires manufacturers to include certain information, such as percentages of each nutrient and a list of ingredients. These ingredients are listed in order according to the amounts included. Ingredients with the largest amount are listed first.
Ingredients to Avoid
While looking over pet food labels, it’s important to watch for certain ingredients that could be harmful to your pets. These include the following:
- Corn: This ingredient has a high amount of carbohydrates and is hard for pets to digest. Some pets are also allergic to it.
- Wheat: Wheat, which is often used as a filler ingredient in pet foods, is also associated with allergies in some pets.
- Bone meal or meat meal: These ingredients do not specify where the meal comes from, which means it could be from any animal.
- Soy: This ingredient isn’t needed in pet food and can cause problems with pets’ endocrine systems.
- Generic anaimal meal: These ingredients that don't specify a specific animal (chicken, turkey, etc) can legally contain road kill, diseased or dying animals and even euthanized pets from shelters.
- By-products: These ingredients are made from the parts of chicken or other animals that are left over after the meat has been removed, such as beaks or feathers.
- Ingredients from China.
- Artificial coloring: This ingredient is unnecessary and could raise the risk of health issues in pets.
Ingredients to Look For
When you’re choosing pet food, look for the following ingredients on the label:
- Chicken, beef or another specific meat source rather than unspecified meat sources, which can come from any animal or unsanitary sources.
- Chicken meal, turkey meal or another specific meal source, which provides a high level of protein
- Vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, peas and green beans. Avoid beet pulp and corn.
Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to purchase pet food. A diet that includes raw food can provide pets with a natural source of nutrients without any artificial ingredients. When you choose pet-safe raw food, you also have more control over the exact ingredients your pets are eating. There are also a number of raw food options avaialble at local pet supply stores.