What Pet Food Should I Feed?

March 26, 2017 — Pet Health Education — Pickens Animal Hospital @ 6:13 pm

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Did you know that more than 15,000 brands of pet food exist in North America? The seemingly endless choices and the frequency of pet food recalls in the news have many pet owners concerned that they are making a healthy and safe food choice.

This post will walk you through the meaning of the words used on pet food packaging and in pet food ads. It may mean you’ll need to put on your reading glasses when you pick up that bag of kibble!

Have you ever heard of AAFCO? The Association of American Feed Control Officials is a nonprofit association of state and local officials that develop guidelines for animal feeds. Their standards are a good place to start.

Pet food manufacturers typically show one of two AAFCO nutritional adequacy statements on their label. Look on the back or the sides of the package, knowing that it’s probably in small print. The first statement is based on the “formulation” and verifies that the food contains all nutrients identified as essential for a pet’s health based on species (cat or dog) and life stage. Refer to the top label on the photo below and notice that it specifies “dog” and “adult maintenance”. The second statement requires that “feeding tests” be done using AAFCO procedures to prove that cats or dogs can live and thrive on the food. Refer to the second label on the photo, noticing that again “dog” and “adult maintenance” are specified.  So what’s the difference? The “formulation” statement requires that a sample of the food be tested in a lab. The “feeding tests” statement requires the additional step of using real cats or dogs in feeding trials. This more rigorous testing also creates additional expense.

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What does the pet food’s name tell you?  If an ingredient is used in the name of a pet food, at least 95% of the product must be the named ingredient—not counting the water added for processing and “condiments.” Counting the added water, the named ingredient still must comprise 70% of the product. If the name includes a combination of ingredients, such as “Chicken n’ Liver Dog Food,” the two ingredients must comprise 95% of the total weight. It is important to note that this rule only applies to ingredients of animal origin. Therefore, a product named “Lamb and Rice Dog Food,” must still contain at least 95% lamb, according to the FDA. (Source: dvm360.com)

Still with us on all the pet food terminology? Good, because this is where it gets interesting! Whenever a package of pet food has a fancy sounding name, read carefully. This is referred to as the “Dinner Rule”. If the term used is “dinner” (example: Chicken Dinner for Dogs”) or “entrée”, “formula”, “nuggets”, “platter” – the named ingredient must be at least 25% by weight of the food, but less than 95%.

So “Salmon Dinner for Cats” needs only be 25% salmon (whereas “Salmon Cat Food” must be 95% salmon) But wait – there’s more! (and if you’re like us, you’ll have to read this more than once for it to sink in) A combination of named ingredients, such as “Chicken and Turkey Entrée for Dogs” must equal 25% combined. The second ingredient must make up at least 3%.   Since chicken is less than 25% in this case, it may be the third or fourth listed ingredient. According to the FDA, “Because the primary ingredient is not always the named ingredient, and may in fact be an ingredient that the consumer does not wish to feed, the ingredient list should always be checked before purchase.” (Source: dvm360.com)

These little words make a big difference: “FOR” or “BY”.  Some pet food companies manufacture their own foods (labeled “manufactured BY”), while other pet food companies use a 3rd party company to manufacture their foods (labeled “manufactured FOR”). There are issues associated with 3rd party “contract packing”. While the companies who make the food in their own plant must have strict quality control in place, contract packers are not required to do independent testing. The contract packers can also change the supplier of the ingredients in the pet food at their discretion. As a result, the food can vary between batches and a consistent product between bags cannot be guaranteed. Also, many dog food brands share manufacturing facilities. This is why there are sometimes clusters of recalls with different food brands having the same contamination issue. This does not mean that foods packaged by a third party company are always bad. Companies that manufacture in-house, however, have more control and more accountability for the foods that are distributed under their name.

To summarize: Pet food packaging and labels contain a wealth of information, if you know what to look for.

  • First, the pet food should be labeled “Complete and Balanced” – this means the food meets the nutritional requirements of the AAFCO. Select a food that meets the AAFCO’s formulation test or, even better, has been subject to testing on real animals.
  • Don’t just depend on the name of the food – investigate further by studying the list of ingredients.
  • Choose a food based on your pet’s life stage.
  • Be aware of whether the food is manufactured by the pet food company, or by a third party company.
  • Discuss food choice with your veterinarian if your pet has any food allergies or special needs.
  • And of course, the food must be one that your pet will actually eat and that you can afford long term.


5 Things I Wish You Knew Before Euthanizing by Kelsey Beth Carpenter

March 1, 2017 — Pet Health Education, Uncategorized — Pickens Animal Hospital @ 9:29 pm

We don’t want to think about it, but one day it may just be staring us in the face.

A vet tech wrote this very thoughtful article and posted it on her blog.  The text of her article is below, but the original can be found here:

http://kelseybethcarpenter.blogspot.com/2015/12/5-things-i-wish-you-knew-before.html

 

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Euthanasia. The word itself makes all our stomachs drop. It is a gift to pets and a curse to owners – having the power to decide is something we are not comfortable with. However, when going through the euthanasia process with your own pets, you are in a position to make numerous decisions that can change the course of the overall process. As a Veterinary Technician, I witness euthanasias on a daily basis. Let me share from personal experience the 5 things I wish every pet owner knew.

1. It’s ok to cry.

People apologize to me all the time for crying over their pets. Whether it’s time to say goodbye, or you are simply having a hard time watching us draw blood on your dog, I wish you knew that I GET IT. Many of us who work in animal medicine (myself very much included) are totally neurotic, hypersensitive, and obsessive when it comes to our own pets. I may seem calm and collected while working with your cat, but that’s because it’s my job and I can’t afford to be any other way if I’m going to be good at it. You best believe that the second my dog so much as sneezes, I go into a total state of panic, lose all common sense, and forget everything I learned in tech school. So, when you are crying over the pet that you have loved for years, I assure you, I have nothing but respect for you. I respect how much you care. I respect your ability to make such difficult decisions. I respect your bravery. And please know that no matter how demonstrative you may be with your emotions, you are still keeping it together more than I would be in your shoes.

2. Be there, if you can.

I am lucky to work in a hospital where the vast majority of pet owners stay with their pets for the euthanasia process. However, this is not always the case. I urge you to stay with your pets, if you can, for multiple reasons. First, for my sake. One of the absolute most difficult things I do as a Veterinary Technician is take on the role of comforting and loving a pet as they pass on when their human is not there to do so. It is an incredible weight to try to act on your behalf, and it is emotionally exhausting in a way that I cannot even begin to describe. When you stay with your fur baby, I can focus on my own job, instead of doing both of ours. Second, for your pet’s sake. The vet can be a very scary place for animals – they don’t understand what all these noises and smells are, or why these strangers are poking and prodding them. Do you want them to experience that fear alone? And have it be their very last memory? Your pet doesn’t know what we are doing or why – they only know that you are there, that you said it’s ok, that you love them. I remember being a child, and how scary going to the doctor was, but how much more confident I felt with my mom there reassuring me. I imagine that is exactly how pets feel. If you can find the strength to be there, please do so. Please let your love, your touch, your presence be the last thing your pet experiences.

3. Keep the collar on.

One of the saddest things I witness during the euthanasia process is when humans take their pet’s collar off when they are still very much awake. To many pets, taking their collar off can have negative associations. For example, I know my own dog panics when I remove her collar as she knows it’s bath time! I want your pet to be as comfortable as possible, and that means not making any major changes immediately prior to euthanizing. Pets are much smarter than we give them credit for, and they pick up on the smallest of cues. The unknown is scary to your pet, so even if they don’t know what the cues mean, the idea that something is new and strange and out of the ordinary is enough to cause them some sense of anxiety. So, keep the collar on until your pet has passed. Let them go in the state that they always were.

4. Make it a celebration.

Bring treats. Tell stories. Laugh and cry at the same time. Surround yourselves with all his/her favorite toys and beds and blankets. It’s ok to cry, and it’s also ok to celebrate! I love when people tell me they took their dog to the beach or napped in the sun with their cat right before coming in to the hospital. This is going to be one of the hardest days of your life, but it doesn’t have to be for your pet. I promise that the more you celebrate your pet’s life, no matter how long or short, the easier it will be to continue to live your own once this is all said and done. It is ok to cry in front of your pet, to tell them how much you will miss them, to let them see you be absolutely beside yourself. I’m sure your pet has seen you at your worst before – I know mine has. But remember to celebrate, no matter how miserable you are. I promise it will make it easier for both you and your pet. What’s more, It will allow you to reflect on the euthanasia experience with positivity – you will remember that you celebrated and you will feel good about having done so.

5. Prepare.

I want this moment to be entirely about you and your pet. In order for that to be the case, several things must happen. First, you must understand the euthanasia process. If possible, talk to your Vet or Tech prior to coming into the hospital, or prior to starting the process – ask them to walk you through the steps of euthanasia so that you know exactly what to expect. Ask as many questions as you need to in order to feel comfortable with the process (or at least, as comfortable as you can be). Know what you’re walking into, so that your focus can be entirely on your pet. Second, take care of business ahead of time when possible. Sign any required paperwork. Pay the bill. Decide on after care. Even go so far as to prepare you next meal ahead of time, arrange a ride, rent a movie, invite friends over – whatever you think might help you cope when you return home from the hospital without your pet. The less you have to deal with during and after euthanasia, the better. I want you to be able to focus entirely on your pet during the euthanasia, and then entirely on yourself afterwards. Let’s do whatever we can to make that possible.

Every euthanasia is different. Some are planned, some are sudden. Some may happen in your home, some in the hospital. Regardless, they are difficult – to prepare for, to cope with, to experience. I hope these 5 things will help you to plan ahead and to make the process as beautiful as it can be for both you and your pet.

 

 

Reference:  http://kelseybethcarpenter.blogspot.com/2015/12/5-things-i-wish-you-knew-before.html