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Dog and cat eating

Many of us struggle to find the right food for our dog or cat. Do we believe everything we hear? Do we go with the latest pet food trends or stick to traditional food? The questions are endless. 

Who oversees pet food production?

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) are the people in charge of regulating production, labeling, distribution and sale of pet food. They are also the people who establish canine and feline nutrient profiles. One these profiles is one of the most important pieces of information called the Nutritional Adequacy Statement that reads as follows:

Feline Food: "[This food] is formulated to meet the AAFCO Cat Food Nutrient Profiles for all stages of a cat's life."

Canine Food: "Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that [this food] provides complete and balanced nutrition for maintenance of adult dogs."

How to pick a food manufacturer

It's important to pick a food manufacturer with nutritionists, research & development, their own manufacturing plants, and those who have internal quality control standards. This helps to ensure that your pet is getting the best and safest diet possible. You also want a well-known, reputable company Purina, Hill’s, Royal Canin, Nutro, Blue Buffalo, Merrick, Wellness, or Canidae.

Yes, it's important to feed your pet appropriate life-stage food!

  • Growth
    • Large or giant breed puppies should be fed puppy food until they are full-grown, or around 12-18 months of age
    • Calorie intake should be slightly reduced at the time of spay/neuter for all pets
  • Adult maintenance – intact vs. neutered
  • Gestation or Lactation
  • Performance food is great for hunting, racing, sled dogs, show dogs, or guard dogs
  • Geriatric/senior food 
    • No specific nutrient profiles for senior dogs/cats exist.  They have the same requirements as for adults.  Senior foods often include supplements such as omega-3 FAs and glucosamine/chondroitin
  • Disease-specific
    • Some diseases, such as diabetes mellitus, kidney disease, or urinary tract disease, are better managed with prescription diets

What to look for in the ingredients

This is an important step in knowing what to feed your pet. Proteins, either meat or meat by-products, should be one of the first 3 ingredients! Other ingredients that should be listed are carbohydrates and grains, fats, vitamins & minerals, and preservatives.

Beware of marketing tactics that can skew your thoughts on ingredients in pet food formulations. Grain-free does not equal a better or more premium diet. Equally, meat by-products are not all bad! They consist of cleaned lungs, spleen, kidneys, liver, blood, stomach and intestines free of their contents. They do not include hair, horns, teeth, or hooves.

Is my pet allergic to their food?

Most food allergies or intolerances in dogs and cats are caused by a specific protein in the diet (e.g. chicken, beef) and not carbohydrate sources like grain. If you suspect your pet is allergic to something in their food, please consult your veterinarian.


Treats are a great way to train your pet or reward them for being good. They are great when used in moderation, but they should not exceed more than 10% of total calorie intake per day.

Choosing your pet's food wisely is an important part of them being happy and healthy. Remember, each pet is an individual, and at the end of the day it does not matter what brand of food you are feeding as long as your pet is healthy and thriving on it!

If you have any questions about your pet's nutrition, please do not hesitate to call us at (610) 346-7854.

Dr. Patricia McMahon is a veterinarian at Pleasant Valley Animal Hospital in Quakertown, PA. She has a special interest in feline medicine, dentistry, and soft tissue surgery.