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PET SAFETY MONTH: 30 tips in 30 days that can save your pet's life - Tip #26

There are almost as many choices to feed your pet as there are for you to eat. How do you decide?

Well, price is an obvious one and the big three - Mars (Pedigree, Royal Canin, Whiskas), Nestle-Purina and Colgate-Palmolive (Hills) - certainly have the economy of scale they can offer. They not only have huge purchasing power but they also can use their pet food for ingredients that don't make it into their human products. Yes, the bar for pet food ingredients is way lower than for human food which we know can be questionable at times.

You get what you pay for. Well not always but it's a start.

So what is AAFCO (Association of American of Feed Control Officials) and what is the website and what about all those recalls?

Let's tackle the first questions today and then the next two in the next blogs.

AAFCO is pretty much the FDA of pet food. They certify the nutritional value of the contents of the bag, can or pouch of food or treats that you are offering your pup or kitty. That nutritional content plus the ingredient list are your best guide, short of running your own analytical lab, to the quality of a pet food. Moreover, AAFCO has minimum standards that any dog or cat food must reach so easy rule #1 in selecting a pet food: make sure it is AAFCO certified. Fortunately, the majority of pet foods on the market are, but be certain before you buy.

Next you should know about ingredients. By law, like with human food labeling, they are listed in descending order of weight. This is both good and bad for weight includes the water component. Thus, fresh chicken will list higher than chicken meal which is dehydrated and has the same nutritional value.

This also means that those "designer" ingredients such as cranberries or blueberries that are at the tail end of the ingredient list, sometimes after the added vitamins, are hardly meaningful from a nutritional point of view but are rather there to impress the pet owner.

And what about the claim "human grade ingredients"? There is actually no legal definition however, when Brooklyn Bark vets a partner company for sampling in our bi-annual SWAG bags we only work with companies whose record of human grade ingredients is clean, who have high AAFCO nutrition content ratings and who have a track record of 5 or more years.

There is a pet food jungle out there. But there is a lot of help navigating as well from AAFCO and the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and, yes, Brooklyn Bark. We each have our niche and our next blogs will be discussing amount to feed your pet to keep her healthy and then recalls, why they happen and how you can be on top of them.

And in case you wondered, we at Brooklyn Bark do not agree with the "wisdom" of pet food manufacturers that you should not ever change your pet's food. On the contrary, we feel they are like us and should have a variety for both their interest and for their getting those micronutrients that might be missing from one food but there in another.

Bon appetit!

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