Tips For Evaluating Pet Food

Good nutrition is vital to keeping your pet healthy. The right food can prevent many problems and diseases while the wrong food can actually cause them. With so many companies and varieties to choose from, selecting which food to purchase can be difficult. The following list are factors to consider when selecting one for your pet. It is my take on the recommendations made by Dr. Susan Wynn, a boarded veterinary nutritionist who practices at Georgia Veterinary Specialists in Sandy Springs Georgia.

  1. The food must have an Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) statement. If the manufacturer did not take this very basic step to determine the nutrient content of their food, you should avoid it. Please note: An AAFCO statement does not guarantee the product is good. AAFCO is a voluntary program.
  2. The food company must have a good track record. In general, I wait a year with all products, food and drugs, to see what happens before recommending or prescribing them to my own patients. As part of their track record, I look at recalls.  Of course, it is best to see recalls initiated when potential contamination exists before animals have been harmed as opposed to recalls started after many animals have suffered.  The former is a sign that the quality control effort is robust.
  3. The company must have a boarded veterinary nutritionist on staff. I am not a fan of using consultants who may spend limited time with a given product.
  4. Claims made on the label must be backed-up with clinical trials. For example, if a diet claims to prevent arthritis, I want to see a thoughtfully designed scientific study with a large number of participants to support this claim.
  5. The food must be appropriate for the pet. This includes the dog or cat’s age, lifestyle and environment.
  6. The pet must like it! I want pets to enjoy their food as much as I do.

For more information on nutrition, I recommend visiting Dr. Wynn’s website at

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.

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