Which is the safest/best validation of nutrition in a pet food – formulated by Nutrient Profiles or Feeding Trials?
Pet foods that are labeled as “Complete and Balanced” are designed to provide your pet with all of the daily required nutrients. Pet foods are allowed to make that label claim through two different methods: meeting Nutrient Profiles established by AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials), or passing the criteria of a Feeding Trial established by AAFCO.
Which method is best depends on who you ask. Many (if not most) veterinarians are taking the side of AAFCO Feeding Trials as best, following the lead of WSAVA (World Small Animal Veterinary Association) Guidelines. It has become almost standard advice to pet owners that the BEST pet foods are those validated by feeding trials, warning that all others (that meet Nutrient Profiles) are a potential nutritional risk to pets.
But there are other veterinarians that hold a different opinion. Dr. Laurie Coger recently explained that putting full trust into Feeding Trials can be problematic exampling the minimal requirements needed to pass the trial as a complete and balance pet food. Dr. Coger exampled the minimal blood work required by AAFCO Feeding Trials as compared to what she performs on her own dogs to monitor their health on her home prepared diet. Below is the blood work this veterinarian believes is necessary to evaluate if a pet food is providing proper nutrition. The four items highlighted in yellow are the ONLY requirements of AAFCO Feeding Trials – all other items are what Dr. Coger believes is necessary to begin to evaluate if a pet is receiving proper nutrition.
And then there is the opinion of a former FDA veterinarian – who undoubtedly has the most experience of anyone on the planet to voice opinion on which method is best. Dr. Dave Dzanis is a Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist who has participated in the AAFCO process for decades representing both FDA (retired from) and the American College of Veterinary Nutrition. Quoting Dr. Dzanis’s paper “The Association of American Feed Control Officials Dog and Cat Food Nutrient Profiles: Substantiation of Nutritional Adequacy of Complete and Balanced Pet Foods in the United States” (published as FDA opinion when Dr. Dzanis was at FDA):
Unequivocal proof of a product’s nutritional adequacy for all animals under all conditions can never be achieved. Substantiation of the nutritional adequacy of a pet food based on the nutrient profiles may be less reliable than the results of feeding trials. For example, the nutrient profiles cannot assess the acceptability, palatability and other factors of a product as well as the feeding trials. Also, although formulations should be adjusted to account for nutrient levels at the time of feeding, processing losses can remain a factor. On the other hand, the validity of a feeding trial greatly depends on the competence and integrity of the conductor of the trial. Especially in the maintenance trials, subtle chronic nutrient deficiencies or excesses can be overlooked. In the future, this author envisions a hybridization of the two methods.”
In other words, Dr. Dzanis acknowledges the potential failures of both methods to validate a Complete and Balanced claim on a pet food label. There is no one perfect method.
Which is best – Feeding Trials or Nutritional Profiles? Neither.
The best opinion for pet owners to have on Complete and Balanced pet food is to accept Dr. Dzanis’s sentiment that no pet food can provide complete nutrition with all pets, all the time; “nutritional adequacy for all animals under all conditions can never be achieved.” By acknowledging that no pet food can be Complete and Balanced for all pets all the time – no matter if the pet food was validated through feeding trials or nutrient profiles – we can take action on our own to add nutrition to our pet’s food.
Adding real ‘food’ to your pet’s commercial food can help provide improved nutrition. Dr. Karen Becker explains to pet owners these “super foods“ are great additions:
- Fermented Vegetables
And Rodney Habib consulted with pet nutrition expert Steve Brown for more suggestions, provided below.
And…if you have concerns if your pet has nutritional based health issues, have additional blood work performed on your pet such as what Dr. Coger exampled in her post – Click Here.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
Become a member of our pet food consumer Association. Association for Truth in Pet Food is a a stakeholder organization representing the voice of pet food consumers at AAFCO and with FDA. Your membership helps representatives attend meetings and voice consumer concerns with regulatory authorities. Click Here to learn more.
Find Healthy Pet Foods in Your Area Click Here
What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
Is your dog or cat eating risk ingredients? Chinese imports? Petsumer Report tells the ‘rest of the story’ on over 5,000 cat foods, dog foods, and pet treats. 30 Day Satisfaction Guarantee. Click Here to preview Petsumer Report. www.PetsumerReport.com
The 2019 List
Susan’s List of trusted pet foods. Click Here to learn more.