How (and why) to pick a pet food that's backed by science

(BPT) - There’s no doubt that pet owners want the best for their furry friends, including the best pet food to help them grow and fuel a long, healthy life together. But with increased confusion about what’s good, bad and just a fad, it’s no wonder many pet owners may not feel completely confident that the food they are feeding is healthy and safe.

Finding a pet food that will meet all of a pet’s nutritional needs while taking into consideration key factors like his or her life stage, lifestyle, and activity level is critical to health and longevity. Just as critical is having confidence that the people making a pet food are experts in formulating and manufacturing high-quality and safe foods based on proven research and backed by science.

Narrow the field

Before starting a search for the right pet food or evaluating new options in the aisle, consider narrowing in on a few brands and researching the companies that are making the food to better understand their credentials. Visiting a company’s website or calling them directly and asking questions can provide good insight into the standards of quality, care and research that go into the products they make. Getting insight from your pet’s veterinarian will also help you choose companies that he or she trusts and help you identify which specific diets are best for your pet’s nutritional needs.

Here are the 4 things to look for:

  1. Formulated by professional nutritionists — Formulating pet food requires expertise and scientists who know how different nutrients work together to meet a pet’s total nutritional needs. It’s important to select a pet food formulated by a dedicated team of nutritionists who understand the physiology of pets and how to fuel their bodies.
  1. ‘Whole bowl’ formulation vs. focused on the first few ingredients — Good nutrition for pets is all about nutrients, so focusing on ingredients won’t tell the whole story and can become a distraction for well-meaning pet owners. A nutritionist formulates pet food by creating a comprehensive nutrient profile to provide the pet with every vitamin, mineral and nutrient he needs to thrive and then finding ingredient combinations to meet the profile. Each ingredient plays an important role in the overall diet by delivering key nutrients a pet needs. Some pet owners make the mistake of choosing a pet food recipe based on their own food choices, prioritizing foods with ingredients they eat (or don’t eat). Although often well-intentioned, the simple fact is pets don’t need to eat like their human companions and, instead, benefit from a consistent complete and balanced diet. Finding a pet food brand that is transparent about what each ingredient contributes to a recipe at a nutrient level can help pet owners stay focused on the true nutritional needs of their pets.
  1. Validated with feeding trials One key confirmation of the nutritional value of a pet food is for trained scientists to feed the food and observe how it contributes to a pet’s overall health. Feeding studies help scientists understand how food is digested, metabolized and contributes to the pet’s health, and may be required for a company to make claims about specific nutritional benefits or outcomes. Ultimately, it is in the best interest of pets and pet owners to understand how a pet food performs to confirm it is nutritious and safe.
  1. Peer-reviewed, published research Pet food companies that invest in and employ scientists who are actively conducting and publishing peer-reviewed research add further credibility. These experts may be involved in some of the latest research that will impact pet care in the future to help pets live longer, healthier lives. This also indicates they are tuned into the research coming out of renowned academic institutions and organizations.

Making sure a pet is getting safe, healthy and complete nutrition can feel like an ongoing quest at times, especially when there are more choices and opinions than ever, often from sources leading with trends and lacking scientific expertise. When in doubt, consult your veterinarian to better understand the specific needs of your pet.

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