All About Pets

Pet Food Selections

July 9, 2015

A Wise Old Veterinarian Once Told Me

“If you’re enamored of a pretty bag,
buy it and hang it on your wall.”

Many pet owners base their selections of pet food not upon the truth of what’s in the bag, but rather upon the visually pleasing images and masterfully-worded, but often very misleading, marketing messages on the bag. The end result is often not happy, healthy pets, but rather veterinary bills as a result of poor nutrition.

The Guaranteed Analysis (GA) panel on a package of pet food is often the one bit of information that discloses the true nutritional value of what’s in the package. Taking a wee bit of time to do some math to translate that GA panel information into something useful can replace hours of roaming pet food aisles, and offers a far better likelihood of a happy and
healthy pet.

Last week I introduced the math necessary to calculate GA panel information on a dry matter basis (DMB) when comparing foods with vastly different moisture contents. This week I beg your indulgence to take you one easy step further to show how the GA panel can yield a bit of very telling information that the pet food industry likes to obscure, namely carbohydrate content calculated as follows:
100 – DMB Protein – DMB Fat – DMB Fiber = DMB Carbs

Calculating the carbohydrate content of various foods reveals a number of interesting things. Although high protein does not necessarily mean low carbohydrate content, traditional raw food diets and canned foods labelled as containing at least 95% protein from animal sources will generally show low carbohydrate levels (10-20%). Kibbled foods will always appear higher in carbohydrate content in comparison with raw and canned foods, with a 30% carbohydrate content being considered low for dry foods. Dry foods with 30% carbohydrate content are generally found in foods containing at least 90% protein from animal sources. And, finally, grain-free does not mean carb-free nor necessarily even low-carb, nor does it guarantee a higher content of protein from animal sources if grain proteins have simply been replaced with other plant-based proteins.

It is indeed unfortunate that the percent of protein from high value (bioavailable) animal sources is something that cannot be calculated. We must rely upon the pet food companies to disclose that information. However, it would appear that a pet food company’s willingness to disclose the percent of protein from animal sources correlates with a food’s being low-carb. Could it be that a high carbohydrate content is reflective of a low percentage of protein from animal sources, and pet food companies are hesitant to disclose that? Let the buyer beware!

I promise no more math next week! Cheers!

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