Veterinary diets

Veterinary diets, how are they different ?

One of the pillars of our pets’ health is their nutrition.

Feeding your pet a veterinary diet also means to benefit from professional advice from experts who are able to recommend a diet that suits your animal’s needs.

A variety of options

There is a wide variety of diets and food companies out there. They all have the same purpose: to provide a proper diet for pets. Nonetheless, it is important to know that there are no mandatory regulations regarding the formulation of pet food. In other words, anybody can manufacture and sell pet food. So, how do we make the right choice?

There is an organization called AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) that includes nutritionists, veterinarians and agronomists who establish nutritional standards and offer guidelines for the pet food industry. In Canada, companies are not required to comply with those standards and there are no regulatory processes or penalties in place for food manufacturers that refuse to comply with the standards. AAFCO is not a food police: Canadian food manufacturers comply voluntarily to the standards. That being said, pet food is regulated by Canadian Laws from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency regarding hazardous material restriction for all species under the Health of Animals Regulations. They also have to comply with the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and the Competition Act.

It is the pet food manufacturer’s responsibility to formulate and test the diets in compliance to the AAFCO standards to ensure the product’s quality, and the well-being of the animals eating it.

On your dog’s food bag you can see if the diet has been formulated or tested. What does this mean?

  • Formulated: a food that was not tested by AAFCO
  • Tested: a food that was tested by AAFCO. These tests last for 6 months for maintenance diets and 10 weeks for puppy food. Tests must be done every 5 years.

Does an AAFCO approval ensure that it is the best food for my dog ?

Unfortunately, it is not that simple! Even if the diet complies with AAFCO standards, it may not be the proper food for your dog’s needs because nutritional needs must first be evaluated, and then the nutritional recommendation has to be adapted to each animal according to life stage, health condition, weight, etc. Members of your veterinary team have the knowledge to identify your pet’s needs and suggest the best diet possible based on species, life stage, and condition of the animal. Even therapeutic diets may not be the best food for your animal. So, it is important to discuss with your veterinary team before using a new diet.

Why should I use a veterinary diet for my dog ?

Veterinary diets are designed based on science, they are complete and balanced and go beyond the minimal standards of the industry. That is why your veterinary team recommends a veterinary diet for growth, maintenance, or a proper therapeutic diet to address your pet’s specific health condition. These diets provide guaranteed quality, relying on comprehensive quality control and rigorously and carefully choosing traceable ingredients. These companies spend a tremendous amount of funds and time on research and development. Scientific data allows them to meet animals’ needs, and offer therapeutic diets that are innovative and formulated with a better palatability.

What about the cost ?

To properly answer that question, we have to understand that it is inadequate to compare one bag to another simply by looking at the ingredient list and the guaranteed analysis. To fulfill your pet’s needs, a diet made of quality ingredients will have higher digestibility and therefore will require a smaller serving than a less digestible food. For example, a diet with a 50% digestibility rate means that the body will use ½ cup of the one cup serving that was given to feed the body and the rest will be evacuated in the feces. We then must give more food to satisfy the animal’s needs. On the other hand, a veterinary diet that has a digestibility rate of 90% will require a smaller serving to satisfy to the animal’s need, which means a smaller daily feeding cost. Also, don’t forget the fact that it will generate fewer stools to pick up!

As for the therapeutic diets that are prescribed by your veterinarian, they were designed to meet very specific needs when an animal suffers from a specific condition. They are formulated by a team of specialists, and they are the result of many studies over several years. Of course, all this requires a major investment from the company which impacts the costs of the food. That being said, pet owners are very lucky that some companies are investing in nutritional research, because it provides your veterinary team with a wider variety of nutritional opportunities for treating certain health conditions, but also to improve your animal’s life expectancy.

Another positive aspect from the owner’s perspective that should not be neglected: veterinary foods come with a guarantee of satisfaction that allows you to try a new food and bring it back for a full refund if it doesn’t suit your dog.

Your dog’s nutrition is vital for health maintenance. Don’t hesitate to ask your Passionimo veterinary team if you have questions. They can provide you with advice specific to your companion’s needs.

Have more questions?

Please do not hesitate to contact the Passionimo veterinary clinic near you.