At VetriScience® Laboratories, our Research and Development team continuously searches for ways to improve and expand our product line so that we can provide the most innovative products for our veterinary customers. This process includes extensive research on animal nutrition. Recently, Animal Product Development Manager, Chelsea Tomat, and her assistant, Mikayla Dieffenbach, calculated nutrient levels in the most popular brands of dog food in the U.S. to find out what the average serving of each one provided nutritionally.
“We get a lot of questions about recommended levels of nutrients and multivitamins, so I wanted to take a deeper look at what AAFCO recommends vs what dogs are really getting in their food,” Tomat wrote in an email. What she and Dieffenbach found might be surprising to many pet owners. Even if you think you are feeding your dog a diet that meets the minimum requirements, this week’s blog post has some startling facts about the nutrient content in popular dog food brands.
Recommended Nutrient Levels in Popular Dog Foods
Our Research and Development consultant, Dr. Roger Kendall, maintains that a good multivitamin should provide roughly 10% of a dog’s nutritional requirements. The AAFCO OP lists the minimum requirements as percentages of the dog’s diet, but Tomat needed a firmer grasp on the actual milligram levels in dog food to be able to compare it to our multivitamins.
Based on the feeding instructions for the three brands, Tomat calculated the average serving weight for a 30 lb dog, a 60 lb dog, and a 90 lb dog. Assuming that the nutrient levels in the label claim are accurate, she weighed each serving on a scale and calculated percentages of the nutrient content for each of the three dog foods.
The most popular economy brand met the dogs’ needs for protein and fat, but fell short of the minimum requirements for many vitamins and minerals. Tomat also noted that many of the minerals listed on the label are in the oxide form, which is not as nutritionally available to the dog, and feeding this diet alone would cause pets to be deficient in many essential nutrients, potentially leading to health problems.
The popular mid-range brand exceeded the minimum requirements for most essential nutrients, but did not claim the actual levels for most of the vitamins and many of the minerals. And while the nutrient levels for those listed are at appropriate levels, the main ingredients are by-products and low quality grains.
The popular premium brand not only exceeded the minimum requirements for nearly all nutrients, but the label also disclosed the content of all nutrients, including amino acids. Ingredients in this premium brand included high quality meats, whole grains, and vegetables. “This is the only food of the three tested that I would feel comfortable feeding my dog,” Tomat told us.
What Can Vets and Pet Owners Do?
While we can’t reveal the brand names of the dog foods in the study, we can say that if you are concerned that your dog isn’t getting proper nutrition from diet alone, ask your veterinarian for recommendations. Most vets will tell their clients to feed their pets the best quality that they can afford. Because dry food diets for cats are known to cause health problems, some vets will go as far to say that they would rather see a cat eat a low quality wet food over a high quality dry food (also see last week’s post on pet obesity). If you want to ensure that your dog is getting the nutrition needed for optimal health, we can also recommend one of our comprehensive multivitamins, such as Canine Plus™, to support overall diet.
What do you feed your dog or recommend to pet owners? Share your recommendations with us on Facebook.