I had the pleasure of spending a few days in Orlando, FL a week ago with the Halo team at the Global Pet Expo. Let me tell you, what an experience!
An incredible array of pet-related goodies; everything from bowties to boneless bones, puppy birthday cakes to ice cream was on display! I like to think I’m pretty up to speed with what’s going on in the companion animal world, but this reminded me how much there is out there, and the passion and love for pets that drives it forward.
Global Pet reminded me is how overwhelming it can be to be a pet parent these days. Navigating all the different products, from protective gear and clothing to diets, snacks, treats and supplements can be challenging. Every product has its own spin, every company has their own way of promoting pet well-being just as every pet parent has their own way of doing things. This leaves us with what can be a mind-bending experience of trying to best for our animals.
To start with, there are a few key important details to keep in mind when you are looking at a food item for your pet:
- Nutrients, not ingredients
Our pets have strict nutritional requirements that must be met, they do not have ingredient requirements. Don’t feel pressured into buying the next big thing in ingredients (judging by the current trends that’s looking like cricket, you know, of the Jiminy variety) if it isn’t what your pet needs. If you are unsure of your pet’s specific requirements, speak to your family veterinarian or reach out to a veterinary nutritionist. In general, healthy pets need a diet that meets their complete nutritional requirement in a balanced manner. To determine this, make sure the food product bears a nutritional adequacy claim supported by formulation to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) nutrient profile for that species and life stage. Check whether the diet has been tested in a feeding trial according to AAFCO standards.
- Not all Calories are equal
Just like us, pets have an energy requirement that must be met by their caloric intake each day. Some foods are higher in calories, contributing more to their daily intake, and some are lower and contribute less. To ensure that the balance of the diet is maintained, and that your pet is intaking a complete profile of essential nutrients, we recommend that no more than 10% of their daily energy intake comes from an imbalanced food source. For your average 44lb (20kg) dog, that means no more than 60 calories should come from treats, snacks, scraps or other imbalanced foods. For an average 10lb (4.5kg) cat, no more than 20 calories should come from an imbalanced source. To put that in perspective, your typical peanut butter treat has roughly 90-100 calories per tablespoon.
- Play it safe
As mentioned, we want to focus on nutrients, not ingredients, but there are times when ingredients matter. In this case it is when we’re talking about possible toxins. Pet Poison Awareness Week, runs from March 17th to the 23rd and it’s a prime time to think about what you don’t want going on your pet’s mouth! Some common food items are toxic to both dogs and cats (for example: chocolate, grapes, macadamia nuts), while other toxins are exclusive to one species and not the other (like dog topical insecticide agents that are toxic to cats!). There is a never-ending supply of treats, snacks and supplements that have claims to be beneficial for your pet’s health, but your duty as a pet parent to make sure that what you provide them isn’t harmful to their health. Human products may not be suitable for pets, and not all pet products are appropriate either! Check to see if the product bears the symbol of the National Animal Supplement Council . You can see an example on the Halo Dog Supplements like Immune Support or Sensitive Stomach.
Beyond this simple advice, individual considerations for every pet will always crop up. If you have any concerns about your pet’s health, please speak to your family veterinarian. Once you know what you’re looking for, and what you’re looking to avoid, you can go out and enjoy everything the vast world of pet products has to offer!
Best wishes and tail wags!