By Dr Elizabeth Layton on January 8, 2016 in What's New

There are some things that pet parents should understand before selecting a diet. There are certain terms used in the marketing of pet food that are meaningful and others that are pure marketing hype. Here are some examples:

Organic / Certified organic– In order to claim that a product is organic it must contain organic ingredients and it must be certified by an outside agency. Companies cannot legally claim a product is organic if it is not.  This is one of the few terms that actually has specific meaning.

All Natural– This term is not protected in any way. Any company can print this on a label regardless of the ingredient list.

Wellness – This again is not a protected term. It is a very appealing marketing tactic because – of course we all want our pets to be “Well” – who doesn’t?

Holistic- This is another marketing term.  It is appealing because it conjures up images of the whole body working beautifully in concert. In fact it has no protected meaning and can be placed on any diet.

Performance – Picture you dog running through green fields, or acing an agility trial, or running at your side as you complete your fitness goals…because that’s exactly what pet food advertisers want you to picture. This is pure marketing.

AAFCO /Association of American Feed Control Officials – This is an American group that certifies pet foods meet acceptable minimum nutrient levels for all life stages. An AAFCO diet is probably adequate for your healthy adult dog but diets with more ideal profiles for puppies and senior pets will not bear AAFCO approval.

Wilderness – This is a name some companies are using to describe formulas. It conjures images of the diet the wild ancestors of your pet consume. The truth is there is often very little that the pet food has in common with the wild diet. In some ways this is a good thing. I wouldn’t be all that excited to feed my cat whole mice no matter how many of his wild ancestors ate them.  Keep in mind also that the wild ancestors of your pet also had much shorter life expectancies.

Protection- Once again this is marketing hype. What is this protecting against? Maybe the diet has something helpful included for your pet and maybe it does not.

When you go out to buy food for your fuzzy buddy keep some of these terms in mind. Don’t fall for hype. Look for a diet that will truly meet your pet’s needs. Your pet is better off with a diet that is formulated by a veterinary nutritionist then one that is sold with the best marketing in the business.

About the Author

Dr Elizabeth LaytonView all posts by Dr Elizabeth Layton
Dr Layton graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College in 2005 and began work in mixed animal practice. Dr. Layton’s special interest is dentistry but she enjoys a variety of internal medicine and surgical cases.


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