Australian dog and cat owners can make huge savings on their annual pet food bill simply by looking more closely at the label of the products they are buying, experts have claimed.
Proper pet nutrition is a hotly debated topic, no doubt because of how dearly Australians love their mutts and moggies. Perhaps because of these deep emotions, manufacturers make all sorts of “garbage” claims to lure unsuspecting shoppers into paying exorbitant prices.
The trick to finding products that are good value comes to down the nutrition claims on the packaging.
“There is so much mythology, crap and garbage out there on the subject of cat and dog nutrition, it’s amazing. In fact, I’d say there’s more rubbish than good stuff out there,” Pets Australia managing director Dr Joanne Sillince told The New Daily.
Here’s the trick. To weed through this “crap” and save a dollar, look for the cheapest brand using either of these terms on its label:
• ‘balanced and complete’;
• ‘meets AAFCO requirements’.
These claims, which indicate a product conforms to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) nutrition guidelines, should form a consumer’s “baseline”, said Dr Sillince, a veterinary scientist.
“There are a couple of el cheapo brands that are actually nutritionally complete,” she said.
“Anything you can afford above that is a bonus.”
These terms are enforced by Australia’s peak industry body, not an independent government body. But both Pets Australia and the veterinary association were confident of its trustworthiness.
“The ones I always tells clients to look for are the words ‘balanced and complete’. Just ‘balanced’ might not have everything. If it says ‘complete’, it might not be in the right amount,” Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) vice-president David Neck told The New Daily.
The industry self-regulator has also backed these label descriptors as an indicator of healthiness.
“Look for a statement on the packaging about nutritional completeness, which often includes a reference to a globally recognised organisation called AAFCO,” said the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia (PFIAA) in an online statement.
But you cannot beat quality
While there are bargains to be found, price is typically an indicator of quality when it comes to pet food.
This is because more expensive products usually contain higher quality meats and fewer grain fillers, to which some dogs and almost all cats react poorly.
“There are bargains to be found everywhere in the world, and pet food is no different,” Dr Neck said.
“But the more expensive the food, generally the better the ingredients, the greater the research, the more the testing, the more reliable you know it is.”
Another pet nutritionist agreed with this general rule, while noting that bargains can be found by savvy consumers.
“The more expensive the food, generally the higher the meat content and quality,” qualified small animal nutritionist Alla Keogh told The New Daily.
The rule of thumb is to learn to read pet food labels and buy the best you can afford, Ms Keogh said.
What to avoid
Home-prepared pet food is a growing trend; one that worries Pets Australia’s spokeswoman.
Most home-cooked pet diets, even the popular BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) diet, are not nutritionally balanced, said Dr Sillince based on recent research.
“We see all sorts of extraordinary, and some quite dangerous, ingredients being included in [home-cooked] diets.”
Pet owners should be most wary of:
• too much liver and liver treats;
• cooked bones; and
• chicken carcasses (especially legs and wings).
Some of the cheaper ‘complete and balanced’ brands
These wet and dry products for both cat and dogs all claim to be AAFCO complaint.
|Coles generic brand|