I am sure every pet owner has looked at the back of a bag of pet food and wondered what guaranteed analysis actually meant and what information it conveys.
When I started my nutrition journey a while back I was more surprised by what it doesn’t tell you. It’s definitely one of the first places people are looking to see how much protein, fat, fiber etc the food has. For example, cats are true carnivores which means they should be on the highest protein source of food possible. I can look at two different foods and see that No 1 says that is has a minimum of 36% of protein and No 2 says that it has 11% protein. So according to this most people would think No 1 is better and buy it.
Sample Guaranteed Analysis 1:
|Crude Protein||36.0% min|
|Crude Fat||20.0% min|
|Crude Fiber||3.5% max|
|Omega 3 Fatty Acids*||0.75% min|
|Omega 6 Fatty Acids*||3.5% min|
Sample Guaranteed Analysis 2:
|Crude Protein||11.0% min|
|Crude Fat||7.5% min|
|Crude Fiber||1.5% max|
What the guaranteed analysis does not take in account is the moisture content! Pet owners must always take this into account to have an accurate percentage of fat, protein, fiber etc. The amount of water significantly affects these values. This is because most pet food companies display these nutrients by what are called “as fed” nutrients rather than a “dry matter” basis.
“As fed” just means that the values were calculated directly and “dry matter” means that they took the moisture out of the formula so you know exactly what you are getting instead of basically a “watered down” version.
So now if I told you that these percentages were based on an as fed formula versus the dry matter one would you believe that No 1 is a dry cat food and No 2 is a canned food. You better believe that canned food will almost always be higher in protein but because they are using the “watered down” version it is very deceiving because canned food is higher in water content.
So what can pet owners do!?
A lot! Pet food companies know how much influence the pet owner population has, so some companies are changing their nutrition information to include the dry matter basis. Look at the back of your bag, can, chub, tub, etc and see if has a DM (Dry Matter) or AF (As Fed). If you really want to know how much protein, fat, fiber, etc, it is completely OK to call the company and ask. Most reputable pet food companies have a veterinary nutritionist on board that can help you decipher this information. If the company does not and/or gives you the runaround you may want to think twice about the food you are feeding. Also call your veterinarian and ask to speak to a staff member specifically regarding this. Here at Oakview Veterinary Medical Center, we understand how important this can be in your pet’s health. Many clinics employ at least one technician or doctor that has an expanded knowledge on nutrition.
Don’t ever underestimate the power of nutrition!
by Angel Blenker
Angel graduated from Madison Area Technical College in 2004 with a Veterinary Technology degree and received her certification same year. She joined us in 2006 and became our lead technician in 2008. Angel goes to numerous continuing education events including the Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas. Her special interests include alternative modalities and nutrition. She is available for nutrition consults. Angel and her husband, Kris share their house with Jerry an 8 year old DSH and Leo who is a 7 year old Dalmatian. Angel loves spending time with her family and animals. When Angel has spare time she enjoys volunteering, traveling or reading a good book.