What Should I Feed My Pet? Don't Let Marketing Confuse You

Additional evidence of the nutritional safety of contemporary pet foods comes from comparison of incidents of diet-related nutritional problems in two recessions. When I was a senior veterinary student in 1980-81, there was an economic downturn that led to pet food being sold in plain white bags with the words “Dog Food” or “Cat Food” stenciled on the bag. Some pets, only young growing dogs in my experience, developed skin problems, probably because of inadequate amounts of zinc in the food. Fast-forward 30 years to the more recent and much more severe and prolonged recession wherein, to my knowledge, not a single such case has been reported.

Confusion Is Unnecessary

So the confusion over pet foods seems to be much more related to the psychological and business aspects of marketing, which in turn may be the result of a market glutted with satisfactory foods desperately trying to differentiate themselves in the mind of the consumer. There need be no confusion. In a similar market situation — table wine — my wife makes purchase decisions based on her aesthetic preference for the label, which generally results in an excellent outcome. Based on the available evidence, a similar strategy seems reasonable for pet foods. In other words, you should feel comfortable buying most any food that includes an AAFCO claim appropriate for your pet while understanding that most of the reasons you will be prompted to buy it are based on marketing.


1. Pet Food in the U.S., 10th Edition. www.packagedfacts.com.

Dr. Tony Buffington, DVM, MS, PhD, DACVN, is a professor of clinical sciences and an adjunct professor of urology at The Ohio State University. He is board certified by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition. His interest in the role of stress and disease in companion animals and humans led him to study clinical nutrition issues in small animal patients as well as lower urinary tract disorders in cats.

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