AAFCO formulated and tested: What you need to know


Drs Cline and Saker describe what AAFCO formulated and tested means and is crucial when picking out the best diet for clients.

View full video transcription below.

Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: What does it mean when it says nutritional analysis only will state blank food is formulated to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles? So how important is that—making a diet recommendation for a client?

Korinn Saker, DVM, PhD, Dip. ACVN: I think it's very important because we know that for that pet, that life stage, that the diet they would like to feed is going to meet, at least meet the minimum requirements that that animal needs to grow, to perform, if that's what they're doing, to have a healthy quality of life, and hopefully stay free from disease for a longer period of time.

Martha Cline, DVM, Diplomate ACVN: When you see formulated, that typically means that the food was formulated, but it wasn't put through a feeding trial. What you can't tell from that statement is if the formulation was tested for nutrients after manufacture, so we don't get that information just from that statement, that's typically something that you'd have to ask the manufacturer if they're doing that.

Korinn Saker, DVM, PhD, Dip. ACVN: Yeah. It’s important for me and probably for you too, to see that if I had to prioritize diets that the client was interested in feeding, I would put on my highest priority AAFCO formulated and tested. And then after that, AAFCO formulated, so I would prioritize them that way.

Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: And so AAFCO formulated and tested now, does that also include the life stages too? In other words, can you have a diet that can say all life stages, and have an AAFCO statement on there? And then also AAFCO statement and then for growing puppies, adults, seniors?

Martha Cline, DVM, Diplomate ACVN: If it just says all life stages that means it's formulated for adult maintenance, formulated for growing puppies, and then unless it states, excluding large breed puppies, it should also meet those requirements for large breed puppies as well. The only diets that we're going to see that aren't going to be appropriate for large breed puppies are those that are going to say adult maintenance. And then if we're looking for a growth formula it’s going to say specifically excluding large breed puppies.

Korinn Saker, DVM, PhD, Dip. ACVN: I think that it's also for the veterinarian, at least to understand that when it says formulated for all life stages that since growth and reproduction have the highest nutrient needs for that animal, that when it's formulated for all life stages, then essentially your key nutrients are hitting almost the minimum level required by AAFCO because adult maintenance doesn't need that high of a level of protein or fat or calcium or phosphorus. You may not see a nutrient analysis, a guaranteed analysis or nutrient profile for that diet that has a protein level as high as you might for the diet that’s just formulated for growth.

Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: Is it true that the AAFCO statement is for intact, active sporting breed dogs? There was a rumor that I heard that the AAFCO statement was for intact dogs and cats. Is that true?

Martha Cline, DVM, Diplomate ACVN: I don’t think so.

Korinn Saker, DVM, PhD, Dip. ACVN: No, no.

Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: I was just wondering about that because I heard something about that. I want to ask you this, so we're talking about growing puppies. Since 2017, there is a new additional requirement for notation on foods for growth that specify whether the food is appropriate for large breed dogs, those expected to be 70 pounds or larger at mature weight. But how important is that?

Korinn Saker, DVM, PhD, Dip. ACVN: I think it's important. For years, they're probably feeding a growth diet, non-large breed [diet] to our large breed dogs. Studies have shown over the years that for large breed dogs, that feeding often leads to an inappropriate level of calcium for them and ultimately [an inappropriate level of] phosphorus. They end up with some, not all the time, but oftentimes they'll end up with skeletal deformities. A lot of research has gone into figuring out what level of calcium and phosphorus do we need for these large breed growing dogs. That seems to be very helpful in minimizing the amount of skeletal deformities that we see as they're growing.

Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: Right? Yeah. I was going to ask you too, do you hear this often because there seems to be a little bit of a discrepancy on when you start weaning or transitioning a giant breed dog off a puppy food to large breed food, based according to the AAFCO statement too so, what are your thoughts on that?

Martha Cline, DVM, Diplomate ACVN: Generally, we don't want to transition off a puppy food or growth diet until that pet has reached about 80% of its skeletal maturity. That's going to be very different depending on what type of dog breeds you're looking at, so a Yorkshire terrier is going to reach skeletal maturity typically before 1 year of age compared to a Great Dane where it may be several months after its first year. One thing that's been helpful for me utilizing in practice is actually looking at growth curves that we have for certain puppies to kind of get a better idea of once they kind of are meeting that 80% mark.

One thing that is often missed as part of routine wellness for a lot of puppies, is that kind of birthday visit. That visit around the time that the owner is going to be changing food from growth, because we think about puppies are going to go through their vaccine schedule, they're going to potentially come in to be spayed or neutered before they're 1 and then we're not going to see them again for a year. So sometimes we miss that annual exam around that 1-year-old birthday. It'd be actually really nice to see some veterinarians encourage that kind of birthday visit to maybe give some more guidance about when is the appropriate time to transition. [It’s] also a good opportunity to assess body weight and body condition score and make sure the owner is nutritionally on the right track with that dog.

Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: That’s a great idea! [I’m] using that right away.

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