Where is the pet food info you need?

November 15, 2016

If youre a veterinarian curious about pet food formulations, good luck. Vetting companies and the people who design their diets is hard workand its not all in one place.

When veterinary nutritionist Lisa Weeth, DVM, MRCVS, DACVN, gave veterinarians a few tips about talking to clients about pet food in “Shucking pet food marketing gimmicks: One nutritionist's perspective,” reader Diane Dommer, DVM, came back with a great question: Where do we get this information?

"Is it a pet food company that works with PhD-level nutritionists for diet formulations, sources their own ingredients, makes their own food and conducts their own quality control testing?” I see this question repeated over and over, but where do we find the answer? I don't find it on the ACVN [American College of Veterinary Nutrition] website. If it's listed there, please provide me a link. Beyond calling every pet food company, ACVN must have this information within their database from their members' information. It certainly is not listed on the packaging anywhere. If it's on the pet food manufacture's website, it is likely buried pretty deep in the information.

Dr. Weeth responded to let the reader know she wasn't crazy at all in having trouble finding the information:

It's hard to find this information even for me. The ACVN directory is only partially helpful. You can search for specific companies-Royal Canin, Purina Hill's, etc.-and find the DACVNs who work for those respective companies, but this doesn't tell you about independent DACVN consultants who work on a contract basis for smaller companies or about PhD animal nutritionists who may be working for these or other pet food manufacturers.

Some companies will list this information on their website in the FAQs or About Us sections, but often it requires an email or phone call to the companies directly unfortunately.

I realize that's not very helpful, but one of the issues with the pet food industry in general is that many of the small- to medium-sized players are not very transparent when it comes to the who and how of diet formulation and manufacturing.

We then went to Ernie Ward, DVM, founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, to see if he knew the “magic bullet” of vetting pet food formulations. We got a similar answer:

There's no good resource for this info. You typically must call them. The better, bigger brands employ nutritionists and often brag about it. Few smaller to medium-sized producers do. Many outsource based on previously tested formulations and then add their own marketing flavor.

There needs to be a collection point for this kind of info. More importantly, pet food companies need to be more open and transparent. Heck, it's almost 2017 and we're still waiting to see calorie counts on labels.

More transparency and more medical information for veterinarians to manage their patients' diets: Who's gonna argue with that?