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An Important Tip When Reading Pet Food Labels


With all the pet foods on the market, it can be difficult to know which one to feed your critters. There are brand, flavor and ingredient considerations, but then there’s your pet’s response to what you’re feeding. Ultimately, pets respond differently to different commercial diets, and some actually do best on more basic pet foods.

One important detail to look for on any pet food label is the AAFCO statement. The Association of American Feed Control Officials is a non-profit organization that sets the quality and safety standards, and establishes standard ingredient definitions and minimal nutritional requirements for animal feed and pet food in the U.S. When a manufacturer makes a pet food, it usually follows the AAFCO ingredient list and therefore can put the following claim on the bag or can: “…formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Food Nutrient Profiles.”

However, diets that have this claim were not fed to animals prior to being marketed, so their safety and efficacy were not established prior to hitting the store shelves. This can be disconcerting, so manufacturers that go through the effort of actually conducting feeding trials prior to selling a product to the public allows them to make a more substantial AAFCO claim on their label that documents that the food is truly complete and balanced: “Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that [name of diet] provides complete and balanced nutrition...”

This doesn’t mean that foods lacking the AAFCO feeding trial claims are unsafe foods. But it does show the manufacturer’s level of commitment to the product, and that’s certainly something to make note of.

Let us know if you have questions about your pet’s food, and learn more at www.aafco.org.

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Posted by:
raycahill

Posted on:
May 29th, 2012

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The case of the anorexic guinea pig. . .


Although the majority of pets we see are cats and dogs, there are many other species that come through our doors in need of help. This guinea pig’s appetite had declined, so we needed to carefully examine her teeth as part of her evaluation. Dental problems are often the trigger for hunger strikes in guinea pigs, and although this girl was sweet, she wouldn’t give us a good look in her mouth. In this picture, her head is placed in an airtight cone which contains anesthetic gas. We chose this approach because we weren’t sure how sick she was, and if we gave her injectable sedatives, she might not fully wake up for hours. Using the gas is very helpful in many exotic species because the effect wears off very quickly once you stop giving it. This pig got rather dopey after a minute of breathing the gas, and that allowed us enough time to look thoroughly through her mouth. We didn’t find any glaring issues, so we focused on what she’s been eating since guinea pigs and other exotic pets can get very sick if they’re not fed an appropriate diet. For example, like people, guinea pigs can’t make vitamin C, and they need to get it from the food they eat. Peppers (like red or green) have a very high amount of bioavailable vitamin C and are a great way to meet a guinea pig’s daily requirement. For this pig we recommended feeding 1/8 of a medium sized red pepper once a day to help provide vitamin C. If all goes well, she’ll soon be back to the food dish with reckless abandon!

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Posted by:
raycahill

Posted on:
May 2nd, 2012

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Out our window: the wildlife of Day Pond . . .


Check out this little guy sunning himself on an old tire in Day Pond next to our hospital! We’re privy to an ongoing parade of turtles,  ducks, muskrats and other critters right outside our window. Below is are pictures of an otter we spotted swimming around as he searched for some lunch. It’s a nice escape when we need to take a minute to recharge 🙂

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Posted by:
raycahill

Posted on:
April 7th, 2012

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Back to the flock: the hope of a resilient seagull . . .


He came to us dehydrated, weak and underweight with a severely injured leg and a hole in his beak where a fish hook had just been removed. That’s a tough day by any standard. And yet, this this gull had no intention of giving up. We took an x-ray out of concern that he might have have air trapped beneath his skin (aka subcutaneous emphysema) secondary to a ruptured air sac. Fortunately, his radiographs showed no sign of it, so off he went to a local rehabber for hydration, nutritional support and the nursing care he’ll need to help get him back to the flock.

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Posted by:
raycahill

Posted on:
April 6th, 2012

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