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(BPT) - In the United States, 62 million households have at least one pet, including 83 million dogs and 95 million cats. That's a lot of people who love their pets, and one of the key aspects of caring for a furry family member is providing the right nutrition. Unfortunately, with so many pet foods available, labels and claims can quickly get confusing.



"Pet parents want the best for their pets, which is why cat and dog food makers try to position their pet food as the ideal nutritional option," says Dr. Ellen I. Lowery, associate director of U.S. Veterinary and Professional Affairs at Hill's Pet Nutrition. "But not all claims are equal, and pet parents may find it difficult to interpret the quality of a pet food based on the package. Understanding some pet food label requirements can help pet parents make informed decisions about the best food to feed their pets."

Looking for three key things can help you find a quality pet food so you can feel confident that your cat or dog is getting the proper nutrition they need to live a long, healthy life.

1. Clinically proven

Pet owners should look for pet foods with clinically proven claims. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission control use of the term "clinically proven." This means the claims are backed by science and research and your pet will see a real benefit from the food. Pet owners should look for brands that rely on critical nutrition.

2. Made in the U.S.A.

When shopping for pet food, always check where the food is manufactured. Those foods that are manufactured in the United States are sounder choices. Foods made in the U.S. are typically regulated at a higher level than those made overseas and owners can feel confident that the quality is higher for domestic products.

3. Manufacturer's name and contact information

Under AAFCO regulations, brands are required to include the manufacturer's name and contact information. Pet owners should also look for food labels that include a 1-800 number for more in-depth information. The number allows pet owners to reach out to brands specifically regarding questions on the food and its ingredients. This contact information demonstrates the company's commitment to providing the healthiest choice for your pet and it shows they are open to your feedback and questions.

Buzz words to avoid?

Additionally, pet parents should question terms such as 'gourmet' or 'human grade' on pet food labels. These terms are often used for human foods, so marketers place them on pet foods, to make the product appear healthier and to anthropomorphize their pet's food. However, these words do not necessarily mean higher-quality ingredients, and therefore, may not equate with superior nutrition.

"Looking beyond the front of the package will help pet parents ensure their pets are getting quality nutrition," says Dr. Lowery. "And remember to talk to your veterinary healthcare team for insight into the best food for your pet. With so many pet food choices your veterinary team is the expert for your pet's overall health and wellness."




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