In spite of a strong movement towards increased knowledge of pet care, many pet parents are still confused and misinformed about pet nutrition, a PetMD survey has concluded.

It’s not difficult to figure out the source of misinformation when you read some of the misconceptions.

The Internet is rife with people who represent themselves as experts in pet nutrition, when in fact they are misinformed or deliberately trying to frighten pet parents.  Shocking and scaring people brings website traffic and sells books, products and subscriptions.  There is much to be concerned about when it comes to pet food, but a considerable amount of the information provided online is simple fear mongering.

The survey’s key findings include:

  • Misunderstood Terms: A majority of survey respondents said they believe that animal hair, teeth and hooves are included in meat by-products, when in fact, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) expressly prohibits these body parts from being included in a by-product used in pet food.
  • The Importance of Feeding Trials: While the majority of pet owners look to the label to learn about ingredients, they fail to look for other key quality information. According to the PetMD survey, only 22 percent of respondents check to see if the diet has undergone a feeding trial. All AAFCO approved pet foods must display a statement indicating how the pet food manufacturer determined that particular diet would meet the needs of pets. This can be done in one of two ways: via a computer program or by actually feeding the food to dogs or cats. According to Coates, “feeding trials are a far superior method for determining whether or not pets will thrive on a particular diet.”
  • Misidentifying Potential Allergies: More than 40 percent of respondents cited grain ingredients as the most common allergens in pet food, with more than 30 percent specifically implicating corn. However, some studies have shown that the protein or meat source in pet food is far and away the biggest culprit(1).
  • An Under-appreciation of Balanced Nutrition: 69 percent of respondents recognized that protein is a key nutrient for pets, yet only 2 percent named fats, 3 percent named carbohydrates, and less than 25 percent named vitamins and minerals. “To satisfy all the nutritional needs of dogs and cats, pet foods must provide all of these ingredients in the right balance,” states Dr. Jennifer Coates, a spokesperson for PetMD. “Too much of one or too little of another can be harmful to a pet’s health.
  • Skepticism of Label Accuracy: More than 70 percent of pet owners surveyed believe pet food labels do not list all of the ingredients; however, AAFCO regulations mandate that every ingredient contained within a pet food be included in the ingredient list, in order from the biggest to the smallest contributor, by weight.

Confused About Pet NutritionPet parents have learned to be wary of information supplied by pet food companies.  Now it’s time we learned to be wary of the other dark side of the pet industry:  the people who profit from frightened, loving pet parents.

It’s easy to get caught up in the outrage and believe the big, bad pet industry is out to squeeze every dime out of consumers, even if it means hurting animals.  While that may be true of some companies, one has to consider that it simply isn’t profitable to manufacture food that would harm pets.  It isn’t worth the risk of losing the trust of pet parents.  Any pet food company with an ounce of business sense knows that.  Certainly there are some companies that have acted irresponsibly and without ethics, but that is true of any industry. Obviously, we have to avoid products manufactured by those companies.

Finding Solid Pet Nutrition Information

  • Due diligence – We encourage you to question everything you read about pet nutrition.  Research every fact using reputable (preferably neutral) sources of information whenever possible.  If the information is supplied by a pet food company, you need to separate the sales pitch to get the full story.  If the source seems more intent on ranting and conspiracy theories than providing solid proof, keep researching. If they tell you everyone is out to get us, including regulators, veterinarians, and entire industries, their paranoia is getting a tad out of hand, or they’re trying to convince you they’re the only one you can trust.
  • Be aware that information may be out of date, including books, videos, and studies. There are also online personalities that don’t want to update the information they provide because they think it will make it appear as though they were wrong before.
  • While it’s true that Veterinarians aren’t always experts on pet nutrition, they’re still our best source of information about what’s best for our pets.  Please don’t allow Internet paranoia to discourage you from trusting your Vet. If your Veterinarian isn’t providing satisfactory information, find another one who understands things like the carno-omnivorous scientific classification of dogs, and other current information.
  • If you make your own pet food, it is even more crucial that you understand pet nutrition.  There is no reason why you can’t learn everything you need to know to provide a healthy, balanced diet, but you must research reputable sources of information.

The bottom line is, to become a truly educated consumer we have to keep a level head.

??? Have you been a victim of misinformation about pet nutrition?  Please share what you’ve learned in the comments below.

PR Newswire
1 Carlotti DN, Remy I, Prost C. Food allergy in dogs and cats. A review and report of 43 cases. Vet Dermatol 1990;1:55-62.
Chesney CJ. Food sensitivity in the dog: a quantitative study. J Sm Anim Pract 2002;43:203-207.
Batchelor, D. J. Sodium/Glucose Cotransporter-1, Sweet Receptor, and Disaccharidase Expression in the Intestine of the Domestic Dog and Cat: Two Species of Different Dietary Habit. 2010.

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13 thoughts on “Survey Finds Pet Parents Perplexed About Pet Nutrition – Here’s Why

  1. I’ve seen tons of rant sites that don’t know much about pet food but some fake it better than others. People will always believe the worst and deserve what they get if they’re foolish enough to buy it. Some bloggers are hilarious because they’re so angry I picture them as a cartoon with a red face hopping up and down but all they’re saying is blah blah blah LMAO

  2. I agree that the internet has a whole lot of baloney from crazy advocates to pet companies. A voice of reason is always appreciated in this crazy online world.

  3. The main take away from this is to be a diligent pet parent. Educate yourself to the best of your ability about the health aspects of your pet. Use multiple sources including both your vet (or vets)and the Internet. Most of the time you have to separate fact from fiction, like you mentioned. Don’t just blindly trust one source. Do your homework if you want to be the best pet parent you can, you would do that if it was your human child. Thanks for the great article!

  4. I tend to steer clear of anyone that is adamant that they are the only one to correctly understand a subject and all others are out to mislead. It’s good to take time to at understand each point of view to better understand the subject as a whole, but definitely be on the look for bias or agenda. Pet nutrition is something I think we’ll be debating for quite a long time to come. Great post!

  5. We have to be responsible and get an education. We can whine about this or that and the outrage of it all but in the end we have to learn about pet food so we can make good decisions.

  6. Some of the BS I’ve read online about pet food is beneath contempt! It’s not only pet companies but the million people who pretend they’re experts to make a buck. Use the good sense God gave you and factcheck!

    • It depends on what you’re looking for. Books, independent studies, reputable websites, specialists in animal nutrition, etc.

  7. I agree, there is a lot of blogs and sites that make a living from scaring pet owners and others just want something to hate. There’s some good ones out there like this one if you look around but it pays to be careful.

  8. How refreshing to hear someone speak frankly about online fear mongering!! Don’t forget if pet food improves they’re out of business!! It’s not in their best interest to be honest if they make a living scaring people. Some of them are venomous snakes. And I’m sorry but that caped chick is so obvious and she’s NUTS LOL why does anyone buy from someone like that? Because she says what they want to hear? All the way she plants doubt but doesn’t prove much of anything and reputable websites refuse to be associated with her. I agree that pet food needs to improve but use your head before trusting someone!!

  9. THANK YOU for suggesting people trust their vet. When a website starts casting doubt like that it’s dangerous. Some pets specialize in nutrition so I suggest finding them.

  10. The conflicting information is what discourages me from using the internet for any helth info. I like yours because you include references a lot but most just write opinions or quote other people. I’m a scientist so I want facts & proof.

  11. This doesn’t surprise me at all. Over the past year of pet blogging, I’ve learned so much about pet food and still have a long way to go. It’s an overwhelming, at times, subject, but important for dog owners and their pups. Thanks for the clarification.

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