Pet Nutrition

Good health requires proper nutrition. A healthy diet for your dog or cat is one of the requirements for a healthier and longer life.

A good time to discuss your pet’s nutritional needs or ask questions about pets foods is during your pet’s wellness visits. We can help you choose the right diet, as well as discuss how much and how often to feed. There are many different diet options when it comes to our pets and a lot of conflicting information. Your veterinarian is the best resource for deciphering the pet nutrition puzzle. Assessing your pet’s overall health and body condition score is a good place to start. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please give us a call.


Important resources for dog and cat nutrition are The World Small Animal Veterinary Association's Global Nutrition Guidelines and the American Animal Hospital Association's Nutritional Assessment Guidelines. And, of course, the staff of Hilton Animal Hospital is always here to help and answer any of your questions. 

To learn more about pet foods and nutrition please follow the link to : 

TUFTS - Cummings Veterinary Medical Center - Clinical Nutrition Service

A good quality diet is the cornerstone of good nutrition. The doctors of Hilton Animal Hospital recommend that pet owners consider the following points when selecting a food for their pet. 

  • The pet food that has been formulated by a certified animal nutritionist. (DVM,DACVN or PHD in Animal Nutrition)
  • The manufacturer that can assure the source, quality and nutritional composition of every shipment of raw ingredient before manufacture.
  • The manufacturer that can ensure and document a complete nutritional analysis of every lot of product produced.
  • The company has field-trialed each diet on privately owned pets and documented its real-world performance.

Please follow the link above to learn more about the FDA warning about certain types of dog food and a possible link to Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). 

Pet Food Companies Recommended by our Doctors:

  • Eukanuba
  • The IAMS Company
  • Royal Canin
  • Purina Pro Plan
  • Hills Science Diet
  • Purina Beyond

How to evaluate a Pet Food Company

Consider the Company

Many dog owners tend to distrust larger pet food companies. They mistakenly believe smaller brands are more likely to make better and safer products. However, the facts tell a different story. 93% of all pet foods sold in the U.S. are produced by just 3 companies — Big Heart, Mars and Purina.  Yet, 73 of the 88 recalls during a recent 5-year period are linked to products of smaller brands.  

That means that the smaller companies (7%) are responsible for 83% of the food recalls.

It was found that a significant number of dog foods are not likely to meet the claims of nutritional adequacy printed on their labels. That’s because many smaller companies have willingly admitted that they do not have the resources to verify the nutrient content or the safety of the foods they sell. And there’s no law requiring any pet food company to do so, either. The truth is, the smaller the brand, the less likely the company has the financial ability to perform all the steps needed to ensure the quality of its products. So, although there are always exceptions, it’s important to keep in mind that larger companies are far more likely to:

  • Employ real food scientists, animal nutritionists and other veterinary professionals to design their products
  • Test raw materials for impurities and nutrient content
  • Conduct regular safety and quality control procedures
  • Own and operate their own manufacturing facilities
  • Verify the quality of finished goods before they are shipped
  • Maintain in-house testing laboratories

Larger companies may or may not be better. However, the smaller the dog food brand, the more critical it is for the consumer to look beyond the label.



Identify the Manufacturer

Most dog owners assume their pet food company actually makes the products they sell. However, today, many companies use third-party co-packers to manufacture some — or all — of their foods. Whether or not a company makes its own dog food is neither good nor bad. What is important is to know the identity of the manufacturer to confirm that they consistently pass inspections and produce quality products.


Question Product Design

What may surprise you is that there’s no legal requirement that a pet food be formulated by an animal nutritionist or any other veterinary professional.  (DVM,DACVN or PHD in Animal Nutrition)

A shocking number of dog foods are designed by amateurs! The consumer should be assured that an animal food scientist is involved in designing their pet foods.

Confirm Nutrient Testing

It’s also important to know how the company can be certain each formulation is nutritionally complete and balanced and how often nutritional content testing is actually performed. Can the company furnish you with a complete nutrient analysis of your dog’s diet? Does the company conduct laboratory analysis or do they run feeding trials, or both?

Surprisingly, mostly smaller companies never do any testing at all. Find out what a company does to test each product to be sure it actually meets AAFCO nutritional guidelines.


Investigate Ingredient Sources

No dog food can ever be magically better than the ingredients that were used to make it. Yet labels reveal little about the quality of the raw materials actually used to make the food. Some ingredients are purchased from commodity brokers on the open market — from the cheapest bidder. Others can come from countries known to have inferior food quality standards. However, superior companies tend to source their ingredients only from established local or regional suppliers they do business with on a recurring basis. Federal law does not currently require any pet food company to disclose country of origin — or any other sourcing information — on its label.


Know how to really read a pet food label

It is important to point out that the pet food label is not a nutrient analysis of the food! What is a pet food label? A pet food label is a legal document regulated by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and is the primary means of communication between the pet food manufacturers and pet owners.


Deciphering the label


  • The difference between "ingredients" and "nutrients" needs to be clarified. Ingredients are the vehicles that provide nutrients, while nutrients are food components that support life and are metabolically useful. For example, lamb is an ingredient that provides nutrients such as protein, fatty acids and vitamins.
  • Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. The high water content in chicken, beef and lamb makes these ingredients weigh more than dry ingredients such as grains, meals and vitamins, so they are often listed first.
  • Be wary of foods with labels that list luxuriously sounding ingredients lower than common chemicals or vitamins.

Guaranteed Analysis

  • Is of very limited use in evaluating a diet
  • Indicates minimum or maximum levels of nutrients such as protein, fat, fiber and moisture.
  • Does not indicate or provide exact levels of nutrients in the food.
  • Is not a guarantee of the nutritional quality of the food.
  • Moisture levels in food vary, making it nearly impossible for an average consumer to accurately compare nutritional information.

Nutritional Adequacy Statement or "AAFCO Statement"

  • AAFCO is an organization that sets the nutritional standards for pet foods sold in the United States.
  • This legally required statement verifies the testing method used to determine nutritional adequacy.
  • The statement indicates whether the food provides complete and balanced nutrition for a specific life stage of your pet (growth, adult, pregnant/nursing), or if the product is nutritionally adequate for all life stages.
  • Beware if the package states the food supports "all life stages." The product likely contains excessive levels of some nutrients necessary for the most demanding life stage, which is growth. For example, it might contain higher levels of protein and calcium for kittens, but those levels are inappropriate for an adult or senior cat.

As a pet owner, you should know that nutritional excesses can be as harmful and are more common than nutritional deficiencies.

Manufacturer's Toll-free Number

The package label should contain the manufacturer's name and phone number. We encourage you to call the companies to learn more about their products, including place of manufacturing, actual nutrient content, calories and palatability of your prospective cat food choice.


Demand Transparency

Some pet food companies work hard to conceal critical information about their products. For example, we’ve actually stumbled upon a number of companies that attempt to create an artificial sense of customer support by using voice mail to take messages. Yet no one ever returns the calls. Some brands don’t even maintain a product website. Others willnot furnish you with a complete nutrient analysis , nor will they disclose who actually designed the foods.

Obviously, hostile or defensive companies like these are the ones that most likely have something to hide — and should not be trusted.

Never buy any dog food made by any company that is not transparent about its products or its manufacturing practices.


Verify Quality Control

At the time of purchase, all pet foods are at risk for containing:

  • Disease-causing pathogens (Salmonella, Listeria)
  • Mold toxins (aflatoxin, vomitoxin)
  • Environmental pollutants
  • Unsafe nutrient levels

And although many pathogens can be killed (pasteurized) during cooking, deadly toxins can remain in the food throughout the manufacturing process.

Some companies are more diligent about this safety measure than others. A few test every batch while others test only randomly. And yet some never test anything at all. It can be extremely difficult to determine just how carefully any brand administers its own quality control program.

Study the Recall History

Pet food recalls can provide some valuable clues about a brand’s manufacturing habits. Accidents are going to happen. Even though no pet food company can completely prevent a recall, it can control how it responds to such an event when it does occur. Unfortunately, while some companies work hard to prevent a recall, others work even harder at covering them up.