What pet parents should know about feeding a balanced diet to pets?
Dr Becvarova: Feeding a complete (with all essential nutrients) and balanced (all nutrients in optimal amount) diet is vital for good health, longevity and wellbeing of dogs and cats. Food provides energy, protein, essential fats, vitamins and minerals to live, grow and function properly. In pets, we can formulate food in a way that each bite is complete and balanced nutrition. Enjoyment of a healthy diet is also important.
How should pet parents read the pet food label?
Dr Becvarova: When reading the pet food label, it is important to read AAFCO statement.
Complete and balanced diet—whether the diet is complete and balanced.
Life-stage nutrition—if the food is complete and balanced, what life stage is it intended? AAFCO provides nutrient profiles and feeding trial requirements for growth, reproduction, and adult maintenance, but not for senior/geriatric pets. A food that is formulated to meet the AAFCO profiles for all life stages must meet the minimum nutrient levels for both growth and adult maintenance.
Label gives concentration of nutrients and ingredient list which contains only limited information of pet food quality.
Pet parent should focus on getting the following questions answered
(these are outlined in the WSAVA GNC Guidelines: www.wsava.org/Guidelines/Global-Nutrition-Guidelines):
Whether a full time qualified nutritionist is employed? Who formulates the food and what are his/her credentials?
Where is the food produced and manufactured? The specific quality control measures which are used to assure the consistency and quality of ingredients and end product? A complete nutrient analysis for the dog or cat food in question? The caloric value per gram, can, or cup of your food? The kind of product research being conducted? Are the results published in peer-reviewed journals?
How can a veterinarian help pets with nutrition?
Dr Becvarova: Veterinarians are trained and educated about dog and cat nutrition and represent the most important resource to reach out for nutrition recommendation to pet parents. Veterinarian will be able to recommend the most optimal nutrition for each individual pet needs depending on the life-stage or health status.
There are currently commercially available pet foods that can help to manage or prevent diseases. A good example are the food that helps maintain dental, urinary tract (dissolve and prevent certain urinary bladder stones), skin, joint, kidney, gastrointestinal, heart health or even treat and prevent obesity. The veterinarian is able to determine when these special therapeutic pet foods are appropriate.
What is the focus on R&D?
Dr Becvarova: We have a mission to provide evidence for the effectiveness of our nutrition products. Our research initiatives are many, as we are the first to develop therapeutic diet for kidney disease. More recently our focus has been on breakthrough findings in the area of nutrigenomics (how nutrition can positively influence gene expression) for joint disease and obesity. But also for many years, our researchers have been working on the role of beneficial gut microbiota in dog and cat health.
We have developed lots of science around taste using natural ingredients to ensure that our food items are palatable and nourishing.
The differentiating factor?
Dr Becvarova: Founded more than 75 years ago with an unwavering commitment to pet nutrition, Hill’s mission is to help enrich and lengthen the special relationships between pet parents and their pets.
Hill’s is dedicated to pioneering research and ground-breaking nutrition for dogs and cats based on a scientific understanding of their specific needs. Hill’sTM Prescription DietTM therapeutic pet foods, Hill’sTM Science DietTM wellness pet foods are sold through veterinarians and pet specialty retailers worldwide.
Our unique end-to-end stringent quality control includes the following key elements.
Our ingredient vendors are carefully selected through rigorous vendor certification programme, in which we set high quality standards for our suppliers, requiring them to test raw materials before shipment to the manufacturing facilities. In addition, incoming ingredients are checked for spoilage and adherence to nutrient specifications.
We are proud of our demanding quality control for our manufacturing facilities, ingredients and finished products. Our quality and ingredient control is among the strictest in the industry. We successfully participate in the Good Manufacturing Practices programme overseen by the American Institute of Baking (AIB), inspecting bakery plants that produce food for human consumption, which demonstrates Hill’s high quality standards.
Quality controls on every batch of pet food that is produced in our facilities, a series of over 60 tests is conducted to ensure product safety and adherence to a variety of ingredient, nutrient and quality standards. We have zero tolerance for Salmonella and only ship products to our customers after all quality testing is complete.
This ensures that every product received from us is held to the same high quality and safety standard.
(Dr Iveta Becvarova, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVN, currently serves as Director of Global Academic and Professional Affairs at Hill’s Pet Nutrition.).