October 25, 2013 10:02 ET

petMD Survey Reveals Pet Owners Are Still Confused About Proper Pet Nutrition and Industry Standards

PHILADELPHIA, PA--(Marketwired - October 25, 2013) -  While many pet owners take the time to research the best pet food for their pet, a recent petMD survey revealed that there is still confusion surrounding pet food labels and what constitutes a nutritious diet. Almost 80 percent of respondents said they are aware of the importance of a balanced diet for their pets; however, less than half have ever checked the label on their pet's food to make sure it meets industry-wide standards.

"Checking for the AAFCO 'complete and balanced' statement on a pet food label is one of the quickest and easiest ways for owners to ensure that their pets are getting at least the minimum nutrition they need," states Dr. Jennifer Coates, Veterinary Advisor to petMD. "Contrary to what some pet parents may think, foods that do not adhere to these standards are readily available in many retail outlets."

The survey's key findings include:

1. Consumers Do Not Read Pet Food Labels Carefully: While the majority of survey respondents were aware that a balanced diet is vitally important and that too little or too much of certain nutrients can adversely impact a pet's health, nearly 50% admitted that they have never checked the label on their pet's food to make sure it meets the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) standard of being "complete and balanced." If a nutrient is deficient or present in dangerously high amounts in a dog or cat's food, a pet's health will suffer.

2. Pet Parents Are Confused about the Importance of Life Stage Diets for Pets: The survey revealed that only 50% of respondents understood that they should choose an "adult maintenance" pet food for an adult pet. Nearly one in four people said they would select an "all life stages" diet for an adult pet. At different points in their lives, pets have very different nutritional needs. An all life stages product, for example, must be higher in protein, fat and other nutrients to support the nutritional demands of growth and reproduction experienced by puppies, kittens and pregnant females. Feeding these types of diets to adult animals can promote obesity and other health concerns.

3. Consumers Are Unaware of the Relationship between Nutrients and a Balanced Diet: The survey revealed that 62% of people thought that on average, a balanced diet for pets involved just 10 or fewer nutrients. In truth, according to current research, over 50 nutrients must be present in the right amounts and ratios to provide complete and balanced nutrition and to promote optimal health.

"Pet parents want what is best for their beloved companions, but sometimes a lack of clarity surrounding pet nutrition gets in the way," states Coates. "Take the time to look at the label on your pet's food and make sure it contains an AAFCO statement affirming that the diet provides complete and balanced nutrition specific to your dog or cat's life stage. And be sure to ask your veterinarian for dietary recommendations as well."

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petMD is the leading online resource focused solely on the health and well-being of pets. The site maintains the world's largest pet health library, written and approved by a network of trusted veterinarians.

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