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Dear Daisy Dog

We feed discount dog food. Our veterinarian recommended we change to premium food. How do I tell if a food is premium?

Daisy Responds

There is no official definition, but I eat good food, so I can tell you about one aspect of evaluating food quality: testing.

Regulations governing dog food are much less strict than for human food, so it’s important to feed a product that was tested in dogs using protocols developed by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).

To determine whether a food was tested, read the back of the bag. Look for a statement that says something like, “Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that this food provides complete and balanced nutrition for [a given life stage.]”

Foods not tested in dogs carry a label that says only that the food was formulated in accordance with AAFCO guidelines.

Look for a food tested in all life stages, because it is more likely to support your dog through the stresses of illness, injury and aging than a food tested in a maintenance feeding trial.

Foods approved for all life stages are tested in pregnant and nursing females and in growing puppies. These stages of growth and development require a high plane of nutrition.

By contrast, maintenance foods are tested only in healthy adult dogs.

Testing costs money, so premium foods are usually more expensive than untested discount foods. But veterinary nutritionists often say, “With pet foods, you get what you pay for.”

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