Pet Food Companies

What Makes a Good Pet Food Company?


by Lorie Huston, DVM on March 23, 2013



These three tips regarding evaluating a pet food company were offered as part of a series of clinical briefs presented at this year’s annual American Animal Hospital Association conference. In this particular session, there were several presenters and each had eight minutes to provide a brief synopsis of their topic. Because of the limited time allowed to each presenter, the brief was limited to what each speaker felt was most important. This is what was imparted in regards to pet foods.

1.Ask where the ingredients are sourced. Any reputable pet food company should be able to tell you where they get their ingredients. I would particularly advise avoiding any company that sources from China.

2.Who makes the food? If the pet food label says “Manufactured for” the food is manufactured by a third party and not directly by the company marketing the food. Using a third party manufacturer means less control over how the finished product is produced.

3.What type of quality control testing is performed? Does the company hold the food until the test results are obtained or do they start selling the food before test results are known?

All of these are great suggestions and definitely should enter into the decision to choose or avoid a specific pet food company. Of course, this is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg and there are many other considerations when choosing a pet food also.

Some have asked me why I feed my cats Iams cat food. They have suggested that there are higher quality foods or more species-appropriate diets. It has even been suggested that, as a major pet food manufacturer, the only focus at PandG (the maker’s of Iams, Eukanuba, Innova, Evo, and several other brands of pet food) is making money. I respectfully disagree with all of these suggestions.

First, let me say that I don’t believe that Iams or any of the other PandG manufactured foods are the only good options out there for pet owners. There are many other brands that I recommend to my veterinary clients in addition to these foods. I’m not even vehemently opposed to a home-cooked diet as long as it’s done correctly. I believe there are many roads that lead to the same place, with the end point being a healthy pet.

That being said, I’ve been feeding my own cats Iams cat food for the past several years with good results. I also have a number of veterinary clients that feed Iams with similar results. That in itself would be enough to convince me. But there’s much more.

I’ve visited the PandG research facility and the Iams/Eukanuba manufacturing plant in Ohio. I’ve seen first-hand how the animals in their care are treated. And I can assure you that the people who would have you believe that animals are treated cruelly there are badly mistaken. This is a company that is dedicated to seeing that the animals in their charge receive the very best. There is no invasive testing done. Animals receive the best in veterinary care and the best in living conditions. They are well-socialized and well-adjusted. Each animal enters the facility with a “life plan” and when that plan is concluded, the animals are placed in loving forever homes.

Why is testing necessary in the first place? In order to produce a product that is the best that it can be for our pets. This is not unique to Iams or to the P&G pet foods. Much of what we know about pet nutrition is based on work/research performed by major pet food companies. Far from what many of the less reputable internet sites report (i.e. low quality pet food produced by these companies in favor of making a profit), these companies have provided us with the means to provide high quality nutrition for our pets, not only for healthy pets but also for pets with illnesses that respond to dietary therapy.

Now, I’ve also heard it suggested that research published by pet food companies is somehow tainted by the fact that a pet food company is associated with the research. That thought is ludicrous. The truth is that much of this research has been peer-reviewed and has been published in reputable veterinary publications or presented at major veterinary conferences. I would suggest to you that companies that do not spend the money to do this type of research are taking advantage of the efforts of other companies that do. I would prefer to support a company that is a leader in the pet health industry rather than a follower that uses only clever marketing to get an upper hand.

Without the research performed by these companies, we wouldn’t know nearly as much as we do about how to feed a pet with chronic kidney failure, with heart disease, with degenerative joint disease, and many other conditions. As a veterinarian, I’ve used diets not only to keep my clients’ pets healthy but also to improve their quality of life and, in some cases, even to prolong the life of pets with chronic disease conditions. These diets are part of my arsenal of tools and without them and the companies that produce them, I wouldn’t be able to do nearly as much for many of the pets I care for.

Even if you’re feeding a home-cooked diet, you’re still taking advantage of what these companies have contributed to the field of animal nutrition in terms of research. Without their contributions, we wouldn’t know how to feed a pet for optimum health. That is, of course, assuming that you’re feeding a well-balanced and complete diet.

Are pet food companies like Iams interested in making a profit? Of course they are. And I’m okay with that. If they aren’t successful in making a profit, they won’t stay in business long. That’s just as true for them as it is for any business.

Does the recent Natura recall or the Iams’ market withdrawal of their Shakeables snacks change my mind about the quality of these companies? No. If anything, these occurrences have shown me the dedication and concern of the employees of these companies. When the Natura recall was announced, a representative for PandG actually reached out to me and several other pet bloggers letting us know about the recall knowing that we could help get the word out to pet owners. The recall was posted on their Facebook pages and a Natura employee has been personally responding on those pages to each and every inquiry there, making sure pet owners have the answers they need. When the Iams market withdrawal occurred, an Iams representative actually called me to let know what was happening and why.

Obviously, nobody wants to see recalls or market withdrawals happening. However, even under the best of circumstances and despite the best efforts of everyone involved, these things sometimes happen. They’re not done maliciously and certainly if the company knew they were going to happen, they would have worked to avoid them. The company’s openness and transparency in dealing with the issue is impressive and speaks volumes about professionalism and company concern for both the pet owners and pets affected.

Finally, in regards to the questions at the beginning of this post, Iams passes these tests as do all of the other P&G pet foods.

I am fully aware that not all of you will agree with me. And that’s fine; you don’t need to. But my opinion is based on over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian as well as my experience living with and caring for many cats over the years, six of which live with me currently.

This article is posted and shared through the courtesy of the Pet Health Care Gazette