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In How to make sense of pet food label claims, Part 1, we listed common terms used to describe the contents of a food, such as “dinner,” “premium,” “organic,” and more, and revealed the meaning behind those words. Today, we’ll present a buffet of terms.

“All Life Stages” — If a pet food has this claim on the label, skip it. Pets have different nutritional needs in different life stages (growth, growth & lactation, adulthood, senior status). Your pet’s food should specifically reflect your pet’s nutrient needs at each stage of her life.

Bone meal contains high levels of magnesium and phosphorus. These minerals are hard on the kidneys and they are not a good source of calcium. Avoid giving your pet a food containing bone meal.

By-products
Many people are concerned about by-products in pet food. The definition of a by-product is, essentially: Something produced in the making of something else.

For example, glucosamine (which many people and their pets take for joint support) is a by-product.

In pet food, nutritionally dense organ meat is a by-product, and it is good for your pet. In other words, just because an ingredient is considered a by-product, does not necessarily mean it is unhealthy to feed your pet.

Did You Know?
Every part of a chicken can be used in pet food,
including beaks and feet!

Fixed formula: does your pet’s food qualify?
A fixed formula pet food is one in which the ingredients do not change.

When pet food manufacturers change the ingredients in a bag or can of food, they have up to six months to change the label to reflect the new ingredients. One work-around is to constantly change the ingredients, so the label never technically has to be updated. Thus, your pet may do well on Mrs. Bea’s Lovely Coat* Chicken and Rice for the first bag, but get sick on the second bag because the food now contains beef and barley — yet the food label hasn’t changed!
*Fictionalized brand.

So how do you know if a brand uses a fixed formula? Two ways:
1. If the diet is therapeutic, such as Hill’s Prescription Diet or Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets. These are foods specially designed to treat certain medical conditions. In order to be effective, their ingredient lists and guaranteed analysis minimums and maximums remain steady.
2. If the food is a commercial brand, call the company and ask. (Hill’s Science Diet foods use a fixed formula.) 

Light or Lite -designated foods are designed for weight loss. If your pet needs to lose weight, avoid “Weight Control” or “Weight Management” diets, since those are weight maintenance diets, not weight loss diets. To be sure your pet is on a lower-calorie food, look for the word “Light” or “Lite” on the label. Because these foods cannot be tested in AAFCO trials, they adhere to calorie maximums for both dry and canned foods:
Dry dog food……….3100 kcal/kg maximum

Canned dog food….900 kcal/kg maximum
Dry cat food………..3250 kcal/kg maximum
Canned cat food….950 kcal/kg maximum

Did You Know?
Weight loss diets cannot be AAFCO-tested,
since it is not permissible for animals
to lose weight during feeding trials.

 

Moisture level in a food is indicated by the type of food your pet eats.
Dry food is maximum 12% moisture, 88% dry matter.
Semi-moist food is maximum 33% moisture, 67% dry matter.
Canned or wet food is maximum 78% moisture, 22% dry matter.
So, as moisture increases, the water content is replacing meat and other ingredients.

 

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What is hyperthyroidism?
The thyroid gland, located in your cat’s neck, uses dietary iodine to make thyroid hormones (thyroxine) that help regulate important body functions, including:

  • Metabolism
  • Body temperature
  • Blood pressure
  • Heart rate
  • Gastrointestinal function

When a cat has hyperthyroidism, its thyroid gland is enlarged and it produces excessive amounts of thyroid hormone.

Illustration from Hill's Pet Nutrition pamphlet on Feline Thyroid Health.

Illustration from Hill’s Pet Nutrition pamphlet on Feline Thyroid Health.

Hyperthyroidism is most often diagnosed in cats older than 10 years. Untreated hyperthyroidism can have serious — even fatal — effects on organs such as the heart and kidneys.

What are the signs of hyperthyroidism?

  • Weight loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Increased thirst
  • Poor skin and coat condition
  • Hyperactivity

Because some of these same symptoms can appear as a result of other diseases, such as diabetes or kidney failure, your cat will need tests such as a blood profile and urinalysis to determine the actual problem.

Did you know? An over-active thyroid is more common in cats than in dogs, and an under-active thyroid is more common in dogs than in cats.

How is hyperthyroidism treated?
There are four types of treatment available today:
1. Daily nutrition: limiting intake of dietary iodine reduces thyroid hormone production. One such food available to cat owners is Hill’s Prescription Diet y/d.
2. Daily medication: anti-thyroid drugs inhibit the production of thyroid hormones. Such drugs must be administered with caution, so that the person giving the medication does not accidentally absorb the drug.
3. Radioactive iodine therapy: radiation to treat abnormal thyroid tissue. This procedure is performed by a veterinary specialist, available through a referral by your regular vet. Treatment is considered highly effective, though it can be expensive if the pet is not covered by pet health insurance.
4. Surgery: removal of diseased thyroid tissue. Surgery is often successful, though some cats may afterwards require thyroxine replacement therapy either short-term or long-term.

Can I purchase Hill’s Prescription y/d at the store?
Y/d is available only through veterinarians. Because it is designed to act on thyroid hormone production, the food is not appropriate for all pets in a household; for this reason, it is not sold as an over-the-counter product.

Illustration from Hill's Pet Nutrition pamphlet on Feline Thyroid Health.

Illustration from Hill’s Pet Nutrition pamphlet on Feline Thyroid Health.

Why does the veterinarian recommend y/d?
In tests, y/d (when fed alone, without treats or other foods) improved thyroid health in 3 weeks. Also, when properly fed, the food is designed to eliminate the need for anti-thyroid drugs. Y/d also provides the daily nutrition your cat needs to stay healthy.
And remember what we said about hyperthyroidism affecting kidney and heart health? Y/d addresses those issues, too. Y/d contains carnitine and taurine for the heart and reduced sodium levels for kidney health.

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Sources of information for this article:
Feline Thyroid Health, pamphlet by Hill’s Pet Nutrition available at our clinic
Saunders Manual of Small Animal Practice
Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary

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