Welcome to another installment of “Debarking Pet Myths,” our monthly series that addresses common myths, misconceptions and old wives’ tales about dogs, cats and their nutrition.
Ask Google “What are pet food fillers?” and you’ll receive more than 47 million results in less than 1 second. On the first results page, the article headlines run the gamut from neutral and educational to negative and misleading — “Myths and Truths About ‘Fillers’ in Pet Food,” “Is Your Pet Food Full of Filler?” and “9 Pet Food Filler Ingredients You Should Avoid.”
With so much content devoted to pet food fillers, no wonder dog and cat owners are concerned about the ingredients used to make their pets’ food!
What’s particularly fascinating about all the interest in filler ingredients is how filler is defined and which ingredients are called fillers. Unfortunately, some of the ingredients currently condemned as fillers are actually useful because they are a source of essential fatty acids or indispensable amino acids. What’s more, contrary to what you’ll read on various websites, there’s no official definition of filler when it comes to pet foods.
How do AAFCO and FDA define the term?
Neither organization that provides ingredient and nutrition guidance has a definition for filler ingredient. And both organizations provide definitions for a large number of terms.
From additive to wort, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) defines many animal feed and pet food terms. (Dare we say thousands?) The organization also works with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and state governments to define ingredients used to make pet food and other animal feeds. However, nowhere in AAFCO’s Official Publication will you find a definition for filler listed in the section of official feed terms. Nor will you find it used to describe an ingredient in the official names and definitions of feed ingredients list.
But don’t think that AAFCO and FDA allow pet food companies to use any ingredient they choose in an animal feed or pet food. Even ingredients used in human food may not be acceptable for use in pet food.
So why do some groups insist that certain pet foods are made with fillers? That’s a good question, and one for which we don’t have a good answer.
But we can tell you this: At Diamond Pet Foods, every ingredient used in our dog and cat foods has a purpose.
Pets require nutrients, which are obtained from ingredients
Dogs and cats require amino acids, fatty acids, minerals and vitamins. While not a requirement per se, pets also need carbohydrates for energy and fiber. All of these nutrients are delivered through the ingredients used to make pet foods.
Both nutrients and ingredients are important when it comes to pet foods. No single ingredient can provide all of the nutrients in the correct proportion for your dog or cat. But each ingredient contributes a unique set of nutrients to the food so that the combination of ingredients provides complete and balanced nutrition. That’s why you’ll see protein ingredients from animal and plant sources used in many pet foods or ingredients such as dried chicory root and tomato pomace, which provide fiber to help regulate stool consistency and feed beneficial bacteria in the colon.
How can you be sure a food meets your pet’s needs?
If you’re concerned about what food you should be feeding your dog or cat, talking to your veterinarian is a great first step. Your veterinarian can assess your pet’s nutritional needs based on age, body condition, activity level and medical conditions (if present), then recommend an appropriate food including how much to feed. You can also call a Diamond Pet Foods product specialist at 1-800-442-0402 for a recommendation.
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