How To Read Cat Food Label
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What Information Do Cat Food Labels Contain?
Cat food labels provide limited information regarding the nutritional value of the package contents. It is important for customers to know what can and cannot be determined from the label, and what information is particularly important. Major components of a pet food label include:
- Guaranteed Analysis
- Company/Customer Service Information/Satisfaction
- Ingredient Panel
- Manufacturing Code, Expiration, or "Best Used By" Information
- Feeding Instructions
- AAFCO Statement of Nutritional Adequacy
Values in the guaranteed analysis are expressed as either minimum or maximum. A maximum guarantee (% max) means at most this specific amount of the nutrient is included in the formula. A minimum guarantee (% min) means at least this specific amount of the nutrient is included in the formula. The following four nutrients must be included on all pet food labels:
- Crude Protein (% min)
- Crude Fiber (% max)
- Ingredient Panel
- Crude Fat (% max)
- Moisture (% max)
For example, a cat food with a 25% minimum crude protein guarantee should contain at least 25% protein, but could contain much more. The only way to determine the actual amount is by laboratory analysis.
Other information may be guaranteed on cat food products, such as magnesium (% max), taurine (% min), ash (% max), and linoleic acid (% min).
- The guaranteed analysis is an important tool when beginning to compare cat food formulas, but it doesn't provide meaningful nutritional information. Using information on the energy content and nutrient density of a food is the only way to properly compare cat foods. This information is available from the manufacturer.
Ingredients must be listed in order of abundance (largest quantity listed first).
- Because ingredient definitions and designations are standardized, it is difficult to determine the quality of ingredients. Ingredient quality can only be determined from laboratory analysis and animal feeding tests.
AAFCO Statement of Nutritional Adequacy
AAFCO nutritional adequacy statements are required on all pet foods. Products may either be formulated or tested according to AAFCO procedures and recommendations.
- A "formulated" statement means the product has been manufactured according to AAFCO nutritional guidelines, but not actually fed to cats prior to sale.
- A "tested" statement indicates the product has been formulated, then fed to cats prior to sale to ensure it meets important criteria related to growth, maintenance, and/or reproduction.
Veterinary-exclusive products include statements such as, "This product is intended for intermittent feeding only" and "Use only as directed by your veterinarian."
Manufacturing and "Best Used By" Codes
Manufacturing codes allow the company to track products for quality and inventory issues. In order to quickly and efficiently handle a customer inquiry, the company's customer service department will usually ask the customer for this code.
Expiration or "Best Used By" dates are optional, but are helpful in determining product freshness and shelf life.
Company Information and Satisfaction Guarantee
The manufacturer's information should include the company name, address, and phone number so customers can quickly and easily obtain product information.
A toll-free telephone number should be provided as a convenience to the customer and to ensure that a charge is not incurred when calling for information.
- The satisfaction guarantee should be an "active" statement. This means that in addition to stating that the product is guaranteed, the company should indicate what action will be taken to meet customer expectations (replace product, money returned, etc.).
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- adp_description_block248Why Antioxidants Are Good For Your Cat
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Antioxidants are good for your cat because they play a key role in minimizing damage to cells, including cells of the immune system.
These important, naturally occurring nutrients help maintain health by slowing the destructive oxidative process of cellular molecules. They also can be important in supporting immune responses and vaccine recognition in cats. This may be especially critical for kittens that are being vaccinated while their immune system is still developing.
Additionally, antioxidants can reverse decreases in immune-cell function for senior cats, increasing them back to healthy adult levels.
Antioxidants in IAMS™ Cat Foods
Antioxidants are nutrients found naturally in the body and in plants such as fruits and vegetables. Common antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E and certain compounds called carotenoids (including lutein and beta-carotene). A blend of several antioxidants in moderate amounts may be more effective than high levels of one antioxidant.
How Antioxidants Work
As cells function normally in the body, they produce damaged molecules called free radicals. These free radicals are highly unstable and steal components from other cellular molecules, such as fat, protein or DNA, thereby spreading the damage.
This damage continues in a chain reaction, and entire cells soon become damaged and die in a process called peroxidation. Peroxidation is useful because it helps the body destroy cells that have outlived their usefulness and kills germs and parasites. However, when left unchecked, peroxidation also destroys or damages healthy cells.
Antioxidants help prevent widespread cellular destruction by willingly donating components to stabilize free radicals. More importantly, antioxidants return to the surface of the cell to stabilize rather than damage other cellular components.
When there are not enough antioxidants to hold peroxidation in check, free radicals begin damaging healthy cells, which can lead to problems. For example, free radical damage to immune cells can lead to an increased risk of infection.
Antioxidants and Your Cat’s Immune Response System
Because antioxidants play a key role in minimizing damage to cells, such as those that make up the immune system, recent research examined the benefits of certain antioxidants on the immune response of cats. The results of these studies indicated that antioxidants are important in helping cats maintain a healthy immune system.
The research also showed that each antioxidant benefits the immune system uniquely, so one antioxidant at high levels is not as effective as a group of antioxidants acting together.
Antioxidant Source Function Vitamin E Plant oil extract, tocopherols Optimizes immune system’s T-cell activation Beta-carotene Vitamin premix, corn meal, chicken by-product meal and chicken fat Optimizes types of cells present in the blood, increases antibody levels
in the blood and optimizes vaccine recognition
Antioxidants and Aging in Cats
Recent research also examined the effect of aging on immune responses. The findings indicate that as cats age, immune cell responses may decline. Including antioxidants in your cat’s diet can help reverse the age-related decrease in immune cell function, returning it to healthy adult levels.
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