Food

WSAVA Dog Food Nutrient Profiles

Written by: pdm

October 11, 2022

Whether you have a giant, handsome Newfoundland or an itty-bitty Chihuahua with a huge personality, selecting the right food for your beloved pooch from the buffet of pet food options can sometimes have us feeling like our eyes are too big for our stomachs. 

There are hundreds of dog food manufacturers who contribute to the $50 billion dog food industry annually, with manufacturers running the gamut in size from behemoth to boutique.1 From “premium” to “complete adult” (and a number of adjectives and other descriptors in between), the choices for pup chow are seemingly endless.

dog looking up from bowl

As a dog owner,one way to narrow down the diet choices is by paying particular attention to nutrient profiles. You may already know about AAFCO’s nutrient profile, the nutritional guidelines set forth by the Association of American Feed Control Officials, but what are WSAVA dog food nutrient profiles?

What is WSAVA?

WSAVA stands for the World Small Animal Veterinary Association. Developed in 1961, it boasts over 200,000 members worldwide.2

The aims of WSAVA include:

  • Promoting animal advocacy and protection
  • Establishing standards for veterinary care and surgeries
  • Offering education on animal welfare

A big part of their enterprise is to encourage proper pet nutrition and food safety for pets, which, understandably, has an impact on dog food manufacturers and the pups they feed.

What Is The Nutritional Profile for WSAVA?

The nutritional profile of a WSAVA approved or recommended pet product must meet the standards established by AAFCO, which classifies dog food in two categories and provides nutritional recommendations.

The categories include:

  • Growth and reproduction – This refers to food that’s manufactured for puppies and female pooches who are lactating or pregnant.
  • Adult maintenance – This includes foods made for adult and senior dogs who are, well, no longer puppies (but still crazy adorable).

Why does the AAFCO classify pet food in this way? In short, dogs have different nutritional requirements at different stages of life—just like us humans.

Per AAFCO standards, food can be advertised as “Complete and Balanced” if its nutritional breakdown is in accordance with AAFCO’s suggestions:3

  • Protein – 20% for puppies and 18% for adults
  • Fat 8% for puppies and 5% for adults
  • Vitamins and minerals – The percentages of these depends on the phase of life your dog is in, as well as the type of vitamin and mineral. Food fit for a puppy, for instance, is recommended to contain 1% calcium, while the minimum calcium requirement for adult doggies is 0.6%. 

Other essential vitamins and minerals include:

  • Choline
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin E
  • Phosphorous
  • Potassium
  • Sodium
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Chloride
  • Vitamin D
  • Zinc 
  • Selenium

If the product satisfies AAFCO’s nutritional profile, they essentially move on to the next step in the WSAVA process—or, rather, what WSAVA recommends to consumers.

bulldog eating from bowl

What Else Do the WSAVA Nutritional Guidelines Entail?

WSAVA’s complete nutritional guidelines are rigorous and stricter than the recommendations created (and published annually) by AAFCO. 

They ask consumers to take the following into consideration when selecting a brand of dog food:4

  • The input of a nutritionist – WSAVA notes that pet parents should search for pet food companies who use a nutritionist that holds either a PhD in Animal Nutrition or is board-certified by either the American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN) or the European College of Veterinary Comparative Nutrition (ECVCN). WSAVA’s language suggests favoring brands who have a nutritionist on staff rather than a consultant.
  • Recipes developed by a nutritionist – Recipes developed by a nutritionist with a PhD or an MS in Animal Nutritionist—experts who have a solid handle on the intricacies of recipes and their ingredients—are, according to WSAVA, ideal.
  • Certified nutritional profiles – As we just discussed, WSAVA recommends that the product meets the nutritional profiles set forth by AAFCO or Europe’s branch of AAFCO, the European Pet Food Industry Federation (FEDIAF) and are labeled accordingly. If it doesn’t meet these nutritional requirements, it must be marketed as “Intermittent” or “Supplemental” and should comprise only 10% of your dog’s diet.
  • Nutritional studies and product research – The WSAVA states that manufactures are not obligated to have studies conducted on the food they produce and distribute. At the same time, they make it clear that companies who perform research are invested in animals’ health and welfare.
  • Quality control measures – The manufacturer’s quality control measures, such as toxicology and bacteriology screenings, packaging and shelf life assessments, and confirmation of the food’s ingredients, are also encouraged by the WSAVA.
  • Feeding trial or chemical analysis – This is to ascertain that the nutrient profiles established by the AAFCO in the U.S. and the FEDIAF in Europe have undergone feeding trials and chemical assessments to assure the product’s ingredients.
  • Calorie content – The food’s calorie content is also imperative to prevent obesity. AAFCO added this amendment to their guidelines as well.
  • Limited use of ingredients not approved by the FDA – Yes, the FDA regulates dog food as well to ensure its safety. It also evaluates the claims made by the manufacturer.5
  • Pertinent info about the company – The manufacturer’s contact information should be listed and the company should be able to “immediately” answer questions for consumers.

Sound exhaustive? It is. It has also led to a fair amount of controversy, which we’ll dive into shortly.

dog eating kibble

Do All Pet Foods Need to Be WSAVA Approved?

As a pet owner, what you elect to feed your dog—or bird, cat, or iguana—is, really, at your discretion. AAFCO and WSAVA exist to empower you to make a sound decision when choosing your pet’s diet.

AAFCO, however, does not provide “approval” of certain products. Rather, they give guidelines.

WSAVA, meanwhile, has approved only a select number of pet foods. These include heavy-hitters, such as:

  • Purina
  • Hill’s
  • Royal Canin

And here’s where the controversy exists.

Interestingly, the press release WSAVA set out along with its updated, more stringent guidelines in 2021 also thanks these three companies for their support.6 

This has led to several speculations and complaints. One of the biggest? That boutique dog food brands don’t have the resources on hand to comply with all of WSAVA’s suggestions, particularly having an in-house nutritionist who develops the recipes. 

This is a rare…breed to begin with: Only a mere 96 veterinarians are also board-certified nutritionists, and 16 of these vet-nutritionists work for the dog food brands approved by WSAVA.7

Further, some dog food manufacturers may not have the means to conduct product studies, complete with reports in peer-reviewed journals, a process that can (and often does) move at a glacial pace. This may be a superfluous effort, regardless, if they are already using whole food ingredients that have been approved by the FDA and comply with AAFCO’s standards.

Indeed, the bottom of WSAVA’s most recent nutritional guidelines states that if the companies don’t adhere to all of its requirements, consumers should be wary about using the brand. Ouch, right?

This isn’t to say WSAVA’s intent isn’t heartfelt. The problem is, it sniffs of a monopoly at play.

puppy head first in a dog bowl
Puppy eating from food bowl. Horizontally framed shot.

So…What Should I Feed My Pup?

Dog food that meets AAFCO’s nutritional requirements, even if it doesn’t meet the WSAVA’s newest list of suggestions, is totally okay. 

When food shopping for your Bull terrier or English Bulldog, search for a pet food label that includes a statement from AAFCO. This means the product contains the nutrients your dog needs.

It also notes the stage of a dog’s life the food is suitable for—again, that “growth or reproduction” or “adult maintenance.” Foods that comply with AAFCO contain the correct ratio of protein, fat, carbs, vitamins, and nutrients your dog needs for everything from zoomies to catching Zs. 

Feed Fluffs All the Right Things with Bark

WSACA dog food nutrient profiles provide recommendations to how pet food is made and tested. However, pet owners can also refer to AAFCO nutrient profiles to ensure their pup is getting everything they need to stay happy and healthy.

At Bark, we provide your pooch with the best dog food recipes specifically tailored to their breed to check all the necessary nutrient boxes for nutritional adequacy. 

Different dog breeds have different nutritional needs that help to safeguard the health of their coat, boost their energy levels, bolster their digestion, and organically support their joints. Our dog food calls upon real food, like farm-raised chicken, antioxidants, and natural fiber to give your pup strength and vitality. We also offer an assortment of supplements and dog toys, chews, and treats. 

A happier pooch, after all, equals a happier you.

Sources:

  1. Statista. U.S. pet food industry-statistics & facts. U.S. Pet Food Industry – Statistics & Facts | Statista
  2. Journal of Small Animal Practice. WSAVA animal welfare guidelines for veterinary practitioners and veterinary teams. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jsap.12988
  3. Merck Veterinary Manual. Table: aafco nutrient requirements for dogs. Table: AAFCO Nutrient Requirements for Dogs a – Merck Veterinary Manual (merckvetmanual.com)
  4. WSAVA Global Commission Committee. Guidelines on selecting pet food. GNC_Guidelines_120421 (wsava.org)
  5. Pet MD. What is aafco and what does it do? https://www.petmd.com/dog/nutrition/What-Is-AAFCO-and-What-Does-It-Do
  6. WSAVA. New resources on nutrition from the WSAVA’s global nutrition committee.  New-Resources-on-Nutrition-from-the-WSAVAs-Global-Nutrition-Committee.pdf
  7. Pet Food Industry. WSAVA, part 2: pet food recommendations are now guidelines. https://www.petfoodindustry.com/blogs/10-debunking-pet-food-myths-and-misconceptions/post/10341-wsava-part-2-pet-food-recommendations-are-now-guidelines
Written by: pdm

October 11, 2022

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