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.
From “premium” to “complete adult” (and a number of adjectives and other descriptors in between), the choices for pup chow are seemingly endless.
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, and 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, this volunteer-based, non-profit organization is now comprised of 114 small animal veterinary associations from around the globe and represents a total of 200,000 independent veterinarians.
The aims of WSAVA include:
- Raise awareness among veterinarians and the general public about the importance of proper nutrition for optimal pet health.
- Advocate for pet nutrition to become an essential part of veterinary health education.
- Promote personalized nutritional recommendations to become an essential part of veterinary care for every companion animal.
- Establish the veterinary healthcare team as the most qualified source of information for pet nutrition.
A big part of this nonprofit is to promote the well-being of companion animals and support companion animal veterinarians across the world.
What Is The Nutritional Profile for WSAVA?
WSAVA’s Global Nutrition Committee has taken into account the standards established by AAFCO when creating its nutritional guidelines and assessments. AAFCO’s guidelines classify dog food into two categories and provide nutritional recommendations.
The categories of AAFCO 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 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 – 22.5% for puppies and 18% for adults
- Fat – 8.5% for puppies and 5.5% for adults
- Vitamins and minerals – The percentages of these depends on the phase of life your dog is in, as well as the types of vitamins and minerals. Food fit for a puppy, for instance, is recommended to contain 1% calcium, while the minimum calcium requirement for adult dogs is 0.6%.
Other essential vitamins and minerals include:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin D
By leveraging the Nutritional Assessment Guidelines from the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), WSAVA has crafted global nutritional guidelines and assessments for veterinarians worldwide, as a means of attaining optimum pet health and wellness.
WSAVA’s Nutritional Guidelines
WSAVA’s global nutritional guidelines are much more rigorous than the recommendations created by AAFCO.
These guidelines help both veterinarians and pet owners make informed decisions about the dog food they choose:4
- The input of a nutritionist – WSAVA suggests that pet owners should search for pet food companies that use a veterinary nutritionist who holds either a Ph.D. 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 favors brands that have a nutritionist on staff rather than a consultant.
- Recipes developed by a nutritionist – Recipes developed by a veterinary nutritionist with a Ph.D. 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 – 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 is 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 manufacturers are not obligated to have studies conducted on the puppy food they produce and distribute. At the same time, they make it clear that companies performing research must be 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 dog 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 ensure 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 pet food manufacturer.4
- Pertinent info about the company – The pet food manufacturer’s contact information should be listed, and the company should be able to “immediately” answer consumer questions.
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.
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 for 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 pup 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.
- Journal of Small Animal Practice. WSAVA animal welfare guidelines for veterinary practitioners and veterinary teams. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jsap.12988
- WSAVA Global Commission Committee. Global Commission Committee.https://wsava.org/committees/global-nutrition-committee/
- Pet MD. What is aafco and what does it do? https://www.petmd.com/dog/nutrition/What-Is-AAFCO-and-What-Does-It-Do
- WSAVA Global Commission Committee. Nutritional Assessment Guidelines. https://wsava.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/WSAVA-Nutrition-Assessment-Guidelines-2011-JSAP.pdf
- WSAVA Global Commission Committee. Guidelines on selecting pet food. GNC_Guidelines_120421 (wsava.org)
- Statista. U.S. pet food industry-statistics & facts. U.S. Pet Food Industry – Statistics & Facts | Statista
- Merck Veterinary Manual. Table: aafco nutrient requirements for dogs. Table: AAFCO Nutrient Requirements for Dogs a – Merck Veterinary Manual (merckvetmanual.com)
- WSAVA. New resources on nutrition from the WSAVA’s global nutrition committee. New-Resources-on-Nutrition-from-the-WSAVAs-Global-Nutrition-Committee.pdf
- 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