There are more dog food options than ever before. The number of brands available to consumers like you skyrocketed in the last decade. Since 2011, the number of brands has increased by more than 70 percent!
More options are always good, but it creates tons of confusion within the market. Sifting through your choices to settle on a healthy and good product for your dog can be overwhelming.
Many organizations help you become a more mindful shopper.
For example, The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) dictates the essentials and provides dog food brands with guidelines on how their food should perform.
But the AAFCO isn't the only organization seeking to help dog owners like yourself find foods that work. One newer organization is the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA).
WSAVA started in began in 1959 when the International Association of Small Animal Specialists rebranded. In 2011, WSAVA established global nutrition guidelines for dog foods. But which brands are WSAVA approved?
The WSAVA operated as a lesser-known organization for many years. But the release of its guidelines in 2011 gained WSAVA more attention than ever.
More dog owners are hyperaware of the needs of their canine companions. Thanks to increasing recalls and countless quality issues in the dog food industry, many turn to WSAVA for guidance.
This organization aims to advance the health and welfare of pets. Its goal is to improve veterinary standards worldwide while improving owners' knowledge. Members span the globe, and WSAVA works with more than 200,000 companion veterinarians.
The WSAVA has several smaller committees. One of them is the Global Nutrition Committee.
This group created guidelines on dog food to ensure that every canine receives optimal nutrition. They provide expert-guided information for vets and owners.
While WSAVA doesn't officially endorse or recommend any brand, manufacturers can follow the guidelines to create what are essentially WSAVA-approved products.
What are WSAVA Dog Food Suggestions?
The suggestions made by the Global Nutrition Committee of WSAVA are vast. But there are a few key factors to consider if you want to give your dog the best food possible.
While organizations like the AAFCO focus more on nutritional analysis, WSAVA prioritizes the processes brands use to create products.
Specific dietary recommendations are available, too. But the following suggestions can apply to entire brands.
One of the most important suggestions by WSAVA is that dog food manufacturers employ nutritionists.
This sounds like a given, considering that dog food directly impacts your furry friend's health. But animal nutritionists are rarer than you think. Many brands don't employ anyone with the right qualifications to formulate food.
To be "WSAVA approved," brands must employ someone with a Ph.D. in Animal Nutrition or board-certified by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN).
The WSAVA guidelines also state that brands should provide clear information about the individual's or team's qualifications. For example, some brands may hire people as a consultant, but they don't have much weight in formula decisions.
To meet WSAVA guidelines, products must be formulated under the direct supervision of a qualified and experienced animal nutritionist.
Developing recipes is more complex than most realize. Not only does a nutritionist need to play a critical part in the process, but the WSAVA also recommends that formulators have a Ph.D. or MS in food science and technology.
Those suggestions are more difficult to come by than you'd think. That's a big reason why many brands you'd expect to meet WSAVA guidelines don't.
Companies are sometimes less interested in following WSAVA suggestions because it leads to higher expenditures due to the costs involved with bringing in a full-time animal nutritionist and formulator.
Strict Quality Control
Another major detail of WSAVA guidelines is good quality control.
This subject covers a few different details. First, products must meet or exceed AAFCO standards. In Europe, they must meet regulations set by the European Pet Food Industry Federation (FEDIAF). Each product should match nutrient profiles, ensuring dogs have the essentials to stay healthy.
The second detail is about testing.
Quality control is a big deal in the pet food industry. Unfortunately, many brands forgo testing entirely to rush products to market. They may rely on old studies or turn to research performed on specific ingredients. Those that do testing might perform it on a small scale due to the cheaper process.
The WSAVA suggests that brands perform large-scale testing and provide adequate quality assurance protocols to meet owner and pet safety needs. It goes beyond standard testing.
The organization wants brands to do full nutrient analysis, toxicology tests, bacteriology studies, and shelf-life screenings. Brands should perform all those quality assurance steps before a product ever hits store shelves.
Here's another reason why many brands fail to meet WSAVA standards. The organization suggests that all brands perform and publish peer-reviewed studies.
As you can imagine, this is a difficult parameter to meet. Not only are studies expensive, but they can be time-consuming. Most companies want to push products out of the manufacturing plant and onto shelves, so this is a major barrier against WSAVA approval.
Currently, pet food companies have no legal obligation to do nutritional research about the products they sell. However, the WSAVA suggests that brands doing so on their own accord demonstrate a clear commitment to developing research-backed foods.
The WSAVA also wants companies to do in-house manufacturing. Here's yet another hurdle that many brands must overcome. It's a difficult point to meet because many smaller brands outsource production.
But according to the WSAVA, hiring third-party manufacturing facilities to produce foods presents many problems. Brands can't control the manufacturing process. They're paying for a service, creating unnecessary hurdles and adding more points of failure.
Transparency and Contact Information
Finally, the WSAVA suggests that pet owners only buy products that offer full transparency. That means labels should provide full ingredient lists, accurate crude nutrient analysis panels, and contact information.
If the packaging doesn't have the data a dog owner needs, brands must provide an easy way for them to get it. That could be through a customer service hotline, email address, etc.
Are There Any Disadvantages to WSAVA Guidelines?
There is a little controversy surrounding the WSAVA's dog food suggestions.
The first is about how the organization gets funding. It accepts funding from many well-known dog food brands like Royal Canin, Purina, Hill's, and more. Some say that the financing sways the organization's suggestions, making them tailored to the offerings of the companies that fund them.
However, others argue that it makes sense for these brands to support WSAVA because they are similarly dedicated to high-quality dog food products and overall pet welfare.
Detractors also cite the difficult-to-meet guidelines. Some brands outright disregard WSAVA suggestions because they are impossible for smaller companies to meet.
For example, boutique brands and small labels don't have the means to perform independent studies. Even big brands can struggle to hire full-time animal nutritionists or build in-house manufacturing facilities.
Those barriers are significant, and it's a big reason why some well-known dog food brands don't meet WSAVA guidelines. At the end of the day, it's clear that WSAVA wants to improve the pet food industry. But the suggestions can be tough for every brand to follow.
Top 5 Best WSAVA Approved Dog Foods
Now that you understand WSAVA guidelines let's get onto the products! If you want to ensure your pup gets the best food possible, here are a few options that perfectly meet WSAVA's suggestions.
1. Purina Pro Plan 30/20 Chicken & Rice Formula Dry Dog Food
Purina Pro Plan products often rank as some of the best on the market. As one of WSAVA's industry supporters, it's no surprise that it meets the organization's guidelines.
Purina goes above and beyond. It invests in canine nutrition research and development. Plus, the company employs many qualified nutritionists.
This particular formula is top-notch. It's a high-protein recipe that utilizes chicken as the main meat source. Thirty percent of the nutrient analysis goes to protein, ensuring your dog has all it needs to build and maintain great muscle mass.
Joint-supporting ingredients like glucosamine and chondroitin keep your dog active for years. Meanwhile, antioxidants and vitamins promote better overall health.
2. Eukanuba Puppy Lamb 1st Ingredient Dry Dog Food
Eukanuba is a long-established brand that's often in the upper echelons of the dog food industry. It's a respected company that receives plenty of praise. This formula is a perfect example of why.
This puppy formula contains 27 percent protein. Most of it comes from a novel source: lamb. The protein is perfect for growing dogs, providing ample energy and fuel for muscle development.
Eukanuba also included great additions like DHA. It helps with brain development, making puppies more trainable than ever!
Omega fatty acids like fish oil help promote healthier skin while optimized calcium and phosphorous levels encourage controlled growth.
3. Royal Canin Size Health Nutrition Small Adult Formula Dog Dry Food
Royal Canin is another one of WSAVA's industry supporters. It's one of the "big three" dog food companies.
This formula is made by nutritionists to support the health of smaller breeds. The kibble shape is perfect for smaller mouths and jaws. Furthermore, the ingredients are impressive.
Chicken is the primary protein, contributing to the 25 percent crude analysis. But the recipe does more than promote healthy muscle mass.
It contains L-Carnitine to help with weight management. There's also DHA and EPA. Those antioxidants keep the skin healthy and coat luscious.
4. Hill's Science Diet Adult Chicken & Barley Recipe Dry Dog Food
From Hill's Science is this adult formula. Hill's Science is another WSAVA supporter. However, this brand has a long history of taking a scientific approach to dog food development.
Products come veterinary recommended, and the brand invests in ongoing research to ensure that every food product is high-quality.
This recipe uses chicken as the main protein. The food is about 20 percent protein, 11.5 percent fat, and 4 percent fiber. It has a great blend of omega fatty acids for skin health. Plus, it's free of artificial additives to promote easier digestion.
5. Freshpet Vital Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Small Breed Fresh Dog Food
The small breed formula from Fresh Pet has a lot to offer. It uses nothing but non-GMO ingredients. Many are visible in the dry kibble, adding to that wholesome and healthy reputation.
Your dog gets fantastic ingredients like chicken, liver, sweet potatoes, and cranberries with this food. There are no fillers, and this particular recipe is grain-free. It's nutrient- and antioxidant-rich, giving your dog plenty of good stuff to stay healthy.
The formula also has omega fatty acids and minerals to support every biological function in the body.
As a dog owner, you want to provide the best food possible for your canine companion. What they eat impacts their overall health and vitality.
By choosing something that meets all WSAVA guidelines, you can rest easy knowing that the food you provide checks off all the boxes.