Pet Food Safety

Written by the Healthline Editorial Team | Published on September 4, 2014
Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Monti, MD, MPH on September 4, 2014

Pet Food Safety

It’s not surprising that people have concerns about pet food safety. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Americans spend over $13 billion on pet food each year. Concerns were also enhanced by the 2007 recall of pet foods contaminated with melamine. The bad foods were responsible for a number of deaths.

The FDA regulates pet food ingredients and issues recalls of problematic foods. A list of current recalls can be found at the FDA’s Recalls and Withdrawals website.

Reporting Dangerous Foods

To report a food that made your pet sick, visit the FDA Safety Reporting Portal. You can also call the FDA’s consumer complaint coordinator for your state.

It’s important to keep the packaging of your pet food until you are done using it. This makes it easier for you to track whether a food has been recalled. Recalled foods can generally be returned to the store where they were purchased. You should not discard these foods where animals might have access to them.

Safe Pet Food Handling

It’s not just humans that get food poisoning – pets can get it too. That means it’s just as important to practice safe food handling techniques with your pet’s food as with your own.

To reduce the risk of food poisoning:

  • Only purchase foods where the packaging is in good condition.
  • Wash bowls and scoops with warm, soapy water after each meal.
  • Do not use your pet’s food bowl as a scoop.
  • Wash your hands before and after feeding your pet.
  • Refrigerate any open wet food.
  • Store dry food in its bag in a cool dark place. If possible, keep the bag in a clean, airtight plastic container.
  • Discard any old or recalled pet food where animals cannot get to it.

Choosing a Pet Food

There are many different types of pet food available. In general, any commercial pet food will give your pet the nutrients they need. However, not all pet foods are of the same quality.

Canned vs. Dry

Dry food is easier to store and less expensive than canned food. However, many pet owners prefer giving their animal canned food.

Most veterinarians advocate using canned pet foods to augment dry food. Canned food may simply be too expensive as the main staple of a pet’s diet. Furthermore, a diet of only canned food can lead to gum and tooth problems.

Canned food does have some advantages, however. It generally has a higher meat content and fewer preservatives than dry food. It can also provide needed fluids to pets that do not drink enough water.

There are healthy options for both canned and dry foods. It’s up to you and your vet to decide what is best.

Price and Quality

The difference in price and quality between premium and low-end brands is not as clear as it may seem. Premium brands are often quite a bit more expensive. However, they may contain far higher meat content. They may also require less food per serving.

Make sure to check the packaging to see what the serving size should be. The price differences may not be as drastic as you think.

Raw or Homemade Dog Food

More and more people are feeding their dogs homemade food. Some experts advocate feeding dogs as close to a “natural” diet as possible. This means feeding raw meat, vegetables, and grains. Others advocate cooking homemade dog food.

There is no overall consensus when it comes to making your own dog food. However, if you are going to go this route, keep safety in mind. Commercial dog foods are formulated to contain all the nutrients your dog needs. There is also a higher risk of food poisoning if you feed your dog raw meat.

Talk to your vet about the risks and benefits of homemade dog foods. They can help you keep your pet safe. 

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