There’s a lot of information available online today that can confuse pet owners about pet health and nutrition. PFI is committed to helping pet lovers get the facts about the food they choose for their dogs and cats, and will provide responses here to some of the most popular pet food questions. Make sure to continue checking the site as we tackle additional issues.

Common Questions DCM Q&A

After meeting with pet lovers, reporters, influencers and other pet advocates, PFI has put together an overview of some of the common pet food questions individuals have about pet food and nutrition. Please see below and let us know if you have a question you would like added to this page.


How is pet food regulated?
Pet food is among the most highly regulated of all food categories in the United States, including at both the federal and state levels. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates both finished pet food products (including treats and chews) and their ingredients. Nearly all states also require products sold therein to be registered, and for their labels to adhere to strict requirements regarding product names and ingredients.

An ingredient cannot be used in pet food until it has been accepted by the FDA and/or adopted by the Association of American Feed Officials (AAFCO), the organization of state regulatory officials that develops model regulations for pet food and animal feed that can be included in state law. To learn about pet food regulations, click here.

Is commercial pet food safe?
As makers of the sole source of nutrition for America’s pets, PFI members hold pet food safety as the number one priority. From using reliable and trusted ingredients to executing ongoing sampling and testing throughout the manufacturing process, and implementing safety and traceability assurance measures during packaging, PFI members are committed to continuous improvement in the safety of ingredients and finished products. To learn more about the commitment to safety and what this means for pet food manufacturing, click here.
Why are there pet food recalls?
Recalls are an important part of the food safety system. Recalls can result from instances such as testing by the pet food maker, a product that is out of specification with a company’s food safety plan, a mislabeled product, the improper balance of nutrients, or independent testing and notification by a regulatory official. The vast majority of recalls are voluntary, and the pet food maker initiates the recall based on evidence there may be a problem. In the event of a recall, PFI members rapidly work internally, with distributors and retailers, and with regulators to remove a product from the shelf as quickly as possible. To find pet food recall information, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. If the product you purchased has been recalled, review the label code and contact the manufacturer.

In addition to the pet food makers themselves, ingredient suppliers must report any recall of their product to the FDA’s Reportable Food Registry so that information can be shared with customers. The RFR provides an added measure of security for pet food makers and, more important, for you and your pet.

Are artificial flavors, colors and preservatives safe?
Pet food makers consider a range of options when selecting ingredients for a dog or cat food, such as nutritional profile, appearance or tastiness for pets. As with other pet food ingredients, artificial flavors, colors or preservatives are strictly regulated. In order for these products to be used in a pet food recipe, they must be defined by regulatory bodies, be recognized by experts as safe for its intended use or have approval as a food additive by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
How do I safely store pet food at home?
Where and how pet food is stored can make a big difference in keeping food safe for cats and dogs. Before purchasing or opening a package of pet food, examine the package closely to ensure there are no tears or damages. Unopened wet and dry pet food should be stored in a cool, dry location indoors, and kept off garage floors.

Washing pet food storage containers between each bag of food is a helpful way to remember to check for damage and insect activity. When possible, store dry food in the original bag and within a plastic or metal bin with a lid. Wet or fresh food can be covered and stored in the refrigerator according to label guidelines.

Nutrition and Ingredients

What should I look for on the pet food label?
Pet food labels are full of information, much of it mandated at the state and federal levels. Dogs and cats require more than 40 essential nutrients, and a pet food product that is labeled as “complete and balanced” contains those nutrients at the proper amounts for their life stage. Click here to watch a quick video on how to understand what’s on a pet food label.

Shoppers have an array of options when considering food for their dog or cat. When selecting food for your pet, look for the nutritional adequacy statement, indicated life stage and the guaranteed analysis to ensure your pet is getting the nutrition he or she needs. The nutritional adequacy statement will indicate that the food is complete and balanced for a particular life stage, such as growth, reproduction, adult maintenance or a combination of these. If the food does not meet the complete and balanced requirements, it is intended for intermittent or supplemental feeding only. Ensure that you follow the feeding directions indicated on the package and that the food you select is appropriate for your pet’s life stage.

Finally, the guaranteed analysis (GA) indicates to regulators reviewing each label that the product complies with nutrient requirements and voluntary label claims. The GA also ensures you, the pet owner, can find the levels of, at a minimum, four key nutrients in your pet’s food: protein, fat, fiber and moisture.

What are by-products?
By-products are ingredients produced during the making of food for human consumption. Often referred to as “by-products” or “co-products,” animal by-products are parts of the animal that Americans choose not to eat but may be considered delicacies by others around the world. They also include plant-based ingredients made from the production of human food, such as brewery or bakery ingredients. By-products can be an excellent source of nutrition for cats and dogs, plus pets can find them delicious. By using by-products, pet food makers can support common sustainability goals, avoid competing with the human food supply, prevent additional land from being placed under agricultural production, and avoid safe, nutritious ingredients from going to waste.
There are so many options in pet food, such as natural, organic, raw pet food and limited-ingredient. What do they mean?
There are a variety of options when choosing the food for your pet. Pet food makers choose from a range of ingredients to help meet the needs of pet owners, while still providing complete and balanced nutrition. Click here to learn more about some of the differences among the variety of options available for your pet.
Can I feed my pet table scraps?
While we may like to give special treats to our pets, some table scraps and human foods, aside from not providing complete and balanced nutrition, can pose serious health problems for cats and dogs. From obesity risks to ingesting toxic ingredients, there are a variety of risks associated with feeding pets table scraps.
What is the difference between cat and dog food?
Dogs and cats have distinct nutritional needs and require separate diets to provide complete and balanced nutrition. We talk about some of the major nutritional differences between dogs and cats here.
How often should I give my pet a treat or chew?
Treats and chews can be great tools in training your pet, strengthening the bond with your pet, or keeping them occupied – when provided responsibly. However, treats and chews should be given in moderation and not substitute for a complete and balanced diet. It is recommended that no more than 10 percent of a pet’s caloric intake come from treats and for pet parents to refer to the feeding guidelines on the package. Learn more about responsible treating and chews here.
How can I help prevent pet obesity?
One way to help support your pet’s quality of life is to keep them at a healthy weight. More than half of America’s dogs and cats are overweight or obese, which can lead to serious health impacts such as arthritis, high blood pressure and heart disease.  Maintaining a pet’s healthy weight includes a simple combination of sound nutrition, exercise and preventative care. One of the most important steps a pet owner can take when maintaining a pet’s healthy weight is to review and follow feeding guidelines provided on pet food packages and measure out the appropriate amount of food at each meal to prevent overeating. More weight management tips can be found here.

Pet Food Makers in the Community

How are pet food makers actually helping pets across the country?
Just like you, pets are a part of the family for Pet Food Institute members. In fact, our members are taking steps to support the community, pets and people every day. This infographic helps explain some of those initiatives, such as regular donations to community shelters or supporting the development of new dog parks.
How are pet food makers supporting environmental sustainability?
PFI members take several different steps to support continued sustainability in the manufacturing of pet food. This can include steps such as investing in packaging advancements to minimize waste and maximize recycling to reducing water and energy use at manufacturing sites and avoiding competing with the human food supply. From responsible ingredient sourcing to on-site manufacturing and packaging, PFI members are finding multiple ways to advance the sustainable production of pet food.