Pet Food Processed for Complete, Balanced Nutrition

By Lee Pickett

January 16, 2020 4 min read

Q: Why should I buy processed food full of chemicals for my cat when we humans are encouraged to eat unprocessed foods? What do you think of homemade diets for cats?

A: Human processed food is designed to be tasty, quick and easy to prepare; less expensive than meats and produce; and capable of a long shelf life. In contrast, pet food was invented to provide a complete and balanced diet within a single product.

Each pet food container displays one of four statements about nutritional adequacy:

— The label may say the food was formulated for a particular life stage, such as growth or maintenance, in accordance with the nutrient profiles established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials, or AAFCO.

— It may specify that the food was actually tested in cats following AAFCO feeding trial protocols and shown to provide complete and balanced nutrition for a particular life stage.

— The label may state that the food is comparable in nutritional adequacy to another diet that was tested using AAFCO protocols.

— Or the label may indicate the product is only for intermittent or supplementary use. In other words, the product, usually a treat, is not balanced or nutritionally complete.

The chemicals you're concerned about are usually nutrients. For example, pyridoxine hydrochloride may sound scary, but it's just vitamin B6. Another example, taurine, is an essential amino acid for cats; deficiencies cause heart failure and blindness.

Finally, research shows that most homemade diets, whether published in books or on the internet, are actually unbalanced and nutritionally inadequate. A 2019 study of 114 homemade recipes promoted for adult cats found that all contained nutrient deficiencies.

Talk with your veterinarian, who can advise you about the best foods for your cat.

Q: Cyrus, my 5-year-old Labrador retriever, roughhoused with a younger dog all afternoon. Tonight, his tail is limp, and he can't move it. I think it hurts, because he walks away when I touch it. Did he break his tail when he was playing? What should I do?

A: Whenever Cyrus has a problem, make an appointment to have his veterinarian check him. Because he's in pain, he needs to be seen immediately.

It sounds like Cyrus may have sprained or strained the muscles, tendons and ligaments that support his tail and make it wag. The condition has many names: limber tail, limp tail, dead tail, swimmer's tail and cold tail.

This disorder most often appears suddenly as a flaccid tail that either hangs straight down or is held out a few inches and then hangs down. Often the base of the tail is tender, and it may be swollen. Usually the dog is lethargic from the pain.

The condition usually occurs in sporting and working breeds after a hard workout, prolonged swimming, extended time in the crate or exposure to cold, wet weather.

Treatment consists of rest and an anti-inflammatory pain reliever. Recovery usually occurs within a few days to a week.

Still, it's important to have your veterinarian examine Cyrus to be sure his tail injury isn't something more serious and to prescribe treatment to speed his recovery.

Lee Pickett, VMD, practices companion animal medicine in North Carolina. Contact her at

Photo credit: freestocks-photos at Pixabay

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