TANYA'S

COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO

FELINE CHRONIC KIDNEY DISEASE

 

 
 

HOW TO USE THE CAT FOOD DATA TABLES

 

     

ON THIS PAGE:


The Different Ways of Assessing Food Content


What's on the Cans: Guaranteed or Typical Analysis


What We Need (and Why): Dry Matter Analysis  


What to Look For When Choosing a Food


Sources of Data


 

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Home > Diet and Nutrition > Food Data Tables

 


Overview


  • The food data tables have quickly become one of the most popular parts of this website.

  • The tables list many American and British cat foods in order of their phosphorus, protein, sodium and fat content.

  • These data are calculated on the basis of dry matter analysis. I know many people are very confused about why the data in the tables differ so much from the percentages shown on the cans or on manufacturers' websites.

  • I also know many people think they can just rush out and buy the first food on the list that their cat will eat but unfortunately it's not that simple.

  • Please read below to understand why the food data tables are calculated in this way and how best to use them.

  • Please read this page before contacting me to tell my data are incorrect - chances are you have misunderstood how I calculate the data. Yes, I know the information on the cans is not the same.


The Different Ways of Assessing Food Content


Unfortunately there are a number of different ways of assessing food content, which can make choosing a cat food a very confusing exercise. All these methods have their pros and cons.

This page explains the differences between the different methods and why I use dry matter analysis.

 

Guaranteed Analysis - Used in the USA


Virtually all US cat food manufacturers provide their food data as Guaranteed Analysis (GA). This is to comply with AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) guidelines. AAFCO is responsible for overseeing pet food production in the USA, and its guidelines cover the production, labelling, and sale of pet foods. Guaranteed analysis is normally provided as As Fed data.

 

Unfortunately, guaranteed analysis is of only limited use when trying to compare foods for CKD cats. This is because guaranteed analysis only provides maximum and minimum values, and the only ones which are compulsory are protein and fat (minimums), and fibre and moisture (maximums). If phosphorus is shown (and it is not compulsory), it is usually given as a minimum. This makes it very hard to assess whether a food is suitable for a CKD cat, for whom you need to know the exact amount or at the very least the maximum amount of phosphorus in particular. The minimum is potentially very misleading. For example, I could tell you "I have a minimum income of US$25,000" when in fact my income was US$250,000. I wouldn't have lied; on the other hand I wouldn't have given you meaningful information either.

 

Here's an example of how this affects foods. Let's say we are looking at a food with the following GA figures:

  • moisture: max 80%

  • phosphorus: min 0.20%

If we assume these values are correct, this gives us a dry matter analysis figure (see below) of 1% for phosphorus.

 

Now let's say the actual figures are:

  • moisture: 79.0%

  • phosphorus: 0.25%

This gives us a DMA figure of 1.19% for phosphorus, so very different from the figures we came up with if we used GA figures.

 

Because of this, and because so many manufacturers are unable to provide information on a Dry Matter Analysis basis (in fact, a fair number don't even seem to realise there is a difference), there are quite a few foods missing from the tables. We are continuing to liaise with the manufacturers regarding the missing data.

 

Decoding AAFCO Guidelines (2013) Larsen J Clinician's Brief Feb 2013 pp9-11 explains more about AAFCO's guidelines.

 

Typical Analysis - Used in Europe


Virtually all European cat food manufacturers provide their food data as Typical Analysis. This is to comply with EU legislation. Regulation 183/2005/EC on Feed Hygiene covers the safety of all feed, including pet food, in Europe. The UK Food Standards Agency has more information about the legal requirements for pet food.  In the UK, over 90% of pet food manufacturers are also members of the Pet Food Manufacturers Association, and comply with its guidelines.

 

Unfortunately, typical analysis is of only limited use when trying to compare foods for CKD cats. This is because, although it is more reliable than Guaranteed Analysis, it does not allow for the moisture content in the food.

 

What we really need is dry matter analysis (DMA).

 

Dry Matter Analysis - Used on This Website


Cat foods vary in how much moisture they contain, which makes it difficult to compare them to each other. It is very hard, for example, to compare a tinned cat food to a dry cat food because the former naturally contains much more water; and this affects all the percentages of the different nutrients. Dry matter analysis is a way of comparing foods by assuming all the moisture content has been removed: this makes it easier to compare different products. Whenever this site mentions levels of the various components of foods, it is talking about them on the basis of dry matter analysis, which is not necessarily the same as what it says on the can. 

 

Let's take an example. Let's say:

  • you give your cat a food with 80% moisture, a typical level for many tinned foods;

  • the food apparently has phosphorus of 0.25%;

  • your cat eats 100g of the food.

It therefore appears that your cat is eating 0.25g of phosphorus (100g x 0.25%).

 

However, the food is 80% water. So of the 100g your cat has just eaten, 80g (80%) of it was simply water, and only 20% was actual food, or dry matter. So the amount of phosphorus is actually higher - in percentage terms - than it first appeared, i.e. your cat has eaten 0.25% divided by (100%-80%) or 1.25% phosphorus. 

 

Another way of looking at it is to say that your cat food initially had 1.25% phosphorus. Then the manufacturers added 80% water. There is still the same total amount of phosphorus in the food, but at first the percentage appears lower because of the diluting effect of the water. So in order to understand exactly how much phosphorus your cat is eating, you need to discount the water in the food.

 

There are other ways of calculating the values in cat foods. One which some manufacturers like to use is Metabolisable Energy (ME). This can be useful, because it gives you some idea of how calorie dense a food is. The main reason I use Dry Matter Analysis is because that is the format which leading vets use when making recommendations for target nutrient intake in CKD cats.

 

Calculating Dry Matter Analysis Yourself


You shouldn't often need to calculate dry matter yourself because I've already done it for many foods. If you do want to do it yourself, you need to know the amount of moisture in the food and the amount of whatever you are measuring (often this will be phosphorus), and then you need to crunch the numbers a little.

 

Let's assume you have a food with a moisture content of 76% and a phosphorus content of 0.2% on an As Fed basis. This is the formula:

  • The dry matter in a food is always 100 - (% moisture in the food). So in this example, with 76% moisture, 100-76% leaves 24% dry matter.

  • You then have to divide the phosphorus content by the dry matter. In this case, you would divide 0.2% phosphorus by 24% dry matter, which gives 0.833% phosphorus content of this food on a Dry Matter Analysis basis.

Remember, using the data from cans of food in the USA for this exercise is often unreliable because the data on the cans tend to be maximums or minimums rather than actual data.

 

Scheyder Web Design has a DMA calculator.

 

The US Food & Drug Administration also explains about dry matter analysis (scroll down to Guaranteed Analysis).

 


What to Look For When Choosing a Food


Please don't just rush out and buy the first food at the top of the list! There are a number of issues to consider when choosing the best food for your cat's particular needs.

 

The tables simply provide information on the amount of the various components of the foods. This is only half the story. There is also the question of the quality of different cat foods, particularly what constitutes a high quality protein and which ingredients are the best. You can read more about these issues on the Which Foods to Feed and Nutritional Requirements pages. If you want to check the actual ingredients in a food, either visit the manufacturer's own website (there are links to lists of US and UK manufacturers and their website addresses here) or visit a site such as Pet Food Direct which tells you the ingredients of the foods it sells. If you'd like to discuss the various foods and ask what has worked for other people, join Tanya's CKD Support Group.

 

You also need to consider the calories in a food. I am often asked if I could add calorie details to the food data tables. I am in the process of doing this, but in the meantime you can find the calorie content of some US foods here (canned) and here (dry). If the food you are interested in is not included there, check the manufacturer's website. Generally speaking, lower fat foods have fewer calories, as do gravy foods.

 

AAFCO Minimum Levels


US commercial adult foods certified as complete must meet the AAFCO guidelines for adult maintenance foods. These were reviewed in 2015 and new guidelines published in 2016.

 

These are the minimum levels permitted by AAFCO (fibre is the only component which has a maximum level):

 

Dietary Component Minimum Level for Adult Cats % on a DMA Basis)
Phosphorus   0.50
Protein 26.00
Sodium   0.20
Fat   9.00

 

Phosphorus


  • If your cat's phosphorus level in blood tests is too high, this will make your cat feel ill and may make the CKD progress faster.

  • In order to reduce these risks, your goal is to have your cat's serum level of phosphorus (i.e. what your vet tests in bloodwork) no higher than 4.5 mg/dl (USA) or 1.5 mmol/L (international).

  • The easiest and most effective way to control blood phosphorus levels is by feeding foods low in phosphorus.

  • People sometimes think that if a food does not mention phosphorus on the label, it must not contain any. This is virtually impossible, especially if the food contains animal-based protein, as most cat foods do. As outlined in the table above, any American food labelled as an adult maintenance food must contain at least 0.5% phosphorus on a dry matter analysis basis and many foods contain far more than this.

  • If your cat won't eat a therapeutic kidney diet, you still need your cat to eat. Since the minimum level of phosphorus in a non-therapeutic kidney food is 0.5%, you are not going to find a complete commercial food with phosphorus below this level, but you may be able to find a food in the table which has a low level of phosphorus which your cat will eat. The table lists foods in order of phosphorus content so you can clearly see which foods might be worth considering.

  • In order to keep your cat eating, you may have to have a less ambitious goal, at least to start with, of, say, feeding a food with less than  0.75% or less than 1% phosphorus.

  • But your ultimate goal should be to feed the lowest phosphorus food that your cat will eat.

  • Whichever food you opt for, always introduce a new food gradually (mix it with the food you've been using previously and gradually increase the percentage of the new food) so as to reduce the risk of tummy upsets.

  • If you are not feeding a therapeutic kidney food, you will probably have to give your cat a phosphorus binder. Please read the Phosphorus Binders page for more information.

Protein


  • The need for reduced protein for CKD cats is much debated, and may not be necessary for cats in the early stages of CKD. See Nutritional Requirements for more information.

  • However, since BUN levels are influenced by diet, it does often help the cat feel better if you restrict protein intake, particularly as the CKD progresses and BUN rises.

  • Most therapeutic kidney diets have protein levels of between 28 and 35%.

  • When choosing a commercial food from the lists, I would not only look at the phosphorus level but also consider the protein level. That is to say, if for example I have two foods with the same phosphorus level to choose from and my cat will eat both of them, and one food has 32% protein while the other has 50% protein, I would normally choose the lower protein food.

  • Personally I would try to feed a food with a protein level of 35% on a dry matter analysis basis, or as close to this as you can get.

Sodium


  • Since CKD cats are prone to high blood pressure, it is generally advisable to try to feed a food low in sodium.

  • In fact, one study, Effects of sodium chloride on selected parameters in cats (2006) Kirk CA, Jewell DE, Lowry SR Veterinary Therapeutics: Research in Applied Veterinary Medicine 7(4) pp333-346 found that there was actually no change in blood pressure in the CKD cats in this study, but levels of BUN, creatinine and phosphorus were higher in the cats eating a high sodium diet compared to those eating a low sodium diet.

  • The sodium content of the prescription renal diets varies widely. The minimum level permitted by AAFCO is 0.2%. It is unlikely that you need to go much higher than this.

  • As with protein, I would factor this into choosing a food. If for example I have two foods with the same phosphorus level and a similar protein level to choose from and my cat will eat both of them, and one food has 0.3% sodium while the other has 1% sodium, I would normally choose the lower sodium food.

Fat


  • As with protein, cats need relatively high levels of fat compared to a human or dog. 

  • Fat does not result in a lot of waste products like protein, so processing it is not a strain on the kidneys. In fact, in most CKD prescription foods, the fat content is increased to compensate for the reduced protein levels.

  • Therefore a diet relatively high in fat can help an older cat to maintain his/her weight while placing less strain on the kidneys. 

  • In other words, if you have a choice of two similar foods and you wish to maintain or even increase your cat's weight, it is probably better to choose the food with the higher fat content.


Sources of Data


 

I have spent hours contacting the various manufacturers to obtain the correct information, and I have then crunched the numbers where necessary.

 

These analyses have been compiled in good faith from the information provided to me by the manufacturers. Where possible, I have obtained the data in writing in order to avoid any misunderstandings. The data may not necessarily match the information on the cans, which show maximum values for moisture and phosphorus rather than actual values.

 

Unfortunately food formulations can change without warning, and therefore I cannot guarantee that the data are still accurate; no responsibility can be accepted. Several of the manufacturers have asked me to emphasise that their non-therapeutic kidney diets are not intended for CKD cats.  

 

For those juggling more than one health condition, the tables also includes data for other therapeutic diets. Although I don't recommend feeding raw foods to CKD cats, since I know some people may already be feeding them, data for these foods are included. Treats will be added in due course.

 

Please see the sidebar on the left or Cat Food Data Overview for links to the various food data tables, plus brand contact details and my opinion of their levels of helpfulness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This page last updated: 15 January 2017

Links on this page last checked: 15 January  2017

   

 

 

*****

 

TREATING YOUR CAT WITHOUT VETERINARY ADVICE CAN BE EXTREMELY DANGEROUS.

 

I have tried very hard to ensure that the information provided in this website is accurate, but I am NOT a vet, just an ordinary person who has lived through CKD with three cats. This website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to be used to diagnose or treat any cat. Before trying any of the treatments described herein, you MUST consult a qualified veterinarian and obtain professional advice on the correct regimen for your cat and his or her particular requirements; and you should only use any treatments described here with the full knowledge and approval of your vet. No responsibility can be accepted.

 

If your cat appears to be in pain or distress, do not waste time on the internet, contact your vet immediately.

 

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