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


The Nitty Gritty: The Food Data Tables


 

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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.

  • If you wish to go straight to the links to the tables, click here.


The Different Ways of Assessing Food Content                                            Back to Page Index


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.

  • Most US manufacturers provide their food data in the form of Guaranteed Analysis (GA). You may also see references to As Fed data.

  • Most UK manufacturers provide their food data in the form of Typical Analysis.

  • This website uses dry matter analysis (DMA).

  • 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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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

 


What to Look For When Choosing a Food                                                      Back to Page Index


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

 

Dietary Component Minimum Level (% 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, although many people do not try to actively control their cat's phosphorus levels with phosphorus binders until the level is closer to 6.

  • The easiest and most effective way to control 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.

  • Ideally you want to feed a food with a phosphorus level under 0.5% according to Dr Scott Brown in Management of feline chronic renal failure (1998) Waltham Focus 8 (3). No commercial adult food which meets AAFCO guidelines will meet this requirement because the minimum phosphorus level required by AAFCO is 0.5%.

  • If your cat won't eat the prescription foods, you still need your cat to eat. Since the minimum level of phosphorus in a non-prescription food is 0.5%, you are not going to find a complete commercial food with phosphorus below 0.5% like most prescription foods, 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.

Protein


  • The need for lower protein food 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 prescription foods have protein levels of between 25 and 30%, usually around 28%.

  • When choosing a commercial food from the lists, therefore, 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.

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 lower 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                                                                                                    Back to Page Index


 

A small team from Tanya's CKD Support Group and the German CKD group, nierenkranke Katze, has spent hours contacting the various manufacturers to obtain the correct information, and I have then crunched the numbers where necessary. A huge thank you to Amy, Anna, Anne, Cher, Elise, Elizabeth, Joy, June, Karen, Kim, Larry, Lee, Leslie, Marion, Melinda and Nancy, who I'm sure would never have signed up if they had known what tedious hard graft this would be, but whose efforts are truly making a difference to CKD cats' lives.

 

These analyses have been compiled in good faith from the information provided to the team by the manufacturers. Where possible, we 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-prescription foods are not intended for CKD cats.  

 

For those juggling more than one health condition, the table also includes data for other prescription foods.  US baby foods are also included in the US canned food table since they can be very helpful in getting a CKD cat to eat. 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.

 

Almo Nature


Having asked repeatedly, in November 2011 we finally accepted that we are never going to obtain any data from Almo Nature, they simply do not appear to understand the concept of dry matter analysis and tell us that their foods are basically just the same as their ingredients, so if we look up, say, chicken, that should be sufficient. The mind boggles. Personally I would not feed something made by a manufacturer incapable of providing basic information about its own products.

 

In addition, a 2013 study, Vitamin D intoxication caused by ingestion of commercial cat food in three kittens (2013) Wehner A, Katzenberger J, Groth A, Dorsch R, Koelle P, Hartmann K, Weber K Journal of Feline Medicine & Surgery 15(8) reported on three kittens in Germany who became ill after eating a commercial food containing too much Vitamin D. One recovered, one was put to sleep, the third has ongoing kidney damage. The commercial food in question was Almo Nature Kitten with Chicken food. It had a declared amount of Vitamin D3 of 6488 IU/kg (dry matter) but analysis showed that the food actually contained 202,155 IU/kg (dry matter).

 


The Food Data Tables                                                                                            Back to Page Index


 

IMPORTANT: foods marked * in the table are NOT complete foods and should NOT be fed exclusively.

 

US Foods


UK Foods


 

 

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This page last updated: 22 September 2013

Links on this page last checked: 26 April 2012