When you are caring for your dog, you of course want to help them be as healthy as possible. But how can you make sure that your dog is getting the best food, supplements, and medications? Different regulatory parties in the pet industry help ensure that food, medications, and supplements improve the health of animals. Knowing some specific details of food and drug requirements becomes more important as people demand higher quality care for their dogs and other pets.
Dog food is regulated on multiple levels. The FDA provides blanket supervision of safety and quality standards. Substances known to be toxic or harmful to dogs must be eliminated from dog food, regardless of its safety for other species. Dog food manufacturers must work under sanitary conditions.
AAFCO (The Association of American Feed Control Officials) does not regulate dog food but sets forth specific quality and testing protocols that manufacturers must meet to make any nutritional claims. AAFCO's priority is to ensure dog foods labeled as complete and balanced diets meet minimal nutritional standards for specified groups.
Medications for animals are under rigorous regulation by the FDA to prove they are both safe and effective. Once a substance is classified as a drug, the FDA must determine if it is new and requires approval. The FDA also regulates drugs for the ability to detect them in animal tissues for human consumption. This is standard, though not relevant for pets. The FDA regulates drugs for labeled use and evaluates proposed categories of prescription versus over-the-counter marketing.
The DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) regulates scheduled II and III controlled substances, ensuring careful accounting for all drug amounts. Medication regulations also include quality control of veterinary compounding and biologics such as vaccines and blood products.
While dog food regulations are similar to standards governing human foods, supplements are treated much differently for pets. The FDA does not have a specific category for supplements. Often you will see AAFCO qualifications on dog food labels stating it does not recognize the necessity of an ingredient.
Still, in many ways, pet supplements are more regulated than human supplements. This is not the case with quality control. Human supplements must be developed in laboratory conditions to be considered high-quality, but canine supplements are generally under looser standards.
Requirements involving dog food, supplements, and medications appear to have begun with efforts to protect pet owners. Later, regulations were driven by animal welfare concerns, still heavily influenced by consumer demands. The priorities in recent years are full disclosure to pet owners and an emphasis on products that provide true benefits to dogs.