Animal Testing in the Pet Food Industry: Which Brands Can You Trust?

Tammy@GFV By Tammy@GFV - Updated: September 18th, 2018
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A brief lesson on animal testing in the pet food industry, as well as a list of pet food brands that do and do NOT test on animals.

Our furry friends deserve the absolute best. They deserve our love and care, as well as great food made to the same standards we'd want for ourselves. But a lot of times our pets' foods are tested on other furry friends. It's hypocritical to subject other dogs and cats through animal testing for the sake of our pets.

In this post, you'll find information on the testing procedures, as well as a list of pet food brands that do and don't test on animals.

A brief lesson in animal testing in the pet food industry

Before a new pet food enters the market, it must meet FDA standards as well as the standards of each state in which it plans to sell. Most states model their standards after those set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).

AAFCO is not a regulatory board. Its main purpose is to establish nutritional standards for animal feed and pet food. The FDA uses AAFCO standards to regulate the pet food industry.

Pet food must meet the nutritional profiles specified by the AAFCO in order to be considered 'complete and balanced'. These nutritional profiles are broken down in 2 categories:

1. Adult maintenance for adult dogs and cats.
2. Growth and reproduction for puppies, kittens, and pregnant mothers.

If the pet food meets both profiles, then it's considered to be formulated for all life stages.

There are 2 ways of testing that the food meets AAFCO nutritional standards:

1. By laboratory testing only.
2. By animal feeding trials and laboratory testing.

Luckily, the testing method is noted in the packaging. If it's tested by laboratory only, you will see a label that reads like this:

(Brand name & recipe) is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO nutrient profiles for (puppy, adult, all life stages, etc..)

If the food undergoes a feeding trial, the label will read like this:

Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that (brand name & recipe) provides complete and balanced nutrition for (kitten, adult, all life stages, etc..)

Feeding trials for adult dogs and cats consists of the following:

- At least 8 test animals; only 6 need to complete the trial.
- Must be at least 1 year old.
- The test food must be the only source of nutrition for at least 26 weeks.
- Body weight is measured weekly.
- Blood work is done to determine that certain blood parameters have not fallen below the minimum.
- At the end of the trial the animals must not show any signs of a nutritional deficiency.

Overall, feeding trials are not necessarily cruel or inhumane. The cruelty comes behind the captivity and the unknown conditions in which the test animals are kept.

In the early 2000's, PETA did an undercover investigation of a lab that was contracted by Iams to conduct feeding trials.

PETA found sick dogs and cats locked in cages without veterinary care. They found dogs thrown in a cement floor after having chunks of their leg muscles cut out. These are just a few of the atrocities.

Honestly, I do not know if tests of this kind are still conducted, and I do not know if such abuse is still common. Most big brand pet food companies are not transparent about their procedures.

One of the few transparent companies is Hills Pet Nutrition, the makers of Science Diet. Hills gives tours of the testing facility where the lab animals are kept. 

Hills purchases test animals from a breeder that only breeds lab animals, mostly beagles. The lab animals live in what they call 'pet colonies', where they have access to the outside, play areas, and they even get to spend quality time with the employees. After the animals are done with their 'tour' they are put up for adoption.

But for every Hills, there are probably dozens of labs that do not give their animals a quality of life. Some animals are born in the lab, and die in the lab, never to see the light of day.

Whether the lab testing is done humanely or not, the bottom-line is that when you purchase pet food that undergoes feeding trails, you are supporting a lab animal breeding facility.

Are feeding trials really necessary?

Veterinarians consider the feeding trial method to be the 'gold standard' because it's the only way to know that the food will sustain your dog over time.

Still, some veterinarians find feeding trails to be flawed:

Just because a diet can sustain a dog in a laboratory environment for about six months without causing illness or abnormal blood values doesn't mean it will perform the same way for dogs who may lead a much more active and stressful life, and for years on end.

Now, and this is my opinion, I'd like to think that the pet food industry has been around long enough to know what causes and what doesn't cause nutritional deficiencies to cats and dogs. After all, the nutritional standards are already set.

If the pet food industry collectively decided to use quality ingredients, I am sure that testing on lab animals would not be necessary. However, most pet food companies use low quality ingredients (like by-product from dead, disabled, or diseased animals) to keep their costs down, which is probably why they prefer to use the feeding trial method.

If they used high quality ingredients they'd be able to stand behind their product without subjecting an animal to captivity and testing.

What are other testing options besides feeding trials?

Some companies are choosing to conduct testing in a home based setting with their own pets or pets of select customers. Personally, I think that if a company is willing to test a new formula on their own pets, then they must be very confident of their product.

The foods listed below use this method.

Pet food brands that DO NOT test on lab animals

If you want to go cruelty free,  you should also consider the welfare of farm animals. Open Farm (listed below) is the only pet food available that does not test on animals and uses ethically raised and sourced meat.

- Open Farm - I use and recommend this food. Read my review of Open Farm pet food.
- Acana
- Answers Pet Food
- Artemis
- Fromm Family
- Fussie Cat
- Halo
- Just Food For Dogs
- Solid Gold
- The Honest Kitchen
- Orijen
- Primal Pet Foods
- Stella & Chewy's
- Timberwolf Organics
- V-Dog
- Weruva
- Wysong
- Zignature

Pet food brands that DO test on lab animals

Here I am including some brands that do not test on animals but the parent company does. For example, Royal Canin (owned by Mars) does not test on lab animals, but other Mars brands do. I do not support parent companies that test on lab animals.

- Big Heart Pet - Natures Recipe, Meow Mix, 9 Lives, Natural Balance, & Kibbles & Bits.
- Blue Buffalo
- Canidae
- Colgate -Hills Science Diet, Hills Prescription Diet, & Hills Ideal Balance.
- Dogswell - Nutrisca, Vitality, Boundless, Happy Hips & Super Boost.
- Mars - Nutro, Pedigree, Iams, Whiskas, Royal Canin, Eukanuba, Sheba, Evo, & California Natural.
- Natures Variety
- Nestle - Merrick, & all Purina foods (Alpo, Beneful, Chef Makers, Dog Chow, Fancy Feast, Felix, Friskies, Gourmet, Purina One, & Purina ProPlan).
- WellPet - Wellness, Holistic Select, Eagle Pack, & Sojos.

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See this post in my blog with all images and source links: Animal Testing in the Pet Food Industry: Which Brands Can You Trust?

If you like this article, please visit my blog, Guilt Free Vegetarian and follow me on FaceBook * Google + * Twitter * Pinterest

Useful Links: List of Companies that DO NOT Test on Animals / List of Companies that Test on Animals / List of Humanely Raised Meat & Dairy Brands