Simplifying Pet Food Labels

Reading nutrition labels on your pet’s food is important for selecting the right type. In this article we will show you how to better understand the sometimes complicated labels.

Just like with with packaged food for humans, all dog food comes with a nutrition label. This label is designed to help the consumer compare similar products and learn more about the item. However, these labels can often be hard to uncode. Below we break down some frequently asked questions.

1) How do I read the ingredient list for dog food?

Pet food, just like packaged food for people, must list their ingredients by weight, starting with the heaviest first. However, keep in mind that if the first ingredient is a type of meat it is made up of about seventy-five percent water, according to the FDA. Without the water weight, the meat ingredient would likely fall lower on the list.

Meat meals, such as bone meal or chicken meal are different; most of the water and fat has been removed which dehydrates and concentrates the animal protein.

2) Should I avoid byproducts and what are they?

Most Veterinarians say that giving your pet byproducts is a personal choice, and that any food listed as “complete and balanced” should meet your dog’s nutritional needs.

Meat byproducts include: blood, bone, brains, stomachs, udders, esophagus, tongue, diaphragm, and cleaned intestines, according to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Hair, horns, teeth, and hooves are not allowed, but an exception exists when unavoidable during processing.

Most byproducts, while unsavory to people, are full of nutritional value and your pet would enjoy eating them.

3) Are the large scientific words towards the end of the list bad for my dog?

The FDA must approve any preservatives, artificial colors, and stabilizers in pet food as safe before allowing the product to be sold. Manufacturers must list these ingredients, but do not need to list the preservatives in the ingredients themselves. Such as chicken meal or fish that is processed elsewhere.

Some pet food manufacturers have gone away with using chemical preservatives, this however, shortens the shelf life of the food. Be sure to double check the “best by” date to prevent your dog from becoming sick from rancid fat.

4) Does my food meet all of my pet’s needs?

The best way to tell if your dog’s food is giving them enough nutritional value is to look for a statement of nutritional adequacy on the label.

Many manufacturers follow models set by the AAFCO that establish a baseline minimum amount of nutrition needed to provide a complete and balanced diet. The AAFCO label should also tell you what stage of your dog’s life the food is appropriate for. Due to the wide variety of nutritional needs for senior dogs, there is no set standard for their food.

5) What is the guaranteed analysis?

Every dog food label must list the minimum amount of protein and fat as well as the maximum percentage of fiber and moisture in the food. At least ten percent of the pet’s daily diet, by weight, should be protein. Five and a half percent should be fat.

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Guaranteed Food Analysis Example

6) What does “natural” or “holistic” mean on labels?

According to the law, not much. Food labeled as natural should contain fewer, if any, synthetic ingredients. ‘Holistic’, along with ‘premium’ and ‘super-premium’ are often marketing terms and there is no rule that controls how they are used.

7) What is organic pet food?

At this time there is no official definition for organic pet food. However, it is currently under review.

A dog who is getting proper nutrition through their food has already taken step one to having a healthy coat. With regular scheduled grooming your pet’s fur will be healthier than ever! Contact us today to schedule a dog grooming appointment.

For more information on pet nutrition check out our previous article on what not to feed your pet. And as always, follow us on Facebook for more picture, videos, and articles!

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