Reading Dog Food Labels

With so many dog food brands to choose from, being able to read and interpret dog food labels is essential for your dog’s health. According to AAFCO, pet food labels are very highly regulated both on a federal and a state level. The primary regulations for pet foods focus on product labeling and ingredients. Outlined below are eight items that are absolutely required on all pet food labels.

healthy pet productsLabel Requirements for All Pet Foods, including Snacks and Pet Treats:

1. Brand and Product Name

Many pet food brands and product names strive to feature certain ingredients so as to attract potential customers. For instance, consider these names – “Beef Dog Food”, “Beef Recipe Dog Food”, “Dog Food with Beef” and “Beef Flavor Dog Food”. Different rules apply to each name. The placement of the ingredient indicates a different percentage of the ingredient within the pet food; in this case, “Beef Dog Food” most likely has a greater percentage of beef than “Beef Flavor Dog Food”. In fact, “Beef Flavor Dog Food” likely does not contain any real beef at all!

2. Intended Recipient of Pet Food

If the pet food is intended for a dog, the product name must clearly indicate that. Pet food names are required to be quite specific in this area. For instance, “Beef Dog Food” or “Salmon Treats for Cats”.

3. Quantity Statement

The net weight or net volume must be expressed in the correct units. This information must be printed on the lower third of the principal display panel.

4. Guaranteed Analysis

In order for a dog food brand to make claims about the nutrients in their dog food (such as “High in protein and calcium”), the company is required to show the guarantees for these nutrients. The Guaranteed Analysis lists the percentage of each of the nutrients in the food, including crude protein, crude fat, and crude fiber. Please note that the word “crude” refers to the analysis method. The minimum percent of crude protein and crude fat, and the maximum percent of crude fiber and moisture are always required.

5. Ingredient Statement

Looking at the ingredients on a pet food label is a great way to determine which pet food brand to choose. Keep in mind that ingredients must be listed in order of predominance by weight, on an “as formulated basis”. Therefore, the first ingredient listed makes up the highest percentage of the total weight as it goes into the pet food.

6. Nutritional Adequacy Statement

This statement indicates that the food is complete and balanced for a particular stage of your pet’s life, such as growth or adult maintenance. It could even be a combination of various stages, or perhaps intended for supplemental feeding only. Snack, treats, and supplements are exempt.

7. Feeding Directions

If a pet food is labeled as “complete and balanced” for any or all life stages, the label must include recommended feeding directions that instruct the owner how much food (by amount) to feed per weight of the dog/cat. Feeding frequency must also be stated.

healthy pet products8. Manufacturer / Distributor’s Name and Address

The product should provide the company’s location by city, state and zip code.

While these required items are necessary for all pet food in general, other aspects may be conditionally required. For example, if a product claims to be “low calorie”, the pet food would require a calorie content statement with specified methods and format.

Some pet food labels may claim to be “veterinarian recommended “. Such endorsements on product labels are permitted. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has determined that these claims would be adequately supported by a statistically sound survey of veterinarians. However, there is much variation in determining a number that is “statistically sound” in this case. Are two veterinarians adequate? Twelve? Two- hundred? How many veterinarians have actually been surveyed for that recommended pet food product?

It is also worth mentioning that while “veterinarian recommended” requires surveying a “statistically sound” number of veterinarians, it only takes one veterinarian to support the claim “veterinarian formulated” or “veterinarian developed”.

Most, if not all, commercial pet food brands invest heavily in marketing strategies as well as the formulation of their recipes. And unfortunately, not all pet food manufacturers have your pet’s wellbeing in mind. Therefore, as a pet owner, it is necessary to inspect everything on a pet food label before choosing what your dog or cat eats every day.

Pet Bistro’s mission is to promote healthy living for your pet by striving to understand their needs. Pet Bistro provides organic dog food using the freshest and healthiest ingredients, free of chemical additives, animal by-products, soy, corn, dyes, fillers, gluten, additives, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, artificial preservatives, or artificial flavors. Now there is an ingredient statement to be proud of!

Keep your dog happy and healthy with Pet Bistro’s products, including organic and gluten free dog treats, organic dog food made with real meat, and dog drinks!