Dog Food Label Decoder
1. The packaging design and marketing of dog food is an art. While the label must state the facts regarding the nutritional content of the food, the package uses misleading and "creative" terms to describe benefits of feeding the diet. To list ingredients on the front of the packaging, the food only has to contain 3% of that ingredient despite giving the illusion that they are the main ingredients.
2. Pet Food Packaging
You often see things like “Ultra-Premium”, “Holistic”, or “all-natural” on dog food packaging. These terms say nothing about the quality of the food. This clever marketing is designed to appeal to customers but has no benefit to pets.
3. AAFCO Statement
The American Association of Feed Control Officials is the governing body that approves all food made for animals in the United States. They typically use information from the National Research Council and other literature to ensure that dog and cat foods are complete and nutritionally balanced. If this statement is not on a bag or can food, then it’s likely not adequate for long term feeding. Treats, for example, won’t have this claim.
4. Net Weight
All packages of dog food must have an accurate weight on the label.
5. Manufacturer Information
All pet foods need to list the company’s contact address so that consumers can contact the companies if they need to. Phone numbers and websites are optional.
6. Feeding Instructions
Feeding instructions are also required on every bag. Manufacturers do not have to stick to any strict regulation here though, other than providing reasonable instructions based on the age of the pet.
7. Ingredients List
The ingredients list has to be in a descending order, meaning the ingredient with the highest weight is listed first. The applies to both wet and dry ingredients. In many cases when a label lists chicken as the first ingredient in reality it's because of the weight of the water content and the major protein source might be a meal that is listed second or third. Supplementation of the diet with nutraceuticals follows the listing of major ingredients. Often, a small addition of a supplement is enough to market a diet as helpful in managing disease. This is where manufacturers "make their money".
8. Guaranteed Analysis
The Guaranteed Analysis allows consumers to see the basic substrate concentrations in the food. The only things required to be listed are Protein, Fat, Moisture, and Crude Fiber, but many companies list additional items.
9. Calories content
Your veterinarian can help you determine the number of kilocalories your pet requires to help determine exactly how much you should be feeding.