Mr. T and Dave at Dock Dogs
Do you know how to read your dog food label? This skill will help you know if the food inside the bag is right for your dog. This isn’t too much different than reading labels for your own food products. There are some things that must be included on the label and you can find them on the front of the package and on the information panel which is usually on the back side of the packaging.
Having worked for various pet food companies, the companies work hard to attract your attention to the front of the bag. If they are marketing to you correctly, the bags will catch your eye because they look good – although there are some that aren’t so great, and those companies are encouraged to contact me for marketing and design help. The main items you’ll see on the front are the name of the company, the product identifier, the product use and the net weight of the package.
The front of the package may also have a banner statement, where the manufacturer makes specific claims about the dog food like “premium,” “super-premium,” “natural” and others. These are regulated by the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
The information panel should have the guaranteed analysis of what’s in the dog food, have an ingredient list, a nutritional adequacy statement, feeding guidelines, and the manufacturer’s contact information.
Legally, the labels are required to state the minimum levels of protein and fat, and the maximum levels of moisture and fiber in the food. While this is a great place to start, remember that the foods may have more than the minimum amounts or less than the maximum amounts on the label.
The dog food manufacturer is required to list every ingredient in the food and to do that in descending order by amount on a dry-weight basis. Keep an eye out for ingredient splitting that helps shift ingredients up or down the list. One example would be rice, rice bran, rice flour – all are rice and each ingredient is a smaller version of the one ahead of it.Guaranteed Analysis USMetricCrude Protein (Min.)23.0%230 g/kgCrude Fat (Min.)14.0%140 g/kgCrude Fiber (Max.)6.0%60 g/kgMoisture (Max.)10.0%100 g/kgOmega - 6 Fatty Acids (Min.)2.7%27 g/kg*Omega - 3 Fatty Acids (Min.).3%3 g/kgGlucosamine (Min.)550 ppm550 mg/kg*Chondroitin (Min.)150 ppm150 mg/kg*Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) (Min.)70 mg/kg70 mg/kg*Lactobacillus Acidophilus (Min.)50 million CFU/lb50 million CFU/lb*Enterococcus Faecium (Min.)35 million CFU/lb35 million CFU/lb*Saccharomyces Cerevisiae (Min.)900 million cells/lb900 million cells/lb
*Not recognized as an essential nutrient by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles.
Ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, pea starch, peas, pea flour, potatoes, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), natural flavors, tomato pomace, potassium chloride, sunflower oil, brewers yeast, salt, minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, cobalt proteinate, selenium yeast), yeast culture (saccharomyces cerevisiae, enterococcus faecium, lactobacillus acidophilus, aspergillus niger, bacillus subtillis), choline chloride, taurine, vitamins (vitamin A acetate, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin E supplement, niacin, d-calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, folic acid, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement), glucosamine hydrochloride, tryptophan, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), chondroitin sulfate, yucca schidigera extract, calcium iodate, rosemary extract.If you are looking for a good quality food, find one with good quality animal protein and it should be in the first few ingredients. For my own dogs, I would shy away from something as generic as “poultry” and head toward something more like “chicken” or “duck” or “turkey” instead. The key is knowing what they ingredient is. While you are looking, check the fat source too. Fat provides energy and essential fatty acids so quality is important.
Just like protein, I prefer to recognize the type of fat like, turkey or chicken fat which is more digestible rather than something like animal tallow. Also look for the source of linoleic acid, an important Omega-6 fatty acid, which include most vegetable oils (soybean, lecithin, corn oil, wheat germ oil, sesame seed oil, and linseed oil) so look for these on the label too. Balanced plant and animal fats are critical for a glossy coat and soft, pliable skin.
In addition, be sure to look for whole grains, vegetables, and other real-food ingredients on the label just like you would for your own meals. Remember if you see the same ingredient in various forms the odds are good that it is being split to change where it shows up on the ingredient panel. That doesn’t necessarily mean it is bad, but you should be aware.
Every dog food label must have feeding recommendations for dogs of different sizes. One thing I have noticed on most brands is these guidelines overestimate the amount a typical dog would need to eat every day. The feeding amounts are based on manufacturer feeding trials and having seen Beagles trotting on a treadmill as part of the daily routine, the high end might be right for those dogs. For our companions, it is unlikely they need the high quantities of food the feeding trial dogs get.
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