An Explanation of Dog Food Labels


We dog owners have some recourse if we suspect our dog’s food has been mislabeled. This is due to AAFCO’s stringent laws, norms, and standards. (Association of American Feed Control Officials). But these rules are useless unless we know what they are and how they are applied to label language.

Some dog food producers are sneaky, using titles and wording on their packaging that don’t accurately reflect the ingredients used in making the food. These regulations only apply to the solid components of dog food and do not cover the moisture content.

It’s important to remember that pet food labeling is subject to federal and state laws, with the Association of American Feed Control Officials offering only “limited” assistance. (AAFCO). Please be aware that pet food manufacturers frequently utilize terminology not authorized by the legislation to better engage with consumers and improve the market reputation of their products. Labeling and marketing information are often crafted to appeal to the most current trend in marketing human products, the AAFCO advises on its website.


To comply with the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards, a product labeled “*Chicken for Dogs” must contain at least 95% chicken.

*Turkey and Chicken Dog Food: Since there is nothing else on the label save the words “Turkey and Chicken,” you may be pretty confident that the first and second ingredients, respectively, are turkey and chicken, with the turkey content being slightly less than the chicken.

Since the label “Chicken Nuggets for Dogs” includes the term “nuggets” (a qualifier that many dog food businesses can legally use), the chicken in the food will make up less than 95% of the total components, but at least 25%. Manufacturers can get away with using less meat if they utilize phrases like “dinner,” “formula,” and “platter” in their product names. The first three ingredients in this dish have nothing to do with chicken, yet the name suggests otherwise.

The magic word in “Chicken Flavor Dog Food” is “flavor.” According to AAFCO guidelines, there can only be enough “chicken” to give the dish a recognizable flavor. It might be a bit of chicken fat, broth, or other poultry by-products.

If one ingredient is listed as “with” another element, such as “with chicken,” on a dog food label, the food needs to contain 3% chicken. The legal minimum for labeling a dog food as “with” chicken or “with” beef is 3% chicken or 3% beef.

You can see the impact that is changing the word order has now.

The diet you provide your dog is critically important to his or her health and lifespan. It might be difficult to decipher the information provided on dog food labels. Following these rules, you should be able to read and understand labels to the point that you can confidently compare items.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials provides recommendations on pet food labeling at both the federal and state levels. (AAFCO). However, AAFCO specifies the bare minimum. Be aware that to make their products more appealing, dog food producers may often utilize terminology not defined by AAFCO laws. The AAFCO warns that “it is not at all rare that labeling and marketing information is designed to appeal to the latest trend in marketing human products” on their website.

Guaranteed Evaluation of Dog Food Labels

Guaranteed Analysis” is a chart that displays the percentages of each ingredient in the dog food, and it may be found on the back of the bag of food. (see an example below). Protein, fat, and fiber percentages reflect the food’s actual content during analysis. The only fair way to evaluate dog diets is “on a dry matter basis,” as the moisture content of different foods varies greatly. However, the figures presented in the Guaranteed Analysis are calculated using an “as-fed” basis, which does not account for the food’s moisture content. Numbers must be translated to Dry Matter (DM) basis to ascertain the total amount of an ingredient in a food, compare different brands, or compare wet and dry foods.

It’s important to remember that the moisture content of food can vary greatly, from 6% for dry meals to 80% for canned ones. Canned food has more water than dry kibble does. Ironically, it may not be as protein-rich. It is difficult to determine which meal has the most protein, fat, or fiber content without converting all the data to a dry matter basis.

* To do this, first (using the example below) subtract the percentage stated for moisture from 100% to get the dry matter content. Ten percent of the weight of the food is water. Therefore, we can deduce that 90% of the food is composed of dry matter (100% – 10% = 90%).

To get the dry matter percentages of protein, fat, and fiber, divide the percentages indicated on the label by the total amount of dry matter. (from the previous step). By dividing 26% by 90%, we get 28% protein as the actual percentage in the dry weight of our example. If the moisture level had been 40%, the dry matter content would have only been 60%, and the protein on a dry matter basis would have been calculated as (26% divided by 60% =) or 43%.) In our example, the dry matter calculation is slightly different from the labeled percentage because the moisture level was only 10%, according to the label.

* After adjusting the other labels similarly, you can now compare the new protein amount of 28% on a dry matter basis to comparable dog foods. After converting to a dry matter basis, you may also compare fat and fiber.

You need to understand that numbers alone aren’t telling the complete story. On a dry matter basis, the protein content of your dog food maybe 28%, but where does that protein come from? Protein in pet food may come from unhealthy or nutritionally deficient sources. WATCH OUT!

Let’s look at the list of ingredients next. The top five components on a pet food label will often account for most of the recipe. Check the label to see if meat is listed as one of the initial ingredients. Grains like maize, corn meal, whole wheat, barley, and rice are used as fillers in dog food to give the kibble bulk and give the dog something to eat.

Dog food manufacturers frequently combine different protein sources to ensure that their products contain all of the essential amino acids for canine health, as the AAFCO website acknowledges that “Economics plays a part in any ingredient selection” and that “protein is not simply protein.”

* You should be aware that producers can (and sometimes do) manipulate the information on labels by dissecting an ingredient into its constituent parts and then listing each separately (pretty sneaky, huh!).

More and more dog owners are looking for foods made specifically for canines that contain no animal “by-products” and only human-grade ingredients. They avoid meals that have been modified in any way by adding synthetic ingredients, including dyes, tastes, sweeteners, and preservatives. ( BHA and BHT). However, dogs’ essential amino acids and other nutrients can be abundant in animal by-products, such as the liver and other internal organs. Dry dog food also needs preservatives to keep it from going bad and losing its nutritional value.

*Here is an example of a pet food label’s assured analysis:

Analysis Guaranteed:
There must be at least 26.0% crude protein in there.
There must be at least 16.0% crude fat in the food.
The maximum allowable amount of crude fiber is 4%.
*Moisture levels must be below 10 percent.

Once you’ve mastered the art of label reading, you’ll know much more about what goes into your dog’s food. You can evaluate various dog foods and select the ideal one for your pet.

The Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture have tight regulations for dog food labels, as they do for human food labels. The main product display and other information about the food are usually separated into their sections on dog food labels.

Labels for dog food are broken down into sections.

Front-and-Center Product Name of Dog Food

The name of the company making the product and the exact ingredients or recipe used can be seen here on the label. In addition to identifying the primary source of protein in the food, this section may also specify the appropriate age range for feeding the product (puppies, adults, seniors, etc.). The exact weight and the type of animal for which the formula is appropriate are included.

There are specific rules about how the ingredients must be listed. To be labeled “Beef Dog Food,” at least 95% of the product, excluding water, must be the listed meat. If the percentage of water present is included, at least 70% of the product must be actual meat. If the item’s name contains a combination of meats, such as “Beef and Lamb,” the first ingredient must account for at least 55 percent of the total.

The name must be changed if the meat content is greater than 25% but lower than 95%. The meal is a common modifying word, while platter, entree, dinner, nuggets, and formula are other common alternatives. Even though it’s called “beef dinner,” you shouldn’t assume that no lamb or chicken was used in its preparation. It would be best to read the label to see what other kinds of meat are included.

For example, a dog food labeled “Dog Food with Chicken” must contain at least 3 percent chicken as an ingredient, according to a recently passed law governing the naming of dog food products. This language may mislead some people. There is a vast difference between dog foods labeled “Chicken Dog Food” and those labeled “Dog Food with Chicken,” with the former requiring at least 95% chicken and the latter only 3% chicken.

The Dog Food Label’s Informational Portion

The label must include a section confusing to caregivers in addition to the product name, brand name, weight, and target species. You’ll find the product’s ingredients here and its guaranteed analyses, feeding guidelines, and nutritional claim. This label area is the most crucial when comparing and analyzing different dog foods to decide what nutrients are in the food.

What’s in Dog Food

Ascending order is required for this list. That is to say, the item with the highest weight is stated first, followed by the other ingredients in descending sequence. Look for a product with carbs mentioned as one of the first four or five components if your dog requires a low-protein diet. Alternatively, if your dog needs a high-protein diet, you should search for a food that lists meat or meat byproducts as the first two components.

100% Risk-Free Evaluation

This label section tells you how much each ingredient is in the food. In most cases, the minimum required quantity of substances is specified. Various dog foods’ “moisture content” should be considered before deciding. It’s important to compare everything by their dry weight. Put another way, if a food contains 80% water, the remaining 20% only accounts for the diet. To convert the minimal quantities indicated for each ingredient to a dry matter amount, divide by 0.20. Once you’ve done so, you can compare two foods to see which is better for your dog.

Instructions for Feeding

Daily feeding recommendations will be included with the product. Each caregiver must determine whether to provide all the food at once or split it into several smaller meals. Please take these feeding instructions as guidelines, not mandates. Your dog’s dietary needs will depend on several factors, regardless of whether they are high or low.

Statement of Sufficient Nutrition

Suppose the dog food follows the standards established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). In that case, the label will include a section stating that the food provides complete and balanced nutrition for a specific life stage, such as “for maintenance,” “for growth,” or “for all life stages.” In addition, the label will specify if the item is a treat, a supplement, or both and whether it should be fed alone or with other foods.

Be Warned: Some Dog Food Labels May Lie

We hope the preceding information has been helpful to you and that it helps to clarify the sometimes confusing and deceptive promotional claims made by manufacturers. We intend to help you provide the healthiest diet possible for your dog by answering some of the queries you may have had about commercial dog food labels.

K-9s are the top dogs!

Anita Boyd has been a “dog person” throughout her life. She recently discovered that the commercial dog food she has been feeding her pets for many years contains hazardous substances. Several of her valued pets, including a dog she adored, died from cancer or bladder problems at an untimely age.

She feels obligated to reveal the blatant lies being propagated to naive pet owners by dishonest pet food businesses now that she knows the horrifying reality about what’s “really” in some commercial dog feeds. She has decided to share the wealth of knowledge she has accumulated on canine nutrition. If she finds out anything further about the vile, dangerous chemicals we feed our obedient canine companions, she will share it with us.

These articles, her blog Doglicious Blogs 2 U, all about feeding nutritious dog foods, and her website Feeding A Dog, where she’ll be providing precious and highly detailed information related to this subject, will be updated as she learns more in her research to offer dog people better alternatives for feeding a dog.

Anita wants you to check out both to learn more about the best dog food for your pet. If you want your dog to have a long and healthy life, feeding it the best dog food available is essential. To learn more about this topic, check back regularly for her newly released articles.

Trust Our Dogs”!

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