The Reality Of The Dog Food Label


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Sheila was excited about bringing home her new Labrador pup and quite confident that she could take care of him well. That is, until she went shopping. Under a section for Labrador pups, she found dog foods of different brands. If a few were for improving her dogโ€™s fur, others were for boosting his immunity. Some were for muscle gain and some for weight control.Making sense of these marketing gimmicks can be quite challenging. Here are a few points on dog food labels that would help us choose what is right for our pet.


As per Food and Drug Administration (FDA), dog food labels must list all the ingredients used in accordance with their weight. So, if a high protein meat is given as the first in a small list of ingredients on a label, chances are that the product is good for our dog. For example, products like Wellness 95 Percent Salmon Canned Dog Food use a few ingredients to provide complete nutrition.


Based on Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines, a dog food packet would contain a nutritional adequacy statement. It carries the following information:

  • nutritional value of the product in terms of whether it contains all the nutrients that our dog needs or whether it is intended only as a supplement or treat
  • how the nutritional value was determined; by meeting with the AAFCO minimum nutrient requirements or by passing animal feeding trials
  • for which stage of life is the food suitable; whether it is meant all life stages or any one in particular
Guaranteed analysis

It is often a legal requirement for a โ€˜guaranteeโ€™ regarding the minimum or maximum percentages of nutrients to be printed on the label. Some manufacturers even provide exact values of the nutrients upon request. But, these values are on a moisture-included basis. So to compare dog foods having different moisture contents, we should convert the nutrient levels to a dry matter basis.

Calorie content and feeding directions

Calorie content (number of kilo-calories per kilogram of dog food) can also help us compare different dog foods. But they should be converted to dry matter basis first. The feeding directions specified in the label are just guidelines. We can adjust the portions according to the requirements of our pet.

Breed and size specific

We often find dog food with labels claiming that they cater specifically to a particular size or breed of dog. But as per the FDA, not much information is available regarding such specificity in a dogโ€™s dietary requirements.


It is mandatory for all labels to contain the details of the manufacturer or distributor. We can always clarify any product specific queries we have with them before finalizing our petโ€™s food.

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