Dog Nutrition Part 1: Understanding Pet Food Labels

Reading and understanding dog food labels can be very difficult sometimes. There are a number of things to consider when buying dog food: age, health etc. Many varieties exist of both wet and dry pet foods. There are also snacks that have labels that are difficult to read.

The FDA states that dog food labels have to list the minimum amounts of protein,and fat; also, the maximum amounts of moisture and crude fiber. Many manufacturers will also list other ingredients. Dog food labels do not usually state the minimum percentages of calcium, sodium, phosphorus or linoleic acid. Cat food labels normally list taurine and magnesium, two necessary nutrients for cats.

The amount of moisture in pet foods is different in all foods. Dry food does have the least amount and canned food has the most. Make sure when comparing food, compare canned food with canned food and dry food with other dry food.

There are three basic rules to pet food labels:

1- The 95% rule: If a product has a name like ‘Beef for Dogs’ it has to have at least 95% of that product that is names. These should not include any added water.

2- The 25% rule: If there is a qualifying word in the label, such as ‘Dinner”, ‘Entree’ ‘Platter’ or ‘Formula’ there has to be at least 25% of the ingredient named on the label. A good example is “Shrimp Dinner”.

3- The 3% rule: If the label has the word ‘with’ it only has to have 3% of that product named.

‘Chicken Dog Food’- 95% rule applied ‘Dog Food with Tuna’- 3% rule applied

It is also important to look at the entire list of ingredients in pet foods. These will be listed in descending order. The first ingredient must be the highest quality, such as meat. Be careful when buying pet food which contains ‘animal by-products’ as they will not give any nutrition to any age of dog.

It is best to choose food that is appropriate for your pet’s life stage. Some foods are just for ‘puppies’ or ‘seniors’. these are formulated for a pet of a certain age and stage of their life. Food for adults is not appropriate for a puppy that is growing. If a label says “100% nutritionally complete” the food will be acceptable for all ages. is committed to informing you on the best nutritional choices for your dog. Josh Paul,

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