Deciphering Pet Food Labels


It may seem difficult these days to choose a pet food for your pet. The varieties are endless and the labels are not only confusing, but they can be misleading. If you know how pet food labels work, you can make a more educated buying decision the next time you shop for pet food.

Pet food labels have an information panel and a main display panel. The main display panel contains the names such as the brand, the manufacturer, etc. The name of the product and its ingredients are governed by the Association of American Feed Control Officials, or AAFCO.

When shopping for pet food, pay close attention to wording. If the product name includes things such as ‘beef platter’, ‘beef entree’, ‘beef dinner’, etc. it only has to contain 10% beef. However, if it is worded as ‘beef’, it must contain 70% beef. Along the same lines, if it is worded ‘with beef’, it need only contain 3% beef and if it says ‘beef flavor’ it may contain less than 1% of the product!

Pet foods can sound like they are going to meet your pets nutritional requirements, but the only way you can be sure is to look for a statement on the bag from the AAFCO stating that the food has passed their feeding trials.

The other portion of the label is the information panel, which must include an ingredient statement and a guaranteed analysis. This analysis contains percentages of crude fat, protein, fiber and moisture in the food. While the percentages are listed, this still does not tell you the quality of the crude fats, proteins, etc. The ingredients should also be listed in descending order by weight.

Before you think about changing your pet’s diet, pay special attention to your pets coat, eyes and his behavior. If he looks healthy, you may not want to upset his system by changing his food. Ask your vet for more information on pet nutrition and what might be the right pet food for your furry friend.

Also when considering a new pet food also take the time to consider what you will put the food in. A stainless steel dog bowl or an automatic cat bowl may be the right choice. Whatever pet bowl you do decide on please stay away from using plastic bowls for feeding. Plastic bowls can hold onto germs and create a potentially unhealthy eating situation. Many pet owners opt for having two sets of pet feeding bowls to make sure that one set is always clean. It is so tempting to just keep reusing the same bowl without washing but don’t fall into this trap, your pet’s health may depend on it.

Leigh Adams is an avid dog owner and trainer. She is a frequent contributor to this Online Pet Supply Store. When not outside with her dogs Mimmi and SoSo, she enjoys painting and raising Koi fish in her backyard pond.


About Author

Devoted pet owner and now, devoted pet editor, Judi worked in traditional offices, keeping the books and the day-to-day operations organized. Taking her dog to work every day for over a decade never seemed odd. Neither did having an office cat. She knows what it's like to train a new puppy and she's experienced the heartache of losing beloved companions. Retired, she currently lives with her spoiled dog and four chickens (who are, interestingly enough, also spoiled).

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