How do you read a puppy food label? A Complete Guide

What do “natural” and “holistic” labels mean?

Legally, not much. Food labeled as natural should contain few, if any,synthetic ingredients. Holistic, along with premium and super-premium, aremarketing terms and there is no rule that controls how they’re used. Watch outfor marketing terms like “human-grade ingredients” or “made in a USDA-inspectedfacility,” too.

“It’s difficult to confirm those claims are truly accurate,” says TeresaCrenshaw, interim chair of AAFCO’s pet food committee. Although pet food can bemade in a USDA-inspected plant, it may happen when there is no inspectorpresent, Crenshaw says. Meat once considered safe for humans may have spoiledand been diverted to pet food, she says. Neither claim means the food is safefor humans to eat.

How can I make sure the food meets my dog’s needs?

Look for a statement of nutritional adequacy on the label.

Many pet food makers follow model regulations set by the Association ofAmerican Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) that establish the minimum amount ofnutrients needed to provide a complete and balanced diet. The statement may saythe food is formulated to meet AAFCO standards or that it has been tested infeeding trials and found to provide complete nutrition.

The AAFCO statement also should say what life stage the food is appropriatefor. For puppies, look for a food suitable for growth or all life stages. Foradult dogs, look for adult maintenance or all life stages. Nutritional needsfor senior dogs can vary, depending on health conditions, and there is no AAFCOstandard for senior food.

How do I read the dog food ingredient list?

Like packaged food for people, pet food must list ingredients by weight,starting with the heaviest. But if the first ingredient is a type of meat, keepin mind that meat is about 75% water, according to the FDA.

Without that water weight, the meat probably would fall lower on theingredient list.

Meat meals, such as chicken meal or meat and bone meal, are different; mostof the water and fat have been removed, which concentrates the animalprotein.

Reading Pet Food Labels – How To Not Get Tricked

Want your pet to eat healthily? Dig in and learn how to read their food label.

We know: Reading the labels on a package of pet food can be exhausting. It’s hard enough to decipher our own nutritional needs (riboflavin is good, right?), let alone those of another species. All pet food labels are required to include certain important elements, but finding out where these items appear and what they mean can be difficult. Even skilled nutritional expert Dr. Marion Nestle admits that reading a pet-food label “is no simple task…and hardly anyone can make sense of them.”

There are more choices than ever these days when it comes to top-quality commercial foods, not to mention the wide array of forms the food comes in — kibble, canned, semi-moist, dehydrated, raw. Plus, home-prepared meals are becoming increasingly popular, with many people either supplementing commercial foods or replacing them entirely with meals they cook. That said, the convenience and ease of a commercial diet keep these foods at the front of the pack. This is all the more reason to learn how to differentiate among the product choices. There are two things to keep in mind when you’re deciding what to feed your pet: First, every pet is an individual, so what one might thrive on could be an allergen to another. Second, high-quality (organic preferred) fresh ingredients trump all other factors. When preparing food at home, it’s fairly easy to control the quality. But how can pet parents know about the quality of the ingredients in commercial pet foods? It starts with deciphering a pet food label.

Nutritional standards for the production of pet food are set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). This non-government group is made up of state and federal representatives, as well as people directly involved in the pet-food industry. This means that people who manufacture pet food have a voice in establishing pet-food standards and most of the label requirements and feed-trial protocols. Although the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) sets rules for some of the label items, its oversight of pet-food production is still very limited.

AAFCO’s Nutrient Profiles list the minimum amounts (and minimum is the operative word here) of nutrients required by pets. The group recognizes only two canine feeding stages: “adult maintenance” and “growth and reproduction.” So, unless they’re puppies or lactating females, all dogs fall into the “adult maintenance” category regardless of their age, health status, or level of physical activity.Related article