Dog Food Labels Decoded


If you share your life with a dog then you buy dog food. The real question is do you know what is in the food? If you have read the label on your dog’s food there is a good chance you are a little confused about what you’re getting.

What’s Behind The Name?

When a protein is used in that name there are rules about how much the food must contain of the named ingredient. Hence many foods will call themselves “healthy’ or “Choice” which requires no guaranteed percentage of any ingredient.

One of the first things you’re going to look for is the Protein ingredient. If it says ‘beef’ then your dog food must have at least 95% of the product containing that meat, if the moisture content is not counted.

When this is measured then the product must have 70% of the protien. If you see something like Salmon and Turkey then the food must be made up of a combination of these two ingredients to at least a 95% amount.

In addition, it’s important to know that if it says ‘salmon dog food’ it’s very different than ‘dog food with salmon.’ The first label means you’re going to have at least 95% salmon in your dog’s food, the second only needs to have 3% for the labeling to be accurate.

As in human food, the ingredients listed on the label must be in a descending order. This means the first ingredient is what makes up the majority of the food.

Understand What Your Guaranteed Analysis Is

The package your dog’s food comes in will have an area near the listed ingredients that gives the essentials of your dog’s food. This will state crude fat and protein in a minimum percentage amount. It will also list the maximum your pet will receive in moisture and fiber. These aren’t great for detailed information because if the label reads minimum fat of 9% it could actually have 14% likewise if it reads a maximum of 8% fiber it could actually have only 1%.

A Word On By-Products

If you find a term such as ‘Beef by-products’ it means that you’re going to have an ingredient that has a higher protein level that is very digestible. This is because it will also include organ meat in addition to meat from other areas. By-products can be deceiving because in some cases it can refer to mixes of various rendered meats, bone and leftovers.

A good food for your dog is a food that has nothing to hide and is willing to step up and put in plain English what  it is using in the food and how that food is made.

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