Tips for Reading Dog Food Labels


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The quality of the food we put in our bodies has a direct impact on our health and happiness. That’s why it’s important for us to read food labels and avoid products with yucky ingredients like artificial sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup. As we become more and more aware of the harmful additives in our food, we’re also starting to pay closer attention to the ingredients in our dogs’ food. After all, our pups are part of our families and deserve to eat a diet rich in nutrients just like we do.

That being said, feeding your pup a high quality diet is easier said than done. Trying to read the ingredient list on a bag of dog food can be as confusing as looking at a sign in a foreign language. To help you decide which brand of dog food will be the healthiest choice for your pup, we’ve put together a quick guide to reading dog food labels. Let’s go!

Tips for Reading Dog Food Labels:

  1. Dog food lists ingredients by weight, starting with the heaviest. In general, the first five ingredients make up a majority of the product.

  2. Ensure there is a healthy combination of high-quality protein sources you recognize within the first few ingredients. Meat-based meals (chicken meal) have more protein per pound than fresh meat, as the water is cooked out of it before it’s manufactured.

  3. Check the label for “nutritional adequacy.” Look for statements like, “_________ is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for…” Or, “Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that _________ provides complete and balanced nutrition for…”

  4. Don’t fall for false marketing claims, like the words “gourmet,” “premium,” and “organic.” The former two are just buzzwords to attract consumers, but organic dog food should be free of synthetic additives.

  5. Know the difference between meat and meat by-products. The former is the flesh of slaughtered animals (sorry for the mental picture) and meat by-products are animals’ organs, like lungs, spleen, kidney, and liver.

  6. The guaranteed analysis on the information panel of every dog food label lists the levels of crude protein, fat, fiber and water. Look for a healthy balance of nutrients and moisture.

  7. A good rule of thumb: Any ingredient that follows salt on the ingredient list, on average, makes up less than 1% of the diet.

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to choosing a dog food for your beloved pup, and these tips just graze the surface. To be sure you’re feeding your dog a diet full of high quality ingredients, talk to your veterinarian and call different dog food manufacturers to get the real scoop on the stuff in your dog’s food bowl.

What brand of dog food do you feed your pup? Let us know on The Doggy Dojo Facebook page!

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