Similar to nutrition and ingredient labels on human foods, dog foods also come with detailed labels. Navigating through the ingredients list and wording on dog foods can be a tricky business. Here is a guide to the label wordings you need to seek out, and which ones you may want to avoid.
What’s in a Name?
What you want in a dog food is nutrition, including fat and protein. Look for dog-food labels that name a meat product in its name, including “beef.” According to the FDA, a dog-food label cannot name itself “beef for dogs” unless it contains 95 percent beef. The “95 percent” rule also applies to fish and poultry, and pertains to animal product. The rule is typically applied to wet, canned dog food (as well as cat food).
More Percentage Fun on Dog-Food Labels: Deciphering the Code
Combination Foods and the 95 Percent Rule
Even dog foods that read “beef and rice” in the name must have 95 percent beef, according to the FDA. Beyond that, dog-food labels can be as challenging as symbols found in a Dan Brown novel. The “meat and grain” name is the best choice.
A dog food labeled as “beef dinner” is only required to have 25 percent beef. The “dog food with beef” name can be used for dog food with as little as 3 percent beef in the mix. The label that reveals the least amount of beef in the dog food would be “beef-flavored dog food,” which can contain only a trace amount of actual beef.
Similar Words, Different Meanings on Dog-Food Labels
Meat vs. Meal
One common word on dog-food labels is “meal,” as in “lamb meal” instead of simply “lamb.” When a type of animal product is combined with the term “meal” it means the ingredient is not the flesh of the animal, but is composed of mammal tissues, according to the FDA.
Animal by-products, including bones and feet, will be labeled as by-products on the dog-food label.
You do want to find whole foods on your dog-food label, including liver, beef, lamb or chicken. Choose whole grains including barley, wheat, oats or rice over corn.
The terms organic and natural on dog-food labels are there for marketing, and there are no official rules or definitions of these terms set forth by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), the organization responsible for making the rules regarding dog-food ingredients.
Other enticing and attractive words commonly found on dog-food labels, but have no real meaning other than consumer appeal, are “premium,” “choice” and similar adjectives.
How to Pick Dog Food by the Label
Use the same rules you use when purchasing human food, in regard to long chemical names and words you don’t recognize. You may not want your dog eating those ingredients any more than you would want your family to eat them.
“Pet Food Labels – General,” http://www.fda.gov/animalveterinary/resourcesforyou/ucm047113.htm
Questions and Answers Concerning Pet Food Regulations
American Veterinary Medical Association, http://www.avma.org