Before I started my own dog food company, I had no idea how to decode dog food labels. As a responsible pet parent, I take my duty to provide my dog with the best food seriously. That's why I consulted an animal nutritionist and learned how to read and compare dog food labels. In this post, I'll share some of the key takeaways.
The Quick Read
- The first 5 ingredients matter the most since they are listed by weight
- Look for foods that have animal proteins as the #1 ingredient
- Added vitamins, minerals, and probiotics help to ensure a complete diet
- A guaranteed analysis lists the min/max % of nutrients in a food
- AAFCO is the regulatory body that sets standards for pet food in the US
Understanding the Ingredients List
Dog food ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. The first five ingredients matter the most, as they make up a significant portion of the food. Look for high-quality dog foods that list real animal proteins as the #1 ingredient, followed by nutrient-rich foods that contribute to a complete diet. Comparing dog food bags by the first few ingredients and cost on a price per pound basis can help you make informed decisions.
Decoding the Guaranteed Analysis
The guaranteed analysis lists the minimum and/or maximum percentage of nutrients in a dog food, such as protein, fat, fiber, and moisture. The protein range of 25%-35% is ideal for most dogs, depending on their activity level. The guaranteed analysis for dry and wet food will differ because of the moisture content in wet food.
Using AAFCO to Qualify Food
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) sets the nutritional standards for pet food. All dog foods are required to meet the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles, which are divided into two nutrient profiles for growing puppies and gestating-lactating mothers, and for adult maintenance. Look for dog foods that exceed AAFCO standards to ensure optimal nutrition.
Other Items on the Dog Food Bag
Check the sell-by date to avoid buying expired or soon-to-be-expired food. Feeding directions are recommendations, and you should consult your veterinarian to ensure your dog is getting the right proportions of food and water daily.
By following these guidelines, you can make informed choices about the food you give your dog. At Jinx, we exceed AAFCO standards and use high-quality ingredients to ensure that our dog food meets the highest standards of nutrition and taste.