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Natural commercial dog food labels – Read and understand what you are actually getting

Understanding commercial dog food labels is not rocket science as long as you know the correct way to read them. With guidelines set by The Association Of American Feed Control Officials, Inc. (AAFCO), it has certainly made your job easier.

Although dog food labels might differ in appearance, commercial dog food labels consist of primary 2 sections namely a nutrition analysis that reports the percentage of nutrients and minerals that the food provides and a list of the ingredients used.

The nutrient report will list the percentage of crude protein, crude fat, crude fiber, moisture, calcium, and phosphorus that the food contains. Other items may also appear on the label, such as vitamins A and E, glucosamine, taurine, and various other supplements. Note that the most important items in the nutritional breakdown are listed first on the label. It means that the protein content is the most important in the nutritional analysis, followed by the fat content and the fiber content.

When going through the list, many are misled by assuming that more protein and less fat are best for your dog’s health. That is certainly not true, as dogs need different amount of nutrients at different stages of their lives. Different dog breeds, including activity level and size are also a contributing factor.

If you look carefully at the ingredient list, it is formatted similarly to the nutrient report. In this section, the ingredients with the greatest quantity are listed first and in descending order. The first two to three ingredients are typically pure meat proteins, not by-products, grains or rice.

While carbohydrates might appear in the ingredient list, brown rice is preferred over white rice or corn. Added sugar should not appear at all as it is detrimental to your dog’s health. Lastly, the dog food label should show a list of all kinds of preservatives. Be careful when you go through this list because some preservatives are believe to be cancer causing.

Although, AAFCO has a set of guidelines for dog food manufacturers, they are not compulsory regulations that dog food companies must follow. There are also reports suggesting that even though some companies follow the guideline closely, they also show great variability in their content.

To conclude, an informed dog owner should not only know what to look out for in a dog food label but also understand why these factors are important. If you sense something wrong in your dog health, the dog food might just be the cause, do seek veterinary attention immediately.

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