6 Tips to Help You Read Dog Food Labels

/, Dog Food Selector, Nutrition/6 Tips to Help You Read Dog Food Labels

6 Tips to Help You Read Dog Food Labels

Choosing the right food for your dog may be a difficult decision.

Before buying the food for your dog you should read carefully the label.

Label items can be very confusing.

But knowing how to read dog food labels is something that each and every dog owner should master!

This article will help you to better understanding dog food labels.

reading dog food labels

How to read dog food labels?

When reading dog food labels you should check the following points:

1. Ingredients

The ingredients are listed in descendant order by weight.

Chicken, beef, turkey, fish and lamb are examples of good first ingredients.

However, fresh meats have lots of water while meat meals only contain around 5% water.

For example, 20% fresh meat only equates to around 7% dry meat and 20 % of meat meal represents 15 % of dry meat.

So, if fresh meat is the first ingredient, you should discount the water content to accurately evaluate the meat content.

Additionally, look for a food that also has two different sources of fat in the ingredient list, for suitable energy and to provide all the essential fatty acids.

2. Guaranteed Analysis

Generally, this item is presented as a table.

It indicates minimum or maximum levels of nutrients (protein, fat, fiber, and moisture – water).

Guaranteed analysis is not an indication of the actual nutrient content of the dog food.

Moisture percentages in dog food are very variable, making it difficult to accurately compare nutritional information.

To calculate the nutrient percentages on a dry matter basis you can consult our article “Converting Guaranteed Analysis into Dry Matter Basis” or check the reviews in our dog food selector.

3. Feeding guidelines

This item tells you how much to feed based on your dog’s body weight and life stage.

Feeding guidelines can give you an idea about the digestibility of the dog food (amount of the food the animal is able to break down and absorb in his gastrointestinal system).

For more digestible dog foods, the dog is able to more competently use the nutrients provided and therefore needs to be fed less.

Thus, you should compare the amount of food required to be fed daily and the price of the food.

Sometimes a more expensive food can be cheaper than a more low-cost one when daily food costs are estimated.

4. Manufacturer Name and Address

Dog food labels must include the manufacture’s name and address, and ideally a phone number.

This provides you a way to easily contact the manufacturer to obtain answers to questions about nutrient composition.

5. Expiration Date

The expiration date is often on the bottom of the cans or bags.

6. AAFCO Statement

AAFCO authenticates the method of testing used to define the nutritional competence of a dog food.

Indicates the food offers complete and balanced nutrition for a specific life stage (puppies, pregnant and nursing mothers, or adults), or it might say the product is nutritionally adequate for all life stages.


Brand Y Dog Formula is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for all lifestages.

About AAFCO Standards:

AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) is an organization that sets the nutritional standards for dog foods sold in the United States.

To determine the true quality of a dog food you should consider the nutritional value of each ingredient mixed together that delivers a product suitable for a dog’s specific age or condition.

The nutritional competence of a dog food is determined by one of two procedures based on nutritional levels and procedures defined by AAFCO:

  • Formulation Method

The formulation method does not necessitate feeding the product to an animal.

There is no guarantee of dog acceptance or nutrient bioavailability when applying this method.

  • Feeding Trial Method

The feeding trial method requires feeding the product to animals.

This method is the Gold Standard for determining nutritional appropriateness.

The manufacturer must implement an AAFCO protocol feeding trial using the formula being tested as the exclusive source of nutrition.

The information provided on a dog food label is essential and can be helpful when choosing a diet to your dog.

After carefully reading the dog food label, you can feel more confident about the food your dog is eating.

Related Articles:


About the Author:

Hi! I'm Dora Mancha, DVM. I am graduated for the Veterinary Medicine Faculty of Lisbon (2009). My degree is recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). I completed my degree in Veterinary Medicine in July, 2009. Over the first years as a veterinarian my work was closely related to the animal health field. I have gained some average experience having worked in Barcelona University (UAB) Equine Hospital and by working with veterinarians in Portugal. In addition, in 2009 - 2010 I was in Madrid at the University Alfonso X el Sábio doing an internship in the equine service. I am also very interested in small animal medicine and surgery. In fact I worked in several small animals clinics in Portugal improving my knowledge about small animal behavior and health. Dogs always have been present in my life, since I was a child. At the present moment I have four dogs a Labrador, a Epagnheul Breton, a Whippet and a mixed breed dog.

One Comment

  1. Karen Mitchell June 29, 2015 at 7:00 pm - Reply

    My rule of the thumb is, if it has a label, it’s unstable!!!

Leave A Comment

Why was the Dog Food Selector created?

Each dog has unique needs... The approach "one food for all dogs" isn't the more suitable. Dogs have different sizes, different life stages, unique breed characteristics, health conditions and a few other factors... Choosing the right food for your dog may help him or her life a longer and healthier life! We exist to make that task easier for you.

How does the Dog Food Selector work?

It's quite simple... It's a 1-2 step process. You just have to fill in the form with your dog's characteristics, like gender, age, size, activity, health conditions and a few other important data and click "search". Then, you'll see a list of dog foods with the highest review score. If you wish you can see all the detailed review of each individual dog food.