Look in any grocery store to buy a dog food brand and you will soon discover that selecting what is best for your canine is an overwhelming task. One is flooded with different marketing messages claiming different benefits for your dog. The dog food industry is a billion dollar industry and dog food makers are eagerly marketing for every cent. New dog food brands show up frequently. Products including adult, senior, large breed, organic and puppy food, to name a few.
So which dog food brand is best for your dog? Finding that out takes time and research. The truth is, the best dog food is the one that meets your dog’s nutritional needs, which varies based upon the dog’s age, breed, body weight, genetics, and amount of activity… and one that fits within your budget. It is worth consulting a veterinarian to get the most honest advice and a detailed nutrition plan for your dog. But for those of you that want to take matters in your own hands, you will find detailed the most important things you will need to know about different dog food brands.
Dog Food Brand Labels
Brands of dog foods are manufactured under a series of different standards and regulations, put forth by the AAFCO ( The Association of American Feed Control Officials ). There are special labeling requirements that require all dog foods to have certain information on the label. So, in order that we can all make a proper choice for our dogs, we must know how to read and understand the label of a dog food.
The AAFCO puts out an official publication, on a yearly basis, detailing special requirements. Among all the different requirements, they request all dog food brands to adhere to label regulations and must include on the package the following:
- Product Name
- Guaranteed Analysis
- Nutritional Adequacy Statement
- Feeding Directions
When shopping for dog food brand, what is the first thing you look at? The product name, of course. We’ve all walked down the aisle and seen the dog food brands jump out as us…calling us. Displayed in bold type and fancy fonts such descriptions as “With Chicken”, “All Life Stages”, “Duck Entree”, “95% Beef”, “Natural”. But what do these descriptions really mean? Is it just fancy marketing? The AAFCO has set forth rules that dictate how ingredients can be used in brands of dog food.
- Applies to most canned dog food that consists mostly of meat, poultry or fish.
- Specifies that at least 95% of the product must be the named ingredient on the label, not counting water and preservatives added for processing.
- Counting water, the product must still consist of 70% of the product.
- If the name consists of a combination of ingredients, the two combined must equal 95%.
- The rule only applies to ingredients of animal origin, so grains and vegetables cannot be used as part of the 95% rule. So if the product name was “Beef and Brown Rice”, the product would still have to consist of 95% beef.
25% or “Dinner” Rule
- This rule applies to many canned dog foods as well as dry dog foods.
- If the named ingredient, or a combination of ingredients, found on the label consists of 25% of the weight (but less than 95%) excluding water for sufficient processing.
- The name must include a descriptive term, such as “Dinner”, “Platter”, “Entree”, or “Formula”.
- If more than one ingredient is in the name, they must both total 25% combined, with each named ingredient equaling or exceeding 3%.
3% or “With” Rule
- Originally, this rule was intended to apply only to ingredients highlighted on the package, outside of the dog food brand.
- It allows manufacturers to highlight minor ingredients.
- The ingredient must have at least 3% added.
- The rule now allows manufacturers to use the term “With” in the product name.
- A percentage of any one ingredient isn’t required.
- The word “Flavor” must appear on the label in the same font size and color as the ingredient name.
- The flavor might be the corresponding ingredient, but more often than not, it’s another substance such as “meal”, “by-product”, a “stock” or a “broth”.